The headlines read, “Fatal pandemic hits the globe,” and boom, you felt your stomach coiling within. Then, you read “Nationwide lockdown,” and boom, you experienced a churning in your body. Then you read “80,000 deaths due to COVID-19 pandemic”, and boom, you felt like your heart skipped a few beats! Then, you read in your text messages, “Hey. We are safe and healthy!”. And boom, you breathed a sigh of relief!
Every time you experienced a movement in your body as you read through the news, they were a manifestation of your emotions. And your emotions have been through non-stop roller coaster rides for over a year now. Now, you do remember that roller-coasters made you sick, especially the unexpected, twirly ones! Similarly, your emotions have run the risk of becoming ill. You have not had a chance to process them, understand them or regulate them. Hence, it is not surprising that our emotional well-being during COVID-19 has lowered drastically!
This article will take you through understanding your emotions first and how they play out. Secondly, let’s learn the importance and tips of maintaining your emotional well-being during COVID-19 pandemic and the extended lockdown.
What are emotions? Are emotions good or bad?
Let’s start slow; we’ve been through enough information overload.
P.S: The following paragraphs may seem technical, but do read them. It’s worth it to know about emotions first before we learn about fostering emotional well-being during COVID-19.
The word emotion is rooted in the Latin word ‘movere,’ which means ‘to move. Remember every time you experienced an emotion (e.g., happy, sad, angry, jealous, etc.), you felt something moving within you (e.g., heart raced faster or stomach twirled or arms and legs went cold, etc.). Further on, every emotion you felt triggers you to do something (e.g., jump, attack, scream, hug, etc.). So, every emotion has:
- a thinking part (identifying it as happy or sad or anger),
- a feeling part in your body sensations, and
- a doing part in the form of some action.
Now, let’s understand if emotions can be good or bad. The COVID-19 pandemic and extended lockdown must have triggered you to experience a lot of anger, frustration, loneliness, irritation, boredom, and the like, right? Usually, in our common language, we call them evil or harmful emotions. And hence, we are discouraged from experiencing them. And the more we avoided experiencing them, the more we felt them, right? We felt many of these so-called “bad emotions” that affected our emotional well-being during COVID-19 phase.
Let’s bust an important myth here: Emotions are never good or bad. They are who they are with a survival value. And if they have a survival value, emotions should not be evaluated as good or bad. Don’t you agree?
Emotions are rather best understood by asking two questions:
- How do they feel in your body: pleasant or unpleasant?
- How helpful are they? Do they encourage pro-life actions or anti-life actions? Are they so intense that they are beyond your control? So, are they healthy or unhealthy?
Now, merge these two categories to turn them into four categories to understand your emotions (see the diagram below. You can print and post it in your room for a quick reference).
- Pleasant emotions such as joy, excitement, happiness, love, and the like feel nice in the body. When they’re experienced at an optimal level (not too less nor too high), they help you feel better and help you connect with others; they’re healthy, pleasant emotions.
- However, pleasant emotions experienced at heightened levels of body arousal make us do things we regret later. For example, we may shout out in such a delight that we disregard other’s emotions. Or we get so excited that we mindlessly breach the other person’s boundaries. Or, we feel so much love that we may end up smothering and suffocating our object of love.
- Unpleasant emotions such as sadness, anger, jealously, and the like make us feel uncomfortable. But they are not necessarily unhealthy always, although they may feel unpleasant. When we experience these unpleasant emotions at extreme levels or out of context, they are undoubtedly unhealthy. For example, deep, profound, pervasive sadness that starts interfering with our ability to function every day can lead to the diagnosis of depression. Isn’t this just how many of us felt and are feeling, affecting our emotional well-being during COVID-19?
- However, when experienced at optimal levels and processed why they came up, these very unpleasant emotions are massive information centers for self-awareness. For example, if you are called lousy and irresponsible, which you believe you are not, you are bound to experience anger. That anger tells you that you do not like to be misunderstood. And is that fair enough information to learn about yourself? Yes! Another example, when you experience challenges in your relationships, you feel sad. That sadness drains your energy, making you feel like you don’t want to do anything. And in that phase of doing nothing, you understand what specifically hurt you, what the vacuum of that person’s loss would do for you, how much you value that relationship, etc.!
Now let’s jump straight into understanding how we can balance our emotional well-being during COVID-19.
Fostering Emotional Hygiene and Emotional well-being during COVID-19
The great Dalai Lama was the first person to draw our attention to the idea of emotional hygiene. We do maintain a good physical hygiene routine every day, right? For example, we brush our teeth every day; we take a shower every day, we comb our hair every day, and the like.
