We are human. Don’t forget that during this time we’re in. Emotional fitness is the ideal, but with today’s fears and uncertainties, don’t forget you’re human. This means: don’t dismiss the emotions you are feeling today. The emotional knots we find ourselves in are meaningful, never too small, for they can cause misunderstandings and heartache. A friend recently told me that ‘dysfunctional family is redundant.’ Yep, especially when we’re crammed together.
There are those of us too, alone and shut in, feeling everything from loneliness to stir craziness.
How about you pick up a tool I write about in Fully Human—Name It, Claim It, Let It Go. This is a process of checking in with yourself, to name what you’re feeling and why, and then give voice to these emotions in some safe manner. By safe I mean not screaming like a banshee, or mowing someone down on a freeway. Here are the steps.
It’s remarkable really, how we stuff down our emotions all the time, barely touching the surface of things. We can’t afford to do that during these COVID-19 days. You might be irritable or sad, guilty or furious. I have been naming ‘irritable’ a lot. Bill and I have been homebound almost 24/7 because of his surgery, and I found myself the other morning, sitting across from him at breakfast and thinking, “Has he always chewed this loudly?”
Having some questions that guide you in naming it might help:
What am I afraid of?
What am I angry about?
Why have I been hurtful?
Is an action step needed to fix it?
Now, Give Voice to It
You could just do all of this work in your head, but there are tremendous benefits to having a trusted friend, coach, therapist or share group where you can unload your unsettled emotions. (by phone today of course). I’ve taken to watching New York Governor Cuomo’s coronavirus updates because he strikes me as a leader with great empathy, and he announced last week that over 11,000 New York state mental health therapists have volunteered to staff a hotline for those needing to air their stresses and fears. Very cool.
What this looks like for me is calling one of my two closest girlfriends and starting with: “Can you just listen while I talk?” They’re doing the same. Or we text. Yesterday one of my friends texted: “I’m so restless today.” That’s it.
We can become containers for others’ distress. I don’t know why this is, but it seems carrying others’ worries feels lighter than carrying our own. Maybe it’s simple-it’s because of our shared humanity. We’re drawn to walk side by side. No shelter in place rule can touch that.
Now, Claim It
By saying it you make it real. I coached an executive whose company was being bought and it was clear she, along with the whole management team, would be let go, but she wasn’t willing to discuss it. Finally when the new HR team told her, she called me because she didn’t understand. I made her name it and claim it by saying: “What do you think they’re telling you?” Upon finally saying it-“I’m being terminated, aren’t I?” she could start planning for the next chapter. She had a terror of being fired that went back many years and needed to be named, aired and accepted.
When you claim things, you’re accountable for your life, which is emotional fitness at its finest. Sometimes an action step like an apology is needed, and you do that too. I find myself apologizing all over the place today given how haywire my emotions have become! (Recall the breakfast episode.)
Let It Go
Ah, you’ve gotten to the other side of that emotional knot, bravo! As you say it and own it, a remarkable thing happens– new openings spring up. It could be newfound peace, which we surely need today amidst all the chaos. It might be greater self-worth because you’ve been accountable where needed, or maybe you’ve tugged tighter your bonds to loved ones.
The time we are living in today is not for the faint of heart! And it’s especially not the time to keep your emotions bottled up. Head them off at the pass, so you don’t find yourself at Dysfunction Junction.