How to Manage Your Emotions During the Pandemic

01 September, 2020
In times of crisis, it's normal to experience emotional highs and lows, as well as physical discomfort such as back pain or headaches. Learning to handle these issues will make it much easier for you to cope with the ongoing pandemic.
 

Managing your emotions during the pandemic is no easy task. Over the past few months, life has been chaotic, upsetting, and downright exhausting. Fear and anxiety merge into one. Sudden bursts of hope and excitement help keep us going in spite of everything before giving way to anger and frustration when things don’t turn out like we wanted.

Our emotions are constantly shifting and changing, coming and going, overwhelming us and influencing our thoughts and behavior. But although these psychophysiological reactions play a huge role in determining who we are, many of us don’t know how to use them to their full potential. They can be invaluable in allowing us to progress and help us to survive difficult situations.

In his novel Great Expectations, Charles Dickens wrote that a loving heart is the truest wisdom. The ability to experience and learn from all the emotions and sensations life offers us is one of the greatest advantages any of us can have.

In times of crisis, change, and uncertainty, we face our ultimate test. Simply surviving isn’t enough; we must weather every storm, counter every attack, and overcome every obstacle that fate throws our way.

Also, it’s important to devise a plan that can allow us to keep moving forward with conviction and determination, setting ourselves clear goals so that we can achieve balance and boost our well-being. Let’s look at this topic in more detail.

A man watching the sea.
 

Managing our emotions during the pandemic

One interesting thing about the pandemic is that the brain perceives it as a threat. Such crises, which are to be expected in the course of our lifetime, are seen by our brains as the destruction of something which, up to that point, we took for granted. The fact that many of the things we saw as safe and predictable are suddenly changing around us activates the amygdala, sparking intense negative emotions such as fear and anger.

As well-known anthropologist Juan Luis Arsuaga points out, crises occur in every era. The crisis we’re facing right now is no exception. As such, no unique strategy will allow us to emerge from this situation completely unscathed.

However, each of us has an obligation and an individual responsibility to ensure we care for our mental health and learn to manage our emotions.

Accepting the emotional highs and lows

If you want to successfully manage your emotions during the pandemic, there’s something you need to understand first. Our emotional journey through this crisis will be comprised of many ups and downs. One minute we’re angry, the next we’re excited, and the next we’re suddenly overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety. This is completely normal.

Every emotion you feel should be accepted. Every sensation you experience and every thought that takes shape in your mind must be validated. This emotional turmoil isn’t the result of your mind losing control nor is it a sign of some psychological disorder. In fact, these processes are entirely normal.

 

During a crisis, emotions are “visceral”

During periods of crisis, we tend to experience emotions viscerally. But what exactly does that mean? It means that you might feel more tired than usual, and take naps in the middle of the day. When you wake up, you may feel a burst of restless energy and struggle to sit still. Later on, you might get a headache or stomach ache.

These fleeting periods of mental and physical discomfort are the result of different emotions manifesting in our bodies, seeking to be accepted, understood, and managed by our minds. As such, it’s important to pay close attention to our physical sensations, as well as our emotions.

Managing emotions during the pandemic: acceptance and transformation

In order to manage your emotions during the pandemic, you must first try to understand how you typically react in these kinds of situations. For example, when faced with periods of great change or uncertainty, some people tend to feel great anxiety. Others, on the other hand, take a calmer, more focused, and more flexible approach.

  • Either way, we know it isn’t easy for anyone to deal with these circumstances. However, the most important thing is to stay in control. Mental health is about feeling the right emotions at the right time, and understanding how to react. This means that, in difficult situations, it’s normal to feel sadness, fear, anger, or rage. However, you mustn’t deny or amplify these emotions, to the point where they overwhelm you.
 
  • It’s important to know how to give a name to each of our emotions. We must all learn how to break down this giant, confusing knot of emotions into its individual parts, learning to isolate them, identify them, and, finally, accept them. Only then will you be able to “tame” them.
  • Another thing that’s important to understand is that you can’t transform a negative emotion into a positive one, no matter how hard you try. No one can go from sadness to joy, even if they wanted to. The brain doesn’t have some kind of switch to allow you to turn your feelings on and off. What it does have, however, is a prefrontal cortex, which you can use to reflect on your emotions and look at things from a new perspective.

A study conducted at the University of Michigan by Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson revealed something interesting: one of the best ways to cope with a crisis like this is to train our brains to believe in hope and have faith in the idea that tomorrow will be better and that everything will improve with time.

A woman gazing out a window.

Creating your own emotional refuge: we’re all in the same boat

Managing your emotions during the pandemic also means knowing how to ask for help. Remember that this is a global crisis, and that almost everyone is experiencing the same fears, worries, and hardships. At times like this, it’s good to have someone to talk to. Creating emotional refuges where you have people to talk to, vent to, and with whom you can share your thoughts can be really cathartic.

 

As Albert Einstein once said, imagination is more important than knowledge, especially in moments of crisis. Our imagination helps us come up with solutions by constantly looking for new opportunities for change and innovation. However, we can’t forget about our emotional well-being. Emotional self-care is essential during times of great stress and anxiety, ensuring that we continue to perform to our best.

  • L. Fredrickson, B (2003) What Good Are Positive Emotions in Crises? A Prospective Study of Resilience and Emotions Following the Terrorist Attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001. Journal Personality Psychology. 2003 Feb; 84(2): 365–376.