Similarly, why don’t we include a half-hour of emotional cleansing every day as a part of our routine? This could be anytime during the day. The process is called maintaining emotional hygiene. Fabulous emotional hygiene will help strengthen our emotional well-being during COVID-19 and its restrictions.
Now, what do you do during this half-hour of emotional cleansing to maintain our emotional well-being during COVID-19? Here are a few easy exercises to practice. And you can perform a new activity every day to break the monotony!
1. Chai pe Charcha
I have loved doing this exercise with my students and clients! Try this method of fostering emotional well-being during COVID-19 and the extended lockdown. This is based on the basics of emotions shared earlier in this article. Remember, emotions have a survival value. They’re here to help you. And so, make them your friends. Try this:
- Select one of your frequent emotions
- Close your eyes and breathe (psst… this relaxes your mind for creative thinking)
- Visualize this emotion as a person (make it animated to have some fun)
- Detail this person(emotion)– what color represents this emotion-person? How does this emotion-person look like? What is the nature of this emotion-person? How does this emotion-person stand and sit? What are this emotion-person’s preferences and dislikes?
- Do this for a few emotions you regularly experience and continue doing so as you experience various emotions.
(If you want an idea of how to do this, watch the film Inside Out!)
Now, during the half-hour of your emotional hygiene routine, visualize these emotion-persons in their form, sitting before you and voicing out their concerns as though you’re holding a daily meeting with your team. You listen to them as they share their progress & challenges, understand their problems, and brainstorm ways to incorporate their needs with the market demands.
Allowing your emotions to voice themselves out is the first step to self-awareness, self-care, and self-love. And these are not just components of your emotional well-being during COVID-19, but always.
2. The Serenity Prayer
Accept that we are finite, limited organisms. There is much that we can control, and yet, there is much that is pretty much beyond our control. It is a helpful practice to repeat slowly and meaningfully the Serenity Prayer (the image of this prayer is given below. Save the image for quick access to preserve your emotional well-being during COVID-19.
Here’s a chart you can use to practice accepting things that you can do something about, and things are must be graciously left aside for life to decide. This will help you regulate your emotional well-being during COVID-19 and otherwise as well.
3. Watch comedy videos
Social media has been flooded with news that can very naturally trigger too many, intense unpleasant emotions (which become unhealthy, remember?!). When you experience frequent, intense, unpleasant emotions, your body becomes tense and bodily processes are disrupted. And while being informed about what is happening around us is essential, it is equally important to take a break from being informed.
So, during this half-hour of emotional hygiene, watch some funny videos that trigger laughter for you. Laughing releases ‘feel-good’ hormones in your body, restoring the balance of your body functioning. A healthier body makes supports a healthy mind and vice versa. Additionally, a healthy body and mind will build immunity and look after your emotional well-being during COVID-19.
Yes, this is a cliched suggestion. And yet, it shows up on our list here. Why? Because it is tried, tested, and proven repeatedly to improve physical and emotional health! Choose an online half-hour workout video (I like the videos of Leslie Sansone’s 2-mile walks and Roberta’s gym available on Youtube).
Getting your body some physical activity releases energy into your body, making you feel fresh, rejuvenated, and pumped up. These released hormones help you think clearly and that in turn helps you regulate your emotions. It is one of the best ways to pump up your emotional well-being during COVID-19 and even otherwise.
5. Connect because we are wired to connect!
Believe me, it helps to vent! In addition to listening to your own emotion-persons and their needs, it is also helpful to share what you learned about yourself from your emotions with a trusted, non-judgmental friend. You’d realize that you’re not alone and the awareness that many feel as frustrated and angry as you do takes away your sense of aloneness in this scary pandemic situation.
Furthermore, as you both share things that worked to cope with the situations, you would get more ideas to implement to foster your emotional well-being during COVID-19.
6. Practice spirituality
Surrendering things and situations beyond your control to a higher power (God/Nature/Life) also helps maintain your emotional well-being during COVID-19 conditions. This is because there is much out of your limits during this pandemic and lockdown than there is. Studies have reported that patients and caregivers who practiced spirituality coped more effectively. The power of our thoughts certainly impacts the way our body responds to stress!
Did you like our strategies for maintaining your emotional well-being during COVID-19? If you did, then leave us a like to show your support. Do try these strategies and share with us in the comments section what worked the best for you! You can also leave your queries and requests if you’re struggling with balancing your emotions.
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