The internet is awash with advice and tips for managing our time, fitness and mental health while being closeted at home during the Covid 19 restrictions. It is positively noisy out there online. But how do you actually manage the difficult emotions that may arise whether you are running a business from home, living in close proximity to family, home schooling children while trying to work or whether you are an essential worker still going out to your workplace and worrying about exposure to the virus.
We are all affected by these strange and stressful times in different ways. We are all finding our way through the challenges and we will all have our own response to the situation in which we find ourselves.
So how do we manage difficult emotions?
1. Acknowledge the emotion and take a long exhalation as you do so
Notice the sensation in your body as you become aware of the emotion. For example, you might notice your stomach churning or your body bracing itself or your jaw clenching. Exhale as though you are blowing the steam off a hot cup of tea. This kicks in the parasympathetic nervous system which calms things down.
2. Label that emotion
Stay mindful by saying to yourself, “This is fear” or “This is frustration”. Neuroscience now tells us that the brain can process an emotion more effectively when it is labelled.
3. Accept your emotions
Don’t push the emotion away – it is already here, so you can’t ‘not have it’! Instead, accept that is there. This takes much less effort than straining to keep it at bay. Tell yourself, “I can do this” – “I can manage this”. This will soften the experience.
4. Realise the impermanence of your emotions
We all have a river of emotions running through us every single day. Even if one of them feels overwhelming, remember it will pass. Scientists tell us that the chemistry of an emotion lasts in the body for 90 secs from it first arising to its final abating.
5. Investigate this emotion
Ask yourself “What triggered me?”, “Why do I feel this way?”
6. Let go of a need to control yourself out of having these emotions
Allow yourself to be curious about what emerges – with an open-heartedness.
7. Be kind to the emotion as if it were a little child
If a child was upset, would you tell her she shouldn’t be feeling that way or that she is stupid for having an emotional response? Hopefully not. You would be kind and try to soothe her until she felt better. Think of emotions in the same way. It is bad enough having a difficult emotion without beating yourself up for having it.
We are all in uncharted territory right now. Be your own friend.