Updated: Mar 26, 2020
By Chay Tanchanco, LMFT
Adjusting to a new normal, many of us are finding that it spans a whole spectrum of emotions.
Anxiety about the future. Discomfort with isolation. Restlessness for the outside. Gratitude for the things that remain. Awe for those performing herculean tasks to keep us all safe and to heal those in danger. Helplessness for what we cannot change. Guilt for the things we feel that we could do if we tried. Anger when we see injustice. Relief from the pressures of ordinary life. Fatigue even though we have been home all day. Fear of the unknown.
We have never quite seen a worldwide change of this magnitude. It follows that we also are experiencing reactions that are unfamiliar or seem ill-fitted for the situation - especially for those staying at home.
No matter our situation, it is imperative, now more than ever, to be mindful of energy drains and energy restoration.
Emotional work is work.
Because of the heightened stress level within our communities, many of us are waking up every day with a certain base level of stress hormone (cortisol), which results in a tendency toward irritation, fear, and negative thought patterns.
So what is "emotional work"? The first step may seem too simple to even be considered a task:
1. Feel your feelings.
How do we do that?
Naming the feeling, if you need it, use a feelings wheel to help start you off
Sometimes, movement, expression - such as art or physically positioning your body, can help
What color is it? Where do you feel it in your body? If it could say something, what would it say?
What is it telling me that I need?
2. Identify what balance could look like.
Another really great article I read, "That Discomfort You're Feeling is Grief", gives a helpful perspective of the state of grief we are experiencing together in an interview with expert on grief, David Kessler.
Unhealthy anticipatory grief is really anxiety, and that’s the feeling you’re talking about. Our mind begins to show us images. 'My parents getting sick.' We see the worst scenarios. That’s our minds being protective. Our goal is not to ignore those images or to try to make them go away — your mind won’t let you do that and it can be painful to try and force it. The goal is to find balance in the things you’re thinking.
If you are finding yourself in the space of "should" or "shouldn't", practicing reframing it as an indicator to take a pause. For every negative thought, can you find a positive one too? It may feel fake, like you are ignoring signs of danger or sugarcoating a heavy situation. This is why it's important to name both. Having space for conflicting emotions greatly increases your capacity for emotional awareness and intelligence.
Finally, it's much more helpful if we are focusing on taking small steps, reducing everything down to basics.
3. Choose 1-2 things to adjust each day.
I have talked to many people about feeling the need to be "more productive" because of all this time we now have with limited mobility and responsibility. At the same time, many of us are feeling fatigued and unbalanced, leaving us guilty or ashamed that we haven't done what we "could have". As a result, we procrastinate, lose ourselves in hours of shows, or scroll endlessly through our phones to avoid our emotions.
When we feel our feelings, we make it so much easier on ourselves to take on even one thing to change the cycle of our current lives.
If there's anything I could add to this list to help us all during this time, it would be:
Ask for help.
The overwhelming difficulties and troubles have been met with many human beings showing kindness, innovation, and creativity to help others. We have compiled resources here at Foresight and I've included links below.
Also, if you are scrolling through social media, I encourage you to curate your feed with positive news and uplifting stories to counterbalance the negativity and fear which is so easily spread, simply because our brains are wired for fear. That does not mean we need to give in to it. If anything, our pushing against fear into possibility is what brings us closer to healing.
(Non-exhaustive list - there are more out there!)
Free Mental Health Support Apps for COVID-19:
Headspace (Meditation, Mindfulness, Sleep, Workouts) - Free for Healthcare Professionals
Sanvello (Behavioral Health exercises, Mindfulness, Mood tracker, Community Message Boards, etc.) - Premium Free for all until July 2020
Talkspace - Free therapy for healthcare workers during COVID-19
Instagram Accounts to Follow:
Disclaimer: None of the resources have been compensated or paid advertisement, all are compiled resources simply suggestions through Foresight providers.