How are you feeling?
The challenge of living with uncertainty is one we always face – but which the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic and second national lockdown is likely to have highlighted and heightened for many of us.
Control over almost every aspect of life is being brought into question: the ability to see friends and family, the security of our job, home or income, our health and the health of those we love, our freedom to make plans.
The way we connect with others is being affected by public health advice. Loving touch – one of the most natural ways to show love, care and to comfort – may now be something that has to be thought about.
With a loss of control and connection, can come many feelings that loss often brings up: shock at the upheaval and change we are facing, denial (this can’t be happening), anger – perhaps at how random or unfair it feels, fear and anxiety about what the future may bring, and sadness – about all that has being taken from us.
How do you react to your feelings?
It is completely understandable if you are not feeling okay right now.
Sometimes in this society with its’ emphasis on relentless positivity, emotions like anger, sadness or fear can be viewed as ‘negative’ – but they are an inevitable part of being human, and a very natural response to what is going on.
Our reaction to feeling those feelings can be strongly affected by formative influences and experiences.
Was it okay for me to have that feeling as a child? If it wasn’t okay – then where did I take my sadness, my anger, or my fear, and how did I cope with it as best as I could at that age?
In this unfamiliar and changing situation,, some of us may experience a sense of being catapulted back to earlier ways of coping. While bringing temporary relief, we may experience those old or familiar coping strategies keeping us stuck, and preventing us from recognising other needs .
What needs are your feelings expressing?
Your feeling may be speaking to a natural need – be it for financial security and certainty, for lightness and fun, for space to yourself, or for closeness and belonging.
There can be an understandable fear that if we give feelings activated by the coronavirus pandemic any airtime, we may get stuck in them.
Setting aside a limited period of time in a quiet space to let yourself experience and observe emotions surfacing, can help to contain them and create some distance between yourself and the feeling.
Psychotherapist Thomas Moore identified that caring for ourselves at a deep or ‘soul’ level can involve developing the habit of paying attention to the message that our emotions may hold about what it is that we need.
“Observance has considerable power.” (1)– Thomas Moore, psychotherapist
What it is that is making us feel so strongly, and that we are missing? How might we allow ourselves to acknowledge that loss, and to connect with what Thomas Moore calls the ‘soul’ need expressing itself ?
Acknowledging our feelings as valid, may help us to move through and release them…
Tips for taking care of yourself
If feeling sad, angry or fearful about any aspect of the way you’re impacted by the covid-19 pandemic or lockdown, it is natural that fight, flight, or freeze responses to threat may be activated at a mind-body level.
Finding ways to reduce the sense of insecurity and threat if feeling overwhelmed, will help make it more possible to take care of ourselves, and to make choices about what can help and support us.
Coming back to the breath even for three minutes at a time can help you begin to calm and ground yourself, physiologically and emotionally, regulating the nervous system. That offers a base from which you may be more able to observe and explore what’s going on, and to look after yourself.
Find a safe space
Finding a place at home, or in your imagination, where you feel really safe can be supportive in times of uncertainty, when what we hold dear feels under threat.
Once you’ve found and connected with your safe place, you can then identify the elements needed to make it safe for you, and bring your focus to those – to help still the mind and calm the body, anchoring you more firmly and securely in the present moment.
Pay attention to your needs in a gentle way
Far from keeping us stuck in a painful place, paying attention to difficult feelings, and acknowledging them as valid, may help us to move through and release them. It can also be useful to notice how many different emotions we experience in a day – that our feelings can, and do change.
Noticing the needs our emotions are signalling can help us not to get stuck in punishing judgements for having those feelings. Instead we can consider how to meet those needs – even in a small way.
It can help to check in and ask yourself, ‘what can resource and steady me right now?‘ Acting on your response in any way that works for you – be it by making a cup of tea, going for a walk or run, watching a comforting film, listening to music, resting or talking to a loved one – can help reduce the sense of being under immediate threat.
Attentiveness to recognising your feelings, and to meeting the needs they signpost, can make living through uncertain times an experience that feels a bit less overwhelming – and a bit more manageable – one day at a time.
Thomas Moore ”Care of the Soul – How To Add Depth And Meaning To Your Everyday Life” (I, Chapter 1, p12), London 2010 edition, Piatkus.
If some support on working with feelings might be helpful and you are interested in counselling you can find out more here
If difficult thoughts and feelings take you to a very low place where you feel at risk of harm, it is vital to get help – just as you would in a physical heath crisis. Do contact your GP , or out of hours call 111 – and The Samaritans on freephone 116 123 can also offer support. For more information on support and on self-help strategies, please go to https://www.mind.org.uk/need-urgent-help/