This post was written by Jeri Forrest, MSSA, LCSW, therapist, Employee Assistance Program, Parkview Health.
There are many times in life when we have to navigate a barrage of changes, whether it be when we graduate high school, get married, start a career or a new business, grow our family or survive an unexpected upheaval, like a global pandemic. During these times, we are adjusting to various changes and are forced to make decisions. For example, with the pandemic, we were continually adjusting to sheltering in place, canceled events, working from home or not working, virtual learning for our children, limited to no contact with our friends and family and increased concern for our health and the health of our loved ones. During these times in life, you may notice you feel overwhelmed, lonely, confused, ambivalent, fatigued, depressed and/or anxious amongst other things.
When navigating anxiety or any emotions during a time of transition, first create some awareness about what it is you’re feeling. What fears or concerns are you having?
It can be helpful to check-in with yourself multiple times per day to see what you are thinking and feeling. What body reactions do you notice? Do a body scan to identify what body sensations you are experiencing and how they change.
There needs to be space and time for us to see what emotion(s) we are feeling. It is important to acknowledge rather than bottle-up or ignore our emotions. You may even notice a change in your flexibility or capacity to manage stress or emotions during the transition.
Next, create a list of what things you can do to manage these emotions. Emotions are temporary, so ask yourself what things you can you do to “ride the wave” of what you are feeling. Ideas can include self-care, such as a hot shower or bath, facial, time alone or in quiet, perhaps to meditate or even take a nap. We all need time for rest and recouperation, especially during times of transition.
You can also find relief by participating in something that you enjoy doing or perhaps are good at, like exercising, reading, listening to a podcast, writing/journaling, playing a game, talking with others, going for a walk, gardening/landscaping, organizing, cleaning, taking pictures, painting/drawing/coloring, sculpting, caring for your pet, listening to music or playing an instrument. For example, if you enjoy painting, choose colors that reflect how you are feeling. Paint a picture of what that emotion looks like. These can all be ways to release emotions.
Other ideas on how to manage emotions include calming techniques. During times of change our stress response system can be on high alert and ready to go into fight, flight or freeze mode. Practice ways to calm your body and stress response system through calming techniques such as mindfulness practices, meditation, yoga, tai chi or diaphragmatic breathing.
My go-to calming technique is belly breathing. When you breathe in, your belly will rise and when you breathe out your belly will fall. Take slow breathes in through your nose and out through your mouth and notice the rise and fall. When we use our diaphragm to breathe it allows us to bring oxygen into our bloodstream and circulate it around our body and up to our brain, telling our stress response system that we can calm and relax.
Another tool to help manage emotions and calm your nervous system is to establish a routine for your day. When things are routine, they can feel predictable, which can help us feel safe and calm our nervous system. Additionally, with the constant changes, focus on what is within your control. Set boundaries for yourself in what you are willing or not willing to do.
Remember, when another change happens you can always adjust what you are doing to support yourself.
For additional support, contact your employer’s employee assistance team. At Parkview, co-workers and partners can reach EAP at 260-266-8060.
Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner