If you are like most people, the emotions you are experiencing as this quarantine lingers and turns from weeks into months become more complicated. The prolonged stress along with the impact of emotional strain may have brought up unexpected and unpleasant emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Overwhelm and stress come when we don't use proper coping skills and ignore what is really going on internally within ourselves. The better we self regulate or learn to manage our emotions, behaviors and thoughts, the better we will fare through this crisis time with success. When noticing ourselves and finding words for our internal experience we can turn problematic and stressful emotions, thoughts and behaviors around and manage them more successfully.
The first step to changing problematic behaviors and emotions is to first notice them. We must be mindful of ourselves and not numb what we feel. By noticing what is going on inside, we don't operate automatically, but instead respond with choices and options. This brings us empowerment not opposition and hope not despair. We are not doomed to simply react but can make intentional, healthy decisions that will be good for us and those around us. Taking a moment to pause and notice makes all the difference.
Second, we must identify what the problematic emotion, thought or behavior is really about. Don't be mistaken, this takes great courage. Now more than ever we find ourselves alone or with limited distractions which force us to look inside ourselves. For many people this is a new and even terrifying experience. We often ignore what may be laying dormant under the surface but now the spotlight has suddenly shone on it, forcing us to pause and look inside. Currently, we don't have the convenience of a distracted, quick-paced life which distract us from noticing. We must ask ourselves, "what is there to face? What is this really about?" There may be a nudging calling us to explore what is under the surface and what may be wanting and needing attention.
Finally, putting words to emotions, thoughts and behaviors will validate the experience we are having so we can find relief. Emotional outlet serves as a valve, letting go of mounting tension and sharing it with a trusted person will normalize it and bring relief. Expressing feelings with a safe person or even privately through writing shifts the tension and relieves the noise/chaos inside us. With new, surprising and perhaps even concerning insights into ourselves the use of regular expression of feelings is imperative.
By noticing our emotions, feelings and behaviors and find words for our stress, we have the ability to respond with control and not react impulsively. Having someone be present to hear our experience and validate it will further equip us to handle the inevitable surprise emotions, thoughts and behaviors when they do creep up unexpectedly.