Virus takes a toll

Life as we know it has been turned upside down, whether we’re able to self-isolate or we have to continue to work.

Even once-simple trips to the grocery store have taken on a new level of complexity and challenge. It’s exhausting.

I’m beyond grateful to the essential workers who are continuing to work to support all of us, and I can’t imagine what their days are like.

Thank you!

The meaning and effects of the global pandemic are different for each of us.

I hear from many people who are feeling stretched beyond capacity. Difficult and uncomfortable emotions often arise.  

In teaching mindfulness, I’ve learned people often don’t know what to do with uncomfortable emotions.

I thought it would be helpful to revisit the topic of emotions, and what to do when challenging ones arise. 

Emotions come with a sticky note of preference; some emotions we try to hold on to, while others we try to avoid or suppress.

Fear, sadness and grief can whelm up, and tempers can flare, even on the heels of feeling love, appreciation, and gratitude. It can be confusing.

People are pretty good at pushing uncomfortable emotions down and trying to ignore them. When we do this, they often spill out in unexpected ways, looking quite unlike what they really are.

Then, there are those who let it all loose, and unleash their emotions as they arise. We see this in people who have a habit of anger or drama.

Both these responses to emotion easily create interpersonal challenge when we’re reacting from our feelings, instead of responding.

Extreme, or pent-up emotions, can cause us to say and do things we wouldn’t normally do.

Emotions are a normal and natural evolutionary capacity, important to our survival. We’re all capable of experiencing every emotion, although there are some we try to avoid and some we prefer.

I refer to emotions as energy-in-motion. The energy will move through us, if we let it.

Emotion researches tell us even the strongest emotions only last 60-90 seconds, unless we suppress them or feed them with a story. They may come back, but will do so with less intensity, if we learn to turn toward them, breathe, and let them pass.

Our emotions colour the way we see the world; they become the lenses through which we view life.

When we’re afraid, irritated, or angry, we see more things that match that emotion.

When we’re feeling big love, happiness, or positive emotions, we tend to see the world through those lenses.

Extremes of emotion, fear, love, or anger, cause a “gating of perception,” in which the brain blocks out what doesn’t match. We don’t perceive clearly.

This is why people ignore blatant warning signs of abuse when they fall madly in love; they just can’t see them. It’s also why angry people see only that which irritates them; everything makes them mad, and they’re unable to see the goodness.

The problem is, many of us don’t let the emotions move, we resist them, but I've found it helps to notice the sensations of emotion moving through me.

Staying open and curious to what feelings are arising, without judgment, and naming the emotion that’s present, is a powerful way to support ourselves.

Dr. Dan Siegel, professor of psychology and co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Centre at the University of Southern California, recommends we “name it to tame it.”

This simple practice has proven powerful for me and made life more pleasant for those I live with.

In the old days, when I was irritated or felt crusty, I’d try to suppress it, and pretend everything was OK. I thought I was hiding it, but I wasn’t. My irritation showed in the tone of my voice, and in the way the cupboard doors closed. I found more to be irritated by, and the feelings grew.

In learning to name it to tame it, I simply state, out loud to myself, how I’m feeling, without searching for a reason or story about why, or who’s to blame.

This simple act helps to reduce the feeling, and invites the thinking and reasoning part of the brain into play. It soothes my system.

It’s important we find ways to support our emotional health. Learning to name it to tame it is a quick and simple practice to support us in these challenging times.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help if you need to.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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