How can we be emotionally savvy during lockdown?
Deep down, we all knew the lockdown would continue. Yet Dominic Raab’s request that we will have at least another 3-weeks in the lockdown, was tough to hear.
We want to pull together, save lives and protect our beloved NHS. Yet increasingly we also want to be free of the restrictions. Frustration is collectively rising. We want to hug our loved ones who are not with us—and we can’t. There is massive uncertainty around financial security—and there are no firm answers. And we want to be free to go wherever we want—it is driving us crazy that we’re stuck inside. Is there another way of dealing with this? How can we make it easier for ourselves?
It’s OK to feel what you’re feeling
It is true that others are dealing with worse hardships than we are. Like the frontline Keyworkers who are working so hard and risking their lives to help us. Or those who have lost loved ones to Coronavirus, or who are trapped in an abusive relationship. And it’s tough for those living alone in self isolation too. And yet, it is OK that we feel frustrated, sad, angry, upset, lost or anxious. We are entitled to feel our emotions – even if our logical mind tries to say we don’t have this right. Pushing our emotions back inside or ignoring them just makes things worse.
We need to feel all of our emotions—not just the easy ones. Every emotion has a purpose. Rumi, a great Sufi mystic who lived in the 13th Century, says this so beautifully, in his poem The Guest House.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows
who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thoughts, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Before delving into why you feel this way, name it
Emotions are chemical messages that arise within us to tell us something about ourselves or the world. We experience many dozens of emotions, but they loosely fit into five groups. During the lockdown, the three main groups we are dealing with are; anger, fear and sadness. The principal emotions in these three groups are:
|Full of Rage||Terrified||Depressed|
There are many more emotions than these, but looking at these few, notice there is an intensity of feelings. On paper at least, feeling annoyed is easier to deal with than rage. Disappointment is not as hard to process as rage. So, when the emotions come up, begin by naming what you are feeling, then note how strongly you feel it.
It can be useful to understand what each emotion is trying to convey to us. Following is a quick summary of the core emotions of anger, fear and sadness.
The message of anger, including apathy and boredom, tells is a boundary has been crossed. Most anger has fiery energy which gives us the strength to put the boundary back in place. The lockdown is causing anger to rise because we are unable to set boundaries in the way we used to do.
For most of us, this anger is showing up as irritation and frustration. It flares up when we see people flouting the lockdown rules. It’s there when we have to queue for food, or when the promised financial help doesn’t arrive. It may also arise with our children—even though we love them. Young children squealing with pent-up energy, or teenagers being teenagers can drive us to distraction. All of these things are getting under our skin. We want things to go back to how they were!
Over the Easter weekend, I was interested to notice how irritated I became seeing people enjoying our local beach. I recognised my sense of fairness was being tested, and a big part of my irritation was that I too wanted to be on the beach. We all have some of this just now.
Apathy and boredom don’t have the fire of other anger emotions, yet they still arise when we can’t restore boundaries. Apathy drives anger underground, sucking the fiery away so that we don’t harm ourselves or to others.
Fear is all about survival. When fear arises, our eyesight and hearing become acute—a response of our ancient ancestors. Danger back them was more likely to be physical, like a sabretooth tiger on the prowl or a marauding tribe on the warpath. If we survived these life or death situations, we naturally released fear, and our alertness diminished back to its normal state.
In the 21st Century, long before we knew about Coronavirus, many of us lived with constant low-level stress. Being hyperalert had become our standard. Now in lockdown, it’s being heightened, even more, sometimes sweeping us into deep anxiety and panic.
Sadness has very low energy – it tells us that we have lost someone or something special. Grieving for loved ones who have died is so hard in lockdown, especially if we can’t pay our last respects. But in lockdown, we are also experiencing losses on many different levels like not being able to be with or see loved ones. Sadness shows up as disappointment when we can’t go to our favourite café, or see our friends at our social/sports clubs. These may be small sacrifices, but it doesn’t mean we don’t miss and even ache for them either.
Sadness is also showing up as loneliness – especially for people who are in self-isolation and living alone. Although you already know it, still acknowledge that this is what you are feeling.
After naming the emotions—what then?
Quite often, the simple act of naming your emotion takes away its power. But then it doesn’t, these simple exercises help.
When we experience intense emotions, our brain activity changes. We react more, and analytic thought diminishes. Our subconscious mind is millions of times faster at processing information than our conscious mind. So, this makes perfect sense when we are trying to survive—but it’s not great when we want to deal with our lockdown. But we can change our brain activity quickly, just by changing our breathing. Simply spend a few minutes focusing on breathing in, then out. This is a great way to restore calm, and it allows the thinking part of our brain to find new solutions.
DEALING WITH ANGER
Anger’s fiery energy needs to be released so you can restore your natural balance. Begin by matching anger’s energy. Do this by walking fast, jogging or sprinting. Or do some running on the spot or jumping jacks. When you’re out of breath, with a demanding voice, What needs to be restored? and What CAN I do about it? If your rebellious side pops up with a sarcastic answer, be gentle, firm and ask again. There is always something that you can do to make yourself feel less angry.
What is needed here is the restoration of peace and calm. Do you have a garden? If yes, choose to sit in a quiet spot. Now take ten deep, slow breaths. The question for fear is, What do I need to do? Fear needs action to be released. If you feel your worries can’t be answered, acknowledge there are many unknowns at this time, and gently push again for an action. By taking a step forward, even if it’s a baby step, it will begin to unlock the paralysing energy of deep fear. Meditation is a powerful way to restore calm. Try out one of the many apps like HeadSpace or Mindset Timer.
LETTING GO OF SADNESS
What has been lost is usually crystal and painfully clear. So, the questions to ask are. What needs to be released? And How can you reawaken in this new world? Sadness brings up tears, and they need to flow to release this energy, but not to the point of wallowing. Grieving for a loss that isn’t the death of a loved one, needs a time-frame. How long is it OK to stay sad? Name a date when you will be over it. Diarising a time when you are ready to be over your loss of thing/situation, sounds strange, but it works. Give it a try.
For everyone, but I think especially for those who are living alone, a daily routine helps. Make sure that every day you have phone or video calls too. If you have Zoom, you can also arrange to have some of your meals with others via video. It’s not the same as being with people – but it is the next best thing during lockdown.
Be gentle with yourself
We are living in a strange new world. Some of our old ways of living life won’t ever return. How our future life will turn-out, we don’t yet know. So while you, I and everyone is figuring it out, be gentle with your precious soul. No one has all the answers yet. Trust that our collective ingenuity will find a new way forward. And some of what will become our new normal will be better, more exciting and satisfying than before. It will be most interesting to see what that looks like!
Are you struggling with your emotions? Need a helping hand? You deserve to be happy and successful. And I would be honoured to help you. I offer telephone life coaching and video emotional healing. Find out more about life coaching with me. Or call me on 01305 821799 or email me to arrange a time for a FREE taster session.
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