How do you process and deal with negative emotions? 3 key takeaways from the My emotions Masterclass
While we all know what we need to do to keep ourselves from getting infected, the guidelines for protecting our wellbeing are far less clear. Interestingly, we are all experiencing similar negative emotions in these unprecedented times. What can you do to process and deal with them while you're stuck at home? Dr. Nele Jacobs, Professor and clinical psychologist at Faresa, shared some practical tips with us during the My emotions Masterclass. Were you unable to attend? Read on and we'll tell you what you missed!
Emotions and their origins
Exactly what kinds of emotions are we feeling? According to the poll we took during the webinar, fear, stress, gloominess and memory problems are fairly commonplace. The majority of us are also having trouble sleeping. And a good night's sleep is critical for our immune system, as it helps foster both physical and mental resilience.
According to Dr. Jacobs, it can be useful to know exactly where our emotions come from. Here is what she had to say, based on the Schachter-Singer theory:
- There is a stimulus or a sensation, e.g. a sound or an unpleasant odour.
- There will be a physiological response, such as an elevated heart rate or trembling.
- An interpretation of that reaction (cognition) will follow, for example the realisation that the heart is racing.
- That will happen in a certain context, such as "the man next to me may have coronavirus and infect me".
- We feel an emotion like fear, a common feeling during these unpleasant times.
Investigate the source of your fear
In fact, it's not bad that you're scared. Fear is essential to survival. After all, if you weren't afraid of this virus, you might be less inclined to follow the restrictions. And although we should avoid risks, that doesn't mean that we should go into overdrive, as otherwise we’ll end up in a downward spiral of fear.
Fortunately, you can tackle stress, tension and negative thought loops in a very targeted way. The first step is to think very consciously. What coronavirus-related fears are bouncing around your head? How realistic are these fears, based on pure facts? What actions can you take to reduce the risks? Try to stick to objective information only, and don't get carried away imagining the worst. It's not because there are X number of infections in your city that everyone around you is necessarily sick, and that you now have to avoid everything and everyone as much as possible. Because that's avoidance behaviour.
Face your fears head-on
Yes, many people exhibit avoidance behaviour as a response to fear. Some run away from it, while others bury themselves in distractions. Your best bet is to face the tension, so that you can deal with it better. How about trying meditation? It will help you shift your focus from your worries to your breathing and your body. By (re-)connecting with yourself, you allow yourself to focus on what really matters to you. If we take a closer look at our basic psychological needs, we'll find we have three that drive human behaviour:
- freedom of choice
If you can combine these three with complying with the rules, you'll increase your chances of physical and mental wellbeing. The feeling of competence can be fostered, for example, by taking on a new project. You can use freedom of choice to decide what you want to focus on, such as more time for your family and friends. And more than ever, the ability to interact and connect with others is critical. Make video calls, and ask your friends and family how they feel. That connection is invaluable!