MAKING SENSE OF YOUR FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
by Ami Kunimura, MA, MT-BC • March 2020
My emotions have fluctuated so much over the past few weeks. One moment I’ll feel anxious and overwhelmed and then I’ll feel brave and strong, and then that turns into frustration, and the cycle keeps going. These ups and downs can be exhausting. So, I’m trying to be gentle and patient with myself as I try to make sense of how I’m experiencing life these days.
Here’s something we can try together to help us make sense of what we’re feeling.
Try these three steps with me right now:
1. Identify an uncomfortable feeling that you’ve been experiencing lately and allow it to be there.
You might need to take a breath, be still for a few moments and check in with your heart and mind to see what’s there without judgment.
(In case you need some ideas, here are some words to explore: worried, disappointed, disconnected, afraid, frustrated, impatient, angry, resentful, jealous, hostile, confused, detached, numb, frozen, aloof, grief, unsettled, tired, exhausted, flustered, heartbroken, lonely, sad, depressed, tense, anxious, distressed, irritated, nervous, overwhelmed, sensitive, vulnerable)
2. Identify what the need is behind that feeling.
It can help to ask yourself, “what is this feeling telling me about what I need right now?”
(Here are some examples of needs that we might have: connection, safety, affection, closeness, love, nurturing, soothing, respect, stability, support, to be heard, to be seen, to be understood, trust, rest, movement, touch, security, honesty, play, joy, ease, harmony, order, space, meaning, peace, relaxation, clarity, creativity, hope, mourning, purpose, structure, expression, steadiness, expression, release)
3. Do something to meet that need.
Even if it’s something small or a step you can take to get that need met in the near future, do something.
(For example: texting a friend and telling them how you feel to build connection and to be heard, close your eyes and take a few breaths to feel more steady and in control, roll your shoulders band and drop them down to bring in a little ease, or put one hand over your heart and say something comforting to yourself that’s soothing and supportive, or doing something to release your emotions)
Our goal here is not to do this process perfectly and our goal is not to immediately change the uncomfortable feeling. The goal is to be with yourself in the process so that you are not abandoning or pushing away how you are experiencing life right now.
I’ve give you an example of what this process has looked like for me. A few days ago, I allowed myself to be still for a few moments and realized that underneath all the worry and uncertainty, I was really feeling sadness. I realized I was grieving lost opportunities, I was missing my family, and deeply longing for normalcy.
When I allowed the sadness to be there, I realized the sadness was telling me that what I needed that day was to cry and let it out. My need at that moment wasn’t to feel happy, my need was to stop thinking about coronavirus for a while and instead attend to mourning my losses and missing what I longed for. And once I did cry it out, even though I still felt sad, I felt lighter and had more clarity.
So practice this. If you get stuck at a certain step in this process, be patient with yourself and know that even doing just one of these steps can be useful.
I got these lists of feeling and needs from The Center for Non-Violent Communication’s feelings inventory and needs inventory. You can find more extensive lists at those links in case that might help you.
Also, it’s likely that you’ll be communicating with someone who dealing with an uncomfortable feeling. You can try this process to support them too by listening to them and having them tell you how they are feeling, encouraging them to identify what it is they really need, and supporting them in meeting that need.
Remember, we will get through this one day at a time, one thing at time, and one moment at a time.
March 25, 2020
Ami Kunimura, MA, MT-BC is the founder of the Self-Care Institute and the creator and facilitator of Resilience Over Burnout: A Self-Care Program, an in-depth online program that guides professionals out of burnout and stress cycles through research-based self-care practices. Ami has presented on self-care and professional burnout at international events and conferences. Ami (pronounced ah-me) was born in Hawaii and currently lives in Southern California.
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