When you think about human nature and how most people respond to having arbitrary limits put on their choices, it’s not really surprising that feeling anger and sadness are growing as part of their pandemic EQ. From the coronavirus pandemic itself, to the actions and recommendations given by experts and politicians, to the general quarantine many of us are coping with, powerful emotional responses are understandable.
In one of his most famous poems, Iranian poet Rumi (13th century!) describes the reality of humananger and sadness experience:
“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.”
In the past few weeks, most of us can relate to the process Rumi describes in a very personal way. If you become aware of your inner landscape these days, you might notice that the emotional roller coaster is a daily experience.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a pandemic creates widespread stress among the population, and that level of “Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:
Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
Changes in sleep or eating patterns
Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
Worsening of chronic health problems
Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress. Helping others cope with their stress can also make your community stronger.”
An Emotional Toll Will Be Paid
Whether infectious diseases have become more common recently or the information age has made us more aware of them, COVID-19 seems to feel different, somehow.
Beyond the economic and medical price we are paying to this pandemic, there is an emotional cost to be born by virtually everyone on the planet. This is our new reality. We are in a world so different than it was just a few months ago it can alter the very fabric of your life, shift your values, and even damage your perception of your Self.
Those are not ideas you can afford to ignore or put off ‘til later.
Being Mindful of the Changes Will Help You Cope
As mentioned in a recent post, our new normal has generated a learning curve that includes more than just making practical changes to your life and work; you’re on an emotional roller coaster that may not be ending soon.
We’re seeing a powerful emotional response to this unprecedented situation, dominated by anger and sadness. Distraction and avoidance will not help, just as they do not help when grieving. In fact, these are two of the most common emotions as a part of the grieving process.
Because of that, feeling sadness is actually pretty common; a natural response to the loss of your “normal” world.
When we think of emotions in mindfulness practice, we think of them as waves; coming in and going out in a natural flow. Resisting these waves creates conflicts and strengthens them, adding deeper levels of conflict, and so on. Being conscious of this flow, and accepting it, is the beginning of coping with these emotions successfully.
Anger is another emotion that is common right now. Just watching the news or scrolling through social media can feed your anger. This can lead to greater feelings of stress and irritability.
Naming it for what it is – you’re justifiably angry – is the beginning of creating new relationships with those challenging feelings. Channeling your anger into other areas in a constructive way (for example, taking actions steps to change the situation which are within your control) is a powerful way to overcome sadness and frustration, as long as you recognize that it is a way to say, “This is not OK!”. This is known as the anger-to-power process and you can use it to boost your pandemic EQ.