Your emotions are likely all over the map these days.
It’s not surprising when you consider that so many things are out of your control. Talk about those comfort zones being rocked!
You may feel like you’ve done your part to help flatten the curve. But how long can this go on?
Who’s in control?
Since you don’t have control of a lot of things these days, what you believe about who does have control — and what they’re doing — has everything to do with the way you feel. There’s a theory that says when something thwarts our expectations, we tend to initially react in one of two ways: anger or sadness.
I happen to think it’s a little more complex than this, with factors such as resilience and gratitude weighing in, although I certainly think this theory has implications during this pandemic.
Which camp are you in?
Let’s drill down to examine your thoughts about those who are exhibiting control right now. What determines your anger or sadness, according to author Mark Manson, is whether you believe your loss is within somebody’s control or not. If you believe it’s preventable or controllable, you’ve likely gotten angry. If you believe it was unpreventable, you may have gotten sad.
These two human responses, anger and sadness, are evolving into their own little camps in response to the pandemic, explains Manson. Our hopes and dreams for 2020 have likely gone out the window, at least for now.
Some people see everything closed down, the economy getting wrecked and livelihoods being destroyed. These people are angry. More than 22 million Americans have filed unemployment claims. Economists at the Center on Poverty and Social Policy report that our annual poverty rate may very well reach levels comparable to the Great Recession.
Other folks see illnesses and deaths and are committed to social distancing and quarantining as a way of life for the foreseeable future, with a commitment that flattening the curve is worth continuing these measures. These folks may be feeling resigned and experiencing sadness, according to Manson’s theory.
Not everything is so black and white, though. You may be feeling both angry and sad. You would have to be pretty callous not to feel compassion for those dealing with COVID-19 up close and personal — patients, families, health care workers and first responders.
On the other hand, it’s hard not to feel despair when looking at those 22 million Americans filing unemployment, especially if one of them is looking back at you in the mirror.
Both of these reactions, while completely different on the surface, are rooted in the same experience: the destruction of one’s hopes. The angry people are upset because they expected their lives to go one way, although the scientists or politicians made it go another way, according to Manson.
And the sad people feel this way because they expected their lives to go one way, but now this horrible, horrible thing has happened and there’s nothing they feel they can do but go along with the recommendations.
Where’s the owner’s manual?
Your vision is likely influenced heavily by your own situation and whether your livelihood — and your future — are directly tied to these circumstances.
The economic effect is not just on the stock market and those people with investments. It gets very real when we see businesses closing down and employees out of work. Many of these will be permanent, with ripple effects going throughout our society.
Some say we can withstand four to six weeks of quarantining, but that 10 to 12 weeks would be a whole different ballgame. The fact there are no specific rule books for how to handle a pandemic like this complicates the situation even further.
Patience is wearing thin, too, and the thought that it may take years to recover from this pandemic experience is daunting. For now, it may be best to focus on your own situation and take steps to cope on a daily basis.
Coping with anger, sadness
Timeouts aren’t just for kids. Instead of lashing out when someone has a view different from your own, try journaling your thoughts. You may not know their circumstances. You haven’t walked a mile in their moccasins.
Unplug for a while. Clean something (this worked wonders for me last week). Watch a movie. Listen to your favorite music. Detach from those intense feelings.
Walk, run or bike. Rhythmic exertion is good for you — bonus points if you get out in nature!
Use “I” statements to avoid criticizing or placing blame, especially now that we’re in close quarters. “I’m upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes” can be more productive than, “You never help out.”
I hesitate to use the phrase, “Put your own oxygen mask on first.” It sounds so insensitive these days.
Instead, I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes by author Ian MacLaren:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”