Life during the COVID-19 pandemic creates so many different emotional reactions, including disappointment, fear/anxiety, and frustration. Under normal circumstances, when we strive for growth, change or achievement, we may encounter challenge and adversity. With the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining normalcy and stability and just surviving is difficult. Whatever your current circumstance, here are some ways to cope when things don’t go as planned.
1. Tune into your emotional health.
Emotional health or emotional wellness is a concept associated with the field of positive psychology. Simply put, emotional health is the ability to be aware of one’s emotional experience and to manage those feelings in a healthy way. An emotionally healthy person will build lifestyle habits that allow them to experience and express their feelings through the ups and downs of life.
What about people who are going through multiple challenges simultaneously? For certain, stress levels are higher if there are multiple stressors occurring at the same time. This is especially true when the stressor is perceived as out of one’s control and with an uncertain resolution point. Engaging in problem-solving activities, such as brainstorming solutions, doing research, or asking advice may help. Try focusing on one stressor at a time if need be. It is also quite alright to take a “break” and spend time doing a fun activity or helping others in need.
2. Identify and stop or change the negative chatter in your mind.
Our feelings and thoughts/beliefs are closely intertwined. The next time that you are feeling a negative emotion, check to see what thoughts may be contributing to that reaction, such as thoughts about yourself, the world, or your future (components of Beck’s cognitive triad). Examples of these types of “distorted thoughts” include:
“There is danger and whatever I do is inadequate”
“The world/economy is heading into chaos and won’t recover”
"When I felt sick, I didn’t practice social distancing. I am a failure.” “I am afraid, so we must all be in danger.”
If you struggle with similar such thoughts or worries, this can influence your mood and behavior. You can try to find a different, more realistic way to view the distorted thought. If the distorted thought is not helpful to you or others, give yourself permission to let it go. Be wary of a tendency to worry unproductively or stew on these distorted negative thoughts, as this will certainly lead you on a road to frustration, stress, and dysfunction.
3. Exercise self-compassion while grieving and
When life doesn’t go as planned, there is a grief reaction- grief for the specific loss and also possibly loss of achieving a certain goal. For example, if experiencing an employment layoff or furlough, there is a loss of a specific job/workplace and potentially the loss of a certain career path. As the grief proceeds, it becomes necessary to engage with life at some point and continue to perform in one’s roles. As you grieve, you begin to think of your next steps to move forward.
I would encourage you to exercise self-compassion throughout this entire process. Self-compassion refers to treating yourself with kindness in the same way you would treat others. Kristin Neff, PhD encourages, “Instead of just ignoring your pain with a ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality, ask yourself “this is really difficult right now, how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?”
When we practice self-compassion, we have better emotional wellness and less depression, anxiety, and emotional distress. For ideas on how to exercise self-compassion, visit this link and use these activities regularly to support emotional wellbeing and coping.
Thank you for reading my blog post. Happy holidays ! <3 Be well !
All blog posts from Dr. Soo Hoo are provided for educational and informational purposes only. As Dr. Soo Hoo is a licensed clinical and health psychologist, we must make it clear that nothing on the blog is intended to constitute medical or psychological advice, consultation, recommendation, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are concerned about your health, please seek appropriate care in your area.