The courage to be with our emotions
At the beginning of this second wave of the pandemic, which is hitting many of us harder than we expected (and certainly hoped for) I kept pushing myself and my dear ones to think positive, get moving and busy, focus on the brighter side of our lives and on what we can learn from this situation.
Despite all my efforts, I still felt inside of me that something was simply not right. I had trouble falling asleep at night, or just woke up in the middle of the night. I sometimes felt a heaviness in my chest, as if I could not breathe as fully as before, some days I felt as if I was riding on an emotional roller-coaster without control of the ups and downs.
I tried to lean even more into my self-care practices of solitary walks in the woods and along the river, yoga and morning meditation rituals, and one morning during my meditation I just realised that I was playing "hide and seek" with my grief, almost as if by ignoring it, by pretending not to see it, it would just go away and magically disappear.
But my unconscious strategy simply wasn’t working.
I had to gather the courage to sit in front of my emotion, name it, acknowledge it, accept it and THEN decide how to go about it.
This was and is not easy for me. The cheerful, positive, energetic, helping person that I grew up to be could not be sad, could not slip into these "bad", negative emotions.
So, the first step for me was to go back to the basics, and remind myself something that I rationally knew but somehow forgot along the way, i.e. that there is not such a thing as a negative emotion.
As psychologist Susan David, founder and co-director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital of Harvard University Medical School states in her book “Emotional Agility”: “Instead of pushing it aside or forcing positivity, one critical way of dealing with a difficult emotion is to label it effectively… When we can label our emotions more accurately, it helps us understand the cause of those emotions and activates what’s called a ‘readiness potential,’ your ability to set goals and to make real concrete changes.”
Recognising that I was in grief, felt powerless and overwhelmed, allowing myself to feel the pain of not being able to be close to my family and friends suffering, allowing myself to feel “not ok” with the situation without blaming myself or without rushing to fix and find a solution, was for me the turning point.
Moving from the acceptance of my own emotions is allowing me to bounce back by choosing how to respond to my emotional warning system, to be more mindful and present with myself and others, and also to start breathing again more fully, without feeling that tightness in my chest coming from self-judgement.
This is for me the foundation from which I can build and regain that positive outlook on the future that I do cherish as my biggest strength and gift to myself and others.
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