- Jeannie Lawrence MD
Before You Try To Feel Better About A Tough Situation, Do This First
If you are in the camp of people who are upset about the country re-opening, but would rather feel at peace with a situation that is not in your control, then this post is for you.
You have probably been following social distancing guidelines to a tee, washing your hands frequently, and urging all who will listen to stay at home. And now, with states re-opening despite the rising US death toll, lack of widespread testing measures, and unavailability of a vaccine or even reliable treatment…well, it may be a tough pill to swallow. If you are feeling any mix of troublesome emotions like, shock, anger, anxiety, or disbelief, I understand.
If you have been following along with my previous posts, you may know that I strongly believe in the transformative power of our thoughts. I have reiterated in multiple previous articles, the mantra we feel the way we think.
And we can change our unwanted emotions by examining and changing thoughts that don’t serve us. By changing our thoughts, we can change our lives for the better. I write to help people who are tired of feeling stuck in unwanted emotions and desire more emotional peace and happiness in their lives.
But, let’s pause before jumping into change today. It is common to view feelings like anger, worry, and grief as negative emotions we need to immediately get rid of in order to feel better. You may have come across articles urging you to remain positive, practice gratitude and other coping strategies as ways of improving your emotional state while the world around us is in flux. If you welcome the idea of doing whatever you can to improve your emotional state in this crisis, then great! Please read some of my previous posts (linked here and here) to help you with this.
But if you find yourself hesitant to embrace these coping strategies to let go of your worry, anger, sadness, and frustration as relates to the country re-opening, I understand that too. You may be convinced that you’re “right” to not want things to re-open yet, imagining the numbers of people becoming sick and dying as social distancing phases out. You may be certain that the camp of people clamoring for the country to re-open are just plain “wrong”, as they seem to be prioritizing the economy over preserving life and health.
It may feel good, at least in the short term, to be upset. But you know that longterm, these feelings can cause more harm than good. So let’s examine that.
Why are you resisting the idea of giving up the anxiety, anger or frustration that is spoiling your days and keeping you up at night?
It turns out that our gut emotions in response to life’s events, even the unwanted emotions, can point out the good in us. Our emotional reactions often show us what our core values are. Core values are defined as the fundamental beliefs or guiding principles that determine a person’s behavior. Examples of common core beliefs include the belief that family comes first, or that justice should always prevail. We don’t often think about our core values, but if you look at the actions you’ve taken over your lifetime, or the gut reactions you have to situations that arise, you can see your values at play. If you feel worried and anxious about how the death toll may be affected as businesses reopen and people stop social distancing, it may mean that one of your core values is that human life is sacred and should be protected. I think many would agree that placing value on human life is a good value to have! If you feel angry because re-opening the country prematurely may expose your children to illness or death it shows how fiercely you love them, which is another beautiful value worth embracing.
Whenever you are faced with unwanted emotions about a situation, before trying to change those feelings, pause and ask, “What wonderful things do my emotions say about me?”
Maybe they show how much you care about a particular issue, or how much you value a certain ideal, or love a certain person. The point is, celebrate your feelings, the good and so-called bad. They are all a part of being human, and part of what makes you you. Acknowledging the good that comes along with the “negative” emotions we have, helps us stop resisting the process of shifting to more positive thoughts and feelings. It is from this place of acknowledgement and understanding, that we can better choose which emotions to cling to, and which to gently let go.
You’ve Got This!