On flattening your emotional curve
Updated: Sep 23
Navigating the events surrounding Covid without upset would be tough under normal social conditions. Expecting to do so in isolation is an unfair thing to ask of yourself.
The unconscious behaviour that best illustrates the above is to avoid admitting any negative feelings during these times on the basis that someone else is in a more difficult situation. It's clear that many are navigating abysmal situations due to the loss of jobs or loved ones - but that alone doesn't cancel out your natural (and healthy) capacity to have an emotional response to what are difficult and unforeseen changes for you.
The truth is - we're hard-wired to feel, and the scale of generic loss / uncertainty affecting us all means that feeling anxious or frustrated or sad or embarrassed or disappointed or angry at the moment is normal and not to be ignored. Denying that reality too much is effectively lying to yourself, and risks plunging you into a deeper emotional curve at a later date (please see the illustration below).
My suggestion is therefore to be aware of what you feel and or your language during conversation and try to notice and express yourself as honestly as you can. Allowing moments of self-compassion can help as they work as a natural vaccination and will flatten your emotional curve to a more productive and healthier one going forward. If you can back it up with some exercise and an early night then all the better.
Aside from an honest conversation with someone trusted - here are the 3 most helpful ways my clients (and I) are using to avoid and manage overwhelm during these testing times;
A: A 20-minute expectation-free walk to start and end your day. No phone. No headphones. Just gentle exercise, fresh air and time to be with your 'self' - with zero expectations.
B: Minimise current affairs/news intake. Modern media is a conflict zone of clickbait designed to trigger your fearful parts - limiting consumption to an amount that doesn't overwhelm after you put your phone down will help. Reading only from objective sources will also keep you more rational and more creative - more often. See Why you should quit the news for extra context.
C: End your day with something light/funny. Sleep is an early casualty of overwhelm - if the last thing you consume before bed makes you smile, it releases melatonin which regulates healthy sleep and increases your chance of getting some restorative zzzz's.
The top-line is that many parts of our current lives are out of our control.
The capacity to be kind and honest with yourself isn't one of them.
Try not to give it up too easily.