Navigating Our Emotions During the Pandemic: Recognition, Acceptance and Self Care!
As the pandemic has continued to wear on us for the past nine months, our coping skills may have started to wear thin. At times, I feel less grateful and motivated than usual. I am an outgoing person and love connecting with other human beings. I enjoy traveling and exploring nature and the culture around us. Unfortunately, the spread of COVID-19 has severely restricted our physical mobility and emotional ability to connect with fellow human beings.
All my classes, labs and social events transitioned to virtual platforms, which is less than adequate to meet my social connection needs. Transitioning to solely digital life has benefits and side effects. Although it gives us more flexibility and options, it is also exhausting and tiresome. But this is a perfectly valid and normal human feeling during these uncertain times. "Life's beauty is inseparable from its fragility," articulates psychologist Dr. Susan David in a virtual TED Connects series. She recommends acknowledging our emotions rather than suppressing emotional feelings. Emotional agility comes from accepting the whole spectrum of human emotional reactions and finding flexible and effective coping strategies to deal with them.
Emotional agility during unprecedented times is an essential life skill to navigate uncertain times and situations around us. This fall semester is a unique experience for me. I missed connecting with my friends, my family members, going to various exciting on-campus and off-campus social events. Of course, I acknowledge that by practicing physical distancing, using face covering and our Flashes Safe Seven principles, we are protecting our community. Many fellow students and community members feel isolated and crave social connections right now. American author and journalist Elizabeth Gilbert aptly summarizes the importance of acknowledging our emotions and states, "but admitting vulnerability is the beginning of strength, then we find constructive ways forward."
I try to practice a three-step routine that helps me navigate the uncertainties of this COVID-19 era and my academic life. I hope you might find it helpful in some ways.
1. Acknowledge the Reality:
Let us acknowledge and accept the fact that our global community is suffering due to COVID-19. It is taking a toll on our mental and physical health. I am not alone in this journey. It is perfectly acceptable to feel lonely, isolated, sad and discontent. But, I watch out for how I frame these emotions. How we communicate and frame our emotions impacts our wellbeing. Rather than saying I am lonely, let us practice saying right now I am feeling lonely. In that way, our whole self is not trapped in that emotional box of “loneliness.” Instead, I feel lonely now means that I can practice some flexible strategies to improve my negative moods and feelings. I practice gratitude and write down five things I am grateful for in life right now. I am genuinely thankful for democracy, healthcare workers, educators, family and friends. Practicing gratitude helps me improve my moods and feelings. There are various institutional and national services available to us to help us navigate this situation better.
2. Daily Routines and Reminders:
I use Google Calendar to plan my activities, meetings, assignment submissions and other appointments during the weekday. There are several apps available for daily planning. Also, maintaining a personal notebook and writing daily activities works well. Daily routines give me a structure and a sense of purpose during these uncertain times. Moreover, treating our virtual meetings as important as in-person meetings helps me stay motivated, sharp and engaged. Staying present in the moment and communicating intently help me stay motivated.
3. Take a break:
I know this sounds so simple, and we often hear these words: “take a break.” We need to be more committed and attentive about our time-off. For example, after working for an hour, I would take a 10-minute break. This break needs to be intentional and focused. I practice stretching and walk within my personal space, look outside the window and enjoy the view. I then drink a glass of water and transition back to work-mode. I am flexible with my taking-breaks strategies. Also, daily exercises are good strategies for taking breaks.
Finally, I do not think anyone of us got a manual that outlines the best practices and ways to navigate the current pandemic and unique environment. Moreover, prioritizing our wellbeing and mental health is never an indicator of selfishness and/or weakness. It is genuinely a sign of personal growth and courage. We all have our ways to cope with and improvise our situations. When we accept reality and acknowledge our feelings, it becomes easier to deal with our untoward feelings. Practicing gratitude and connecting with my friends and family offers me courage, motivation and strength to move forward, and stay both emotionally and physically healthy during these uncertain times. I wish all of us better health, safety and restful times. I listed a few resources below. I hope you find them useful.
1. Coronavirus Updates: https://www.kent.edu/coronavirus/coronavirus-faqs-student-faqs
2. KSU Student Pledge: https://www.kent.edu/coronavirus/ksu-student-pledge
3. KSU Coronavirus Status: https://www.kent.edu/coronavirus/coronavirus-dashboard
4. Kent State of Wellness: https://www.kent.edu/stateofwellness
1. Acceptance and Acknowledgement: https://www.columbiapsychiatry.org/news/coping-covid-19-turning-mind-towards-acceptance
2. CDC Recommendation (Personal and Social Activities): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/personal-social-activities.html
3. Importance of taking meaningful breaks: https://www.who.int/campaigns/connecting-the-world-to-combat-coronavirus/healthyathome/healthyathome---mental-health