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Finding Peace: Emotional Wellness

Be Careful…

Our emotions are powerful.

This pandemic can’t be related to anything else in our history. Our emotions are all over the spectrum, and that’s okay. There’s a lot to process in our lives right now.

Initially, it was shock, and disbelief … how could this possibly be happening? It seems as though we’re living in a science fiction movie. Locked in our homes, fearing for the safety of our families and friends. The media is screaming about death, and precautions … and the fear grows.

Perhaps our anxiety level is up. Taking care of ourselves is a must during this time! Rest. If you’re having a bad day, it’s okay to just rest. Watch a movie. Find somewhere to find what you need to do – be alone, facetime others, or getting outside can clear out heads and allow us a chance to change perspective. Always good to stay close to supportive friends.

We have been with grief. This is one of the most intense emotions we can experience. We grieve the loss of loved ones, but grief can also occur with any loss we go through in our life, including:

- Relationship breakup

- Losing our health, or the health of a loved one

- Loss of a career or finances

- Death of a pet

- Losing an asset of sentimental value, such as a family home

- Loss of a marriage

- Loss of a dream

Most people have heard of the “five stages of loss and grief” introduced by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969. They included:

- Denial - where we tend to deny the reality

to help us with the shock and the pain.

- Anger that could be aimed at anyone or anything because of the emotional pain.

- Bargaining occurs as a result of feeling helpless. Fear that we won’t be able to cope. Anxiety.

- Depression with associated sadness, worries, regrets and loneliness.

- Acceptance, which is about accepting the reality and recognizing that the new reality is a permanent one.

It’s important to know that not everyone goes through those emotional stages and there is also no sequential order. It’s important to know that we aren’t alone and what we are feeling is normal.

We also often experience a variety of physical symptoms including:

- A reduced immune system which can make us more vulnerable to illness

- Feeling weak

- Body aches

- Nausea

- Reduced energy and fatigue

- Insomnia

We are feeling grief, and in many cases disappointment. Some have lost their school graduations, cancelled long-awaited trips, missed the birthdays and other celebrations, their special wedding day, the changes with plans for a new baby’s birth, inability to be with a sick parent, or a dying loved one. There may be guilt associated with this new experience as well, as we want desperately to be with that person in need who is alone. This has been the experience of many this past month.

As the leaders in our homes, we have influence. We can turn off the tv, limiting how much negative news enters into our thoughts. Its about connecting with others in our homes and those we may have contact with, and leading them through this time.

When something happens that we have no control over, we tend to blame others. We may not agree with what our own politicians are doing, that doesn’t make all the people in that particular following bad. In the same way, we may not like what a certain country has chosen to do, or how their leaders react, but it doesn’t give us liberty to dislike the people from that country. We need to guard against religious or cultural prejudice.

Being in lockdown in our homes can bring other challenges. Emotions are triggered from anxiety, stress, boredom, lack of sleep, etc. We can find ourselves taking notice of what we don’t like. Fights start, especially with a real need to be able to control something in our lives, and it can be directed at another person. Words can be said – or shouted. It’s a tense time right now.

Another one of the most powerful emotions is forgiveness. When we forgive, there’s an opportunity to restore, and regain trust. Forgiving quickly is the best option, as it keeps the bridge between people stronger. It’s easier to maintain or repair a bridge instead of having to rebuild a bridge.

There is a process when we choose to forgive. We acknowledge our emotions about the situation and how it affects our behavior. Work through the process and let it go. Identify what needs healing and who needs to be forgiven. Usually both people need to forgive for their part.

Unforgiveness really only hurts us. Practise empathy. Try to see the situation from the other person’s viewpoint. Reflect on times when you’ve hurt others. None of us are perfect. We’ve all said things we regret. Journal, and seek counsel. Forgiveness doesn’t guarantee reconciliation. The other person may not change. But forgiveness is important to our emotional health, although it can be a difficult process.

We will always find what we’re looking for. We will see what we want to see. When we look for the good in others, that’s what we’ll find.

How else do we react?

I heard that there's a lack of flour and yeast in our city. More people are baking. It's a need for comfort food - to take us back to a memory and a time when things were safe. It's a natural reaction, but interesting that so many of us are doing the same thing. I heard 4 friends mention baking banana bread all within a few days! Yes. It brings us comfort.

I’ve been talking about isolation – but maybe thinking of it as separation will be more helpful in keeping a healthy perspective. Although the news has labelled it as being isolated, socially we are just separated. We can be connected in many ways with the phone, online, and even the visits through the screen door or coffee visits in separate cars at a drive thru that many are doing.

Emotional health can affect entire families, and even the people closest to us. This is when we stand together as a community to support one another. We are always stronger together.

Another powerful emotion is thankfulness!

When we keep a thankful/grateful journal, we create an intentional action to focus on the things that we appreciate – the good things in our lives. We invest in our families and friends. We look for things that we can be grateful. During this time, it’s especially important to look for the positive – in our homes, in our families, and to recognize how many things we have taken for granted.

- Counting our blessings will boost our health, decreasing depression and stress

- Slows down the aging clock!

- It reinforces the positive world around us. Helps us to identify what we’re grateful for.

- Decreases stress. Positive emotions like appreciation significantly lower levels of cortisol, called the stress hormone. Too much cortisol can deplete our immune system and raise blood sugar levels.

- Decreases the ability to criticize, complain and see the negative.

- Helps you bond and create better relationships because it can increase chemicals which foster calmness.

- Good for your heart – 10% reduction in blood pressure!

I’m sure you’ve heard that laughter is the best medicine. There’s actually some truth to that! The effects of laughter can be physically measured within 10 minutes as it actually decreases the stress hormone of cortisol. Wow! So, we really do need to watch a good funny movie, or look up some of the many animal videos just for our health!

I once coached a woman who has a great sense of humor, but was currently battling cancer. Her life was scheduled around treatments and appointments, conversations about health and self-care. But, she was missing the fun that she had once had, and wanted to find it again. She was eventually able to discover her joy in painting. By being creative, she was able to relax, and find her peaceful place.

Last summer, my 3 year old grand-daughter and I walked to the end of the dock onto the lake. She asked me – “Gramma, what do I hear?” It was profound, as what she heard was the water splashing onto the rocks. It was new to her.

Sometimes, we need to be quiet - to be still - so we can hear again.

We need to rest . . . and find peace within the storm.

Please seek help if you are finding this time during the pandemic difficult.

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