During these times of great uncertainty, it is not unusual to experience difficult emotions more often than usual and at a higher intensity. As we spend most of the day confined to our houses, we may find ourselves spending a lot more time worrying about the future or clashing with the people we live with. This can lead to feelings of fear, frustration, anger, anxiety and despair.
I think the first step to overcoming these emotions is to recognise that they are a completely normal response and to accept how you are feeling. In fact, being able to experience the full range of your emotions is quite healthy. That being said, there are times when these feelings may cause us a great deal of emotional stress and we need to do something to feel better.
Due to the ongoing restrictions on what we can and cannot do, many of the ways we coped with our emotions before the COVID-19 pandemic are currently not available to us. Luckily, there are still activities we can turn to that will help us to manage our response to these emotions and improve our ability to cope.
Here are some suggestions that I’ve found have helped me:
1. Pause and focus on the present moment
Take a few moments to become fully aware of your surroundings. Tune into your senses and notice two things for each sense. What can you see? What can you hear? What can you smell? Next, shift your attention to your breath and each time you breathe, visualise inhaling love and positivity and exhaling all your pent-up emotions. Becoming more present and observing your breath is a great way to reduce stress and slow down your racing mind.
2. Practice a hobby or doing something you enjoy
This could be reading a book, playing an instrument, listening to music, drawing, watching a funny movie, baking or anything else that brings you pleasure. Doing something that you enjoy is a wonderful way to counteract negative feelings and the perfect opportunity to prioritise some “me time” and get out of your own head.
3. Do some form of exercise
Stick your earphones in and take a walk, follow an online fitness class, go for a cycle or take your yoga mat out and stretch your body. Physical movement is often described as medicine because it benefits us in so many ways, both mentally and physically. Even though it can feel like such a struggle at times, the benefits of movement far outweigh the cost. The endorphins that exercise produces will improve your mood and give you a more positive outlook on the situation.
4. Be productive
If you’re in the mood for it, now is a good time to get on that to-do list and nip procrastination in the bud. If you have been putting off revising for an upcoming test, developing a difficult skill or learning a new language, now is the perfect time to lose yourself in a task that requires your full attention and focus. Not only will you distract yourself from whatever is on your mind, you will also feel a great sense of accomplishment for doing something challenging or something that you have been avoiding. Double score.
5. Practice gratitude
This might be the simplest of all the actions suggested, but it is also one of the most effective I think. By taking a few moments to recognise all the things you are grateful for, you often realise that things are not that bad after all. Being grateful for simple things like getting a good night’s sleep, a friend or tutor going the extra mile to help you out, or a delicious home-cooked meal can make you realise how lucky you are and in turn gives less importance to the things that are bothering you.
While these suggestions may seem simple, you would be surprised at how effective these can be. It does not really matter which action you take. What is important is that firstly, you decide to do something to interrupt an unhelpful train of thought, and secondly, you choose an activity that makes you feel good, not a distraction that is going to negatively affect your mood or wellbeing.
This global health crisis is impacting us all in different ways, but we can take control of how we react to this obstacle. Starting from today, accept what is happening, accept how it is making you feel, and then make the decision to handle those feelings by taking action!