Sitting with uncomfortable emotions….. The uncertainty of the pandemic has sent our emotions on one of the biggest rollercoaster rides. Feelings of anger, despair, fear and frustration may rise up in us at numerous times throughout these challenging days. Consequently, we may use unhealthy ways to suppress or cope with these overwhelming emotions, such as drinking or overeating.
This heightened emotional state offers us a protective cloak, propelling us into action at times of perceived danger, however, left unchecked this emotional turbulence can be detrimental to our long term physical and mental health. We can fall into a vicious cycle where the physiological symptoms triggered by high levels of anxiety are misinterpreted and considered more threatening, thus leading to a further increase in anxiety. Our lives can very quickly feel like they are unravelling and we are losing control.
We can take back some control by recognising that WE ARE NOT OUR EMOTIONS and learn to accept our different emotional states. The following steps are crucial to helping us understand our emotions:
1) Ask yourself “how do I react when difficult emotions show up?” By doing this we can gain insight into our behavioural responses ie., do we shout or sulk, withdraw or does our inner critic go into overdrive? Then we can think about the negative impact and costs of these behaviours to us personally and those around us.
2) We can reduce our struggle with challenging emotions by giving them a name, labelling them. Mindfulness practice can be a helpful means of observing and exploring emotions.
3) Remember our emotions are transient, they are ever changing and move. Notice, label the emotion and then let unpleasant feelings pass through us like clouds floating above and out of sight.
Learning to sit more comfortably with our emotions with help us build resilience at a time in our lives when it is most needed.