Coping with difficult emotions in times of crisis
By Guest blogger Sean Wallace
Coping with difficult emotions can be a challenge at the best of times, especially if you’re struggling with your mental health. In times of crisis, like the current COVID-19 epidemic, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and feel like our emotions are completely out of control. This can show itself in a variety of ways, including fear, sadness, anxiety, anger, and frustration.
Strategies for managing emotions during times of crisis
If you’re finding it difficult to cope, the good news is that you can learn to manage your emotions and you can start learning that skill today. Read on for four of our top tips for dealing with challenging emotions as well as some useful links to more detailed resources.
Maintaining a routine
It’s easy to forget how important routine is to our wellbeing until an unexpected event comes along and throws a spanner in the works. If you’re used to going out to work every day, then being stuck at home - maybe because of illness (or quarantine!) - can be incredibly disruptive, particularly if you’ve suddenly found yourself out of work.
It’s important to try to maintain a semblance of normality, and sticking to your normal routine as much as possible - or creating a new one - can go a long way toward keeping yourself well.
Keeping up the rhythm
Our body’s circadian rhythms are central to our health and wellbeing, and the most important aspect of this is sleep. In particular, waking up at the same time each day is key to emotional regulation, as well as a host of other systems in our bodies. Maybe most relevant at the moment is our immune system, and scientists have proved that maintaining a regular sleep cycle can boost our body’s immune response, helping us fight off unwanted bacteria and viruses.
Whether you know it or not, you probably already practice self-soothing behaviours. Self-soothing can help calm our nervous system and have an immediate and noticeable effect on our emotions. You could try things like:
Taking a long, hot bath
Enjoying a favourite meal
Watching a favourite movie
Listening to calming music
If you struggle to know how to calm yourself down in the heat of the moment, then creating a self-soothing kit ahead of time is a great idea.
When a difficult situation beyond our control causes us to feel painful emotions, acceptance is one of the most important tools at our disposal; making a conscious effort to accept our emotions as normal and valid can be surprisingly effective.
Similarly, taking the time to acknowledging that a situation is beyond our control, accepting that that’s how it is right now and understanding that it’s OK to feel how we feel - can go a long way toward helping.
This might take a little practice to begin with but, over time, and with the help of tools like counselling and meditation, it can gets easier.
If you’re struggling with challenging emotions during this difficult time for everyone, we’ve created a list of useful resources which could help:
Covid-19: Looking after your mental health update
However, we don’t always feel motivated to use self-help when you’re struggling. If you feel like you’re not coping and need help, please get in touch.