Emotions Running Wild Right Now? Some ideas to calm them...
All. The. Feelings. I get it, times are tough. For some, much tougher than for others but no matter which way you think about it, the emotions may be running high if you have a big bleeding caring heart like mine.
Sadness, anger, hatred, fear, guilt, lots of fear, more sadness, throw in some uncontrollable sprouts of panic up in there and you have a hot mess! Oh, and by the way, we can't go hug some people right now, WTF??!!??!!
If you are aware of what's happening with the Coronavirus, and how serious the situation is - ever so quickly escalating daily, and you are feeling all the things, then you know. The desire to cry, punch, kick, scream, hide, and to disappear may be present. You may be in denial, thinking that this is a nightmare that will just go away when you wake up in the morning. The loss of businesses, schools closing down, social distancing, having to stay home for who knows how long, no parties, no visits with friends, the unknown things to come. You want to wish it all away or pretend it's not there. I have some crappy news for you: it won't just vanish (even though I still pray it will). So, now you are left with a harsh reality that happened way to quickly. How can we control it you ask? Well, we can't control anything except ourselves. You can't control someone else or the world around you. When you try to control someone or something else, you loose control of yourself. However, what we CAN control are our own emotions and by doing so we can adapt more quickly to this change and hopefully find some peace of mind. It takes work, effort and time. This is what I learned going through BIHOP - Behavioral Health Intensive Outpatient Therapy - almost 2 years ago now. It was an 8 week course of which I completed 6 because we had to move before it finished. I share it now in hopes that it will help you get through a tough time if you are struggling.
Let's break it down into A, B, C.
A = Activating Event
B = Belief / Thought
C = Consequence which is Feeling
A happens, B is triggered, C you feel.
First thing is first, identify A, the activating event. Then determine the thoughts you have - these thoughts are based on your own experiences and beliefs. Finally, identify how the thoughts make you feel. Sounds super simple, right?
Well, the A part is easy. However, B usually gets skipped because the feelings are so powerful. You need to be honest with yourself about how you are feeling. Write the emotions down, all of them - the good, the bad and the ugly. Pay attention when you FEEL them. Feelings are consequences of thoughts. Thoughts are triggered by activating events. I usually have to go back and look at what I thought to make me so emotional.
Let's make an example:
A = Coronavirus spreading around the world
B = ?
C = Sadness, Guilt, Anger, Hatred, Hope just to name a few
So, what in the world did I think? What is my B in this example? My thoughts were something like this: Why did it take me so long to pay attention? Why didn't I seek information sooner? So many people will die. I don't want my friends and family to get sick. I'm spreading this thing around. The world economy is going to shit. All the people in the medical field are going to have to see and do horrible things. Ignorant people suck! I don't want to get sick or die. The list is infinite and I really tried to sensor these for the softer hearts out there.
The idea here is to find the thoughts and challenge them. If you can accept and understand the thoughts, then you can understand the feeling that arises from it. Is the feeling still going to be there? Maybe. Will it come back, probably. But at least by going through this process, you can control them. Feel them and let them pass. If you keep thinking the same things over and over again, without challenging your own thoughts, then you are going to keep feeling those feelings more and more intensely. Are you with me?
How do we challenge our thoughts? First by identifying and second by checking them. What do I mean, checking them?
Ever heard of the term Cognitive Distortion? They are common thinking errors that lead to anxiety and depression. Here is a list (source is a printout from my therapy class which I included a picture of below, it is from this website: http://belmontwellness.com/wp-content/uploads/COGNITIVE-DISOTORTIONS-.jpg)
1. ALL OR NOTHING THINKING - Things are seen in black or white categories. You think in absolutes, like "always" "never" and see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern. Example: I will never go outside again.
2. OVERGENERALIZATION - You generalize from a specific. If you make a mistake, you might think that you "failed" and or are a "failure".
Example: I failed at being a good human being when I ignored the warnings.
3. MENTAL FILTER - You pick out a negative single event and dwell on it, like a drop of ink that discolors a whole beaker of water.
Example: I skinned my knee, now I'm going to be infected, then I'm going to infect my family, then I'll infect the world....
4. MAGNIFICATION OR MINIMIZATION - You either blow things out of proportion or deny something is a problem when it is.
Example: "I am the worst mother ever" - magnification
"It's nothing, no big deal" (really it is to you) - minimization
5. SHOULD STATEMENTS - Having pre-conditions on how you and other people "should" be. Judgemental and unforgiving expectations create a lot of anxiety.
Example: I should be strong, holding my shit together right now!
6. PERSONALIZATION - You are self-conscious and think things are about you when it is just an interpretation. You think if someone is angry it is in response to you, and blame yourself.
Example: OMG, Ted just yelled at Azlan for putting his hand on the glass. It's all my fault because I should have been there to clean it.
7. PLAYING THE COMPARISON GAME - Comparing yourself to others and needing to keep up with others to feel good about yourself.
Example: Oh she has that new purse, I need a new purse so I can be as cool as her.
8. FORTUNE TELLING - You think that you can predict the future, and convince yourself that bad things will happen.
Example: Everyone in my family will die from the virus.
9. LABELING - You label yourself or others by terms such as "lazy" "fat" "stupid" "loser" "jerk", stating them like they are facts. A label erroneously evaluates self-worth.
Example: Ignorant people suck!
10. EMOTIONAL REASONING OR JUMPING TO CONCLUSION - Rather than being objective, emotions control your interpretations.
Example: She did not call me, she must hate me!
Now, take those B's - the thoughts - and see if any of the above apply. For example:
"I'm spreading this thing around"
I would categorize this as Fortune Telling (don't know if I have it).
Do this for each of your thoughts. Just the fact that you are going through this process might calm you down. It will also open your eyes to just how many thoughts you have that can actually be dispelled.
Meditation is also a HUGE help for me. Meditation does not mean sitting cross legged on the floor saying "ommmmm" "ommmmm". There are many forms of mediation and different types work for different people. There is guided meditation where someone tells you what to do, there is active meditation where you are moving, and many more types out there. It's about being present and not resisting the thoughts but letting them come, seeing them, not attaching feelings to them and letting them pass. The way I like to look at it is how HeadSpace put it out there in one of their little videos. The mind is like the sky. It's always blue above the clouds. Remember the last time you were on a plane and you went above the clouds? What did you see? Blue Skies right? Well if you traveled during the day anyways. Think of the clouds as your thoughts. The thoughts go through your mind but the blue sky is always there. Sometimes there will be thunderstorms and hurricanes and other times just a few white fluffy ones. Let the clouds come, they too shall pass. Just like this whole mess the world is going through, it's gonna suck but it too shall pass.
If you found this helpful, please let me know and share. I want to help and right now, from home, the best I can do is stay clean, healthy and happy for my people here with me. I can write about my experience in hopes it will help someone out there process this. I can connect via the web and try to get the word out that we need to stay home and that medical teams around the world need equipment like N95 masks, gloves and robes. I can share things I read that I agree with and are true. If I need to go out to a public place, I can stay away from other people, like 6-12 feet. I can wash my hands and use hand sanitizer until I run out of soap (then I'll have to start asking for help if the stores are still not stocked - I'll write a blog on asking for help soon. It's another area where I struggled for a long time and still do). I can be kind and smile and wave. I can choose to see the positive side of things. All that, I can control, and so I will do my best at it and hope and pray that others will too.
I'll keep them coming if you will keep reading!
Daisa, Ted and Azlan