How to Manage Difficult Emotions During COVID-19

Kristen Deuzeman

emotions, managing emotions, self-care, self-regulation, anxiety, calm, workplace culture

As this pandemic continues to unfold, we have been called to action, adapting to changing career and financial statuses, caring for our health and that of our loved ones, managing relationships, and trying to make this summer fun amidst social distancing protocols (just to name a few). These challenges and the ensuing emotional strain have affected our overall sense of well-being.

While it is easy to overlook the psychological burden of navigating this “new normal,” it is necessary to acknowledge that we have lost something – our sense of ourselves, of normalcy, and the security that accompanies it. As a result, we feel a range of emotions including fear, confusion, relief, grief, guilt, gratitude, denial, and anger. Admittedly, the roller-coaster of emotions is, without a doubt, exhausting.

Spending time with our emotions can help bolster our overall sense of well-being. The following four steps can help you to navigate your emotions to draw energy and meaning back into your life:

1. Identify the emotion.

Take a few moments for stillness and attention as you face the reality of what you are currently experiencing. For example, if you notice yourself being more critical or easily angered when dealing with others, spend a few minutes by yourself to figure out what might be going on.

Perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or frustrated. Be curious and kind to yourself as you examine what thoughts or emotions you might be having and remember not to judge what you are feeling. These emotions are neither “good” nor “bad” – they just are.

2. Feel the emotion.

We tend to avoid feeling the emotion and try to ignore it instead (especially if it’s one that we have judged as “bad”). During this period in history, there is disorder and confusion and, while uncomfortable, it is okay. For example, if you’re feeling anxious or frustrated, take some time to be with the feeling. Sit with the emotion and try to accept it for what it is.

Observing our thoughts and emotions allows us to see them for what they are – just thoughts, just emotions. By doing so, the emotion loses some of its power over us and we are more easily able to let it go. I have also found myself bonding with friends by sharing these honest observations and have been reminded that we are not alone in what we’re feeling.

Be curious and kind to yourself as you examine what thoughts or emotions you might be having and remember not to judge what you are feeling.

3. Connect with your core values.

Our thoughts and feelings provide us with cues about what really matters to us – our needs and values. It is about recognizing difficult emotions and asking ourselves, “What does this emotion say about me?” or “What is this telling me about what is important?”

For example, some parents may feel guilty for not being able to give their kids the attention they would like as they work from home. Parents often feel this way because they value presence and connectedness. For those who report feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, their emotions might be telling them that they need greater levels of self-care. The big takeaway here is that our emotions are trying to tell us something. If we listen to them, they can guide us to living more honestly with ourselves.

4. Envision growth.

By taking cues from our emotions and aligning them with our core values, we can start to grow in the direction of what’s important to us. Asking, “How can I move in the direction of what’s important, even if it’s uncomfortable?” can help us to consider what we truly value in ourselves as we decide who we want to be during this difficult time.

Perhaps this means scheduling more intentional time with our loved ones, making time for ourselves by taking regular walks or calling a friend, or practicing patience with those we care about. Making small, intentional changes to our mindset or habits can make a powerful difference in our lives.

While discomfort is a part of life, we can breathe into this experience to develop greater levels of resilience, connection, wholeness, and wisdom. We can grow from this experience.


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Author: Kristen Deuzeman
Trainer, ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

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