The terms “unprecedented” and “pandemic” are seemingly everywhere, along with emotions such as fear, stress, frustration and grief. In psychology, we know that emotions exist for many reasons. At the same time, if they are not managed, they can be unhelpful to our wellbeing and relationships. We need to manage them so we are not panicked, burning out, damaging relationships with the people we care about or invalidating our own needs. Below, I have listed three ways to manage emotions in a time of global crisis. 1) Choose facts over noise Logic and facts are important allies in managing emotions. In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, we look at the facts and the reality of situations. This skill helps calm the mind as we acknowledge the truth and at the same time, it assists with managing our tendencies to jump to conclusions, “catastrophise” or have all-or-nothing thinking. in practical terms, we need to be aware of reputable news sources. in Singapore, gov.sg and the related Whatsapp/Telegram channels are useful for obtaining facts. Ignore forwarded messages on WhatsApp or links reposted on facebook. If the content of such messages and posts intrigue you, go to the source and make an informed decision for yourself. Being aware of the facts in this manner, will assist with managing your emotions as you will know the reality of the situation. You, and your emotions, will not be rising and falling at every piece of news that may come your way. 2) Set aside “worry time” This is a wonderful Cognitive Behavioural Therapy skill to help manage worry thoughts and worrying behaviour. These are the steps:
- Step 1: Pick a time of the day and set aside approximately 20 mins to worry. For example, 6pm each night.
- Step 2: Notice worries over the course of the day and jot them down in a notebook. Postpone the worry. Mindfully return to the task at hand.
- Step 3: At the designated worry time, pick a spot to worry. It should not be a space where you usually relax (e.g. bed or your spot on the couch), as we do not want to create an association between worry and a place to relax. Pick a lesser used space.
- Step 4: Worry worry worry. What you will notice is that many of the thoughts you had noted down may no longer be relevant at the worry time.
- Step 5: Worry for the entire duration of the worry time. Then, engage in a mindful activity such as cooking or exercise to distance yourself from the worrying you have completed.
3) Practice mindful self-care Self care is about following through with what your mind and your body need. This may be easier said than done. It can be helpful to remind yourself that you are living through a period of crisis- an abnormal time in our lives. We need to look after ourselves. When was the last time you did something just for you? Self-care is not self-indulgence. To know the difference, ask yourself if what you choose to do is what you truly need and not just what you want. Needs tend to have both short and long-term benefits. For example, quickly eating a cookie as you wait for your next email to load is not self-care. Eating that same cookie, in a mindful space and frame of mind, may be exactly what you need to self-soothe in the moment while nurturing yourself enough to keep working for a little longer.