Mental Health during a Crisis
Por Tzigueri Yáñez, Talent Attraction Leader Europe/Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa en MSX INTERNATIONAL y miembro de la Junta Directiva de HR Young Talent by DCH
The outbreak of COVID-19 may be stressful for people, since it is a new situation we are facing as society but also as individuals. Stress and negative emotions are two of the most common reactions we are feeling.
Negative emotions are every bit as contagious as the virus, and they’re also toxic. Fatigue, fear, and panic undermine our ability to think clearly and creatively, manage our relationships effectively, focus attention on the right priorities, and make smart, informed decisions.
So, how are we supposed to deal with negative emotions while in Quarantine or social distancing?
Should we stuff our anger and frustration away and pretend it doesn’t exist, so we can minimize the fallout from these emotions? Or should we risk making things worse by saying or doing the wrong thing?
As it turns out, “stuffing emotions” is not the healthiest option and there are easy techniques that anyone can use:
1. Understand Your Emotions
Right, first the first. We usually tend to confuse emotions and feelings, yes, it is real they can be similar, but we need to clearly understand that:
• Emotions are instinctive and neurological reactions to a stimulus, creating biochemical and electrical reactions activated through neurotransmitters and hormones released by the brain.
• Feelings are mental associations and reactions to an emotion that we assign with a meaning, influenced by our personal experiences, temperament, beliefs, memories and thoughts.
Now that it is clear, look within yourself and try to pinpoint the situations that are creating negative emotions in your life. I personally like to use the Plutchik wheel of emotions as tool, since it drew a wheel of eight basic emotions that combined give rise to eight advanced emotions.
“Emotions influence how we live and interact with each other. The choices we make, the actions we take, and the perceptions we have, are all influenced by the emotions we experience at any given moment.”
As additional option, take a look to this site, where you can find body signals for recognize some of the basic emotions.
• Negative emotions can come from a triggering event: an overwhelming workload, for example.
• Negative emotions are also the result of our thoughts surrounding an event; the way we interpret what happened can alter how we experience the event and whether it causes stress.
2. Change What You Can
Take what you’ve learned from understanding your emotions and put it into practice.
Take as a basis the change management Kubler-Ross Change Curve, to understand where you are with your emotions journey, and what kind of actions you need to take for develop your new behaviours. It will make easy to start doing your changes.
Once you understand where they come from, you can really begin to change how you might respond to them and develop behaviours that are meaningful and bring value to how we express yourselves and engage with others.
These could include:
• Take the time to really observe your reactions without ignoring them, repressing them, or over exaggerating them. • Changing negative thought patterns through a process known as cognitive restructuring • Evaluate the trigger events or situations in an objective way. • Try to be reasonable – accept that bad feelings are occasionally unavoidable and think of ways to make yourself feel better. • Learn – notice how grief, loss and anger make you feel, and which events trigger those feelings so you can prepare in advance. • Let go of the past – constantly going over negative events robs you of the present and makes you feel bad.
3. Find an Outlet
Making changes in your life can cut down on negative emotions, but it won’t eliminate your stress triggers entirely. As you make changes in your life to bring about less frustration, you will also need to find healthful outlets for dealing with these emotions.
• Regular exercise can provide an emotional lift as well as an outlet for negative emotions • Meditation can help you find some inner “space” to work with, so your emotions don’t feel so overwhelming. • Finding opportunities for having fun and getting more laughter in your life can also change your perspective and relieve stress. • Relax, use pleasant activities like reading, walking or talking to a friend. • Share your emotions with someone.
You will also want to practice healthy options for ongoing stress reduction. Give them a try and you’ll feel less stressed.
4. Cope with stress Much has been written about the many effective ways to manage stress, such as meditation, breathing exercises, journaling, and other well-known strategies. Their benefits are proven, and they’re popular strategies for a reason. However, they’re not the only ways to relieve stress, and they may not even be the most effective ways for you to relieve stress.
“This is because the best stress management strategies are the ones that you enjoy enough to practice regularly”
Stress relievers that are truly enjoyable or that have built-in motivation features may be the best ones for you because they’re perhaps easier to incorporate into your life. Here are some that work well for many people: • Playing With Pets: For those who love animals, there’s a special peaceful energy that comes from taking five or ten minutes to caress a cat or love up a dog.
• Exercise Classes: You probably already know that exercise is a great stress reliever, but creative exercise classes can provide you with extra help. The fun of learning something new can take your mind off your stressors. Have you tried Yoga with Pets?
• Baking: Baking is very good for focusing the mind and stress reliever because it often relies on very exact measurements. You have to add ingredients in the correct order or your profiteroles won’t rise, or your cookies will be soggy. Having complete focus on a recipe and not allowing yourself to be distracted by your thoughts can have a therapeutic affect.
• Laughter: Seeking out situations that will bring out the laughter in you can help you relieve stress in a really fun way. Go ahead and be goofy! Learn how to harness the powerful benefits of laughter.
• Daydreaming: Many people find themselves involuntarily daydreaming when bored, but visualizations are great for stress management as well, so daydream with pride! Vividly imagine your best memories, visualize your success or walk yourself through a peaceful walk on a secluded beach. Here some visualization techniques for stress reduction.
Finally, I really hope this writing can help you to maintain your mental health while quarantine and social distancing. Remember the 90/10 Principle: 10% of life is made up of what happens to you, and 90% of life is decided by how you react.