At the Keeping Calm in the Covid Crisis lunch webinar on 23 April 2020, Elle Cheng, an Authenticity Coach, spoke about dealing with unfamiliar emotions over the pandemic, as well as ways to manage them. Get a glimpse into her life as she shares more about her challenging personal experiences over this Circuit Breaker period, and what she does to stay strong in the face of fear and anxiety.
Since December, I have been on an emotional roller coaster ride. Disappointment, sadness, fear. Trouble sleeping. Anxiety attacks. It still feels unreal that I have been working from home since February, and "this" - being away from family and friends - is going to continue until June.
Since the Circuit Breaker started, I started a weekly social listening project Side Walk Talk Singapore, where strangers come together to share any topics, and we practise heart-based listening in a judgement-free space. Few themes came out organically from these discussions: fear and uncertainty of the future, feeling powerless and helpless, loneliness; but also, acceptance, the courage to make a difference, love and hope.
Week after week, I'm reminded of how connected and resilient we are as human beings. As a life coach, I also feel a strong sense of mission to give and help in whatever I can to people who need support.
However, at random moments of the day, negative emotions will hit me. There are days where I wake up with such low energy that I do not feel like doing anything at all except to curl into a ball in bed.
So how do we find our inner strength to move on on days like these?
Acknowledge and accept your emotions
First of all, there is nothing wrong with what you are feeling. Do give yourself permission to feel. The misconceptions that negative emotions are bad, and that ignoring them will make them go away, need to be urgently corrected.
Emotions - positive and negative - are valuable signals that need to be acknowledged, so we can do something meaningful about it:
If I am feeling angry, it means something needs to be righted.
If I am feeling lonely, it means I need to reach out to others. If that is not possible, reach in and be with yourself.
If I am feeling lethargic, it means I need to rest.
Do not be ashamed to reach out to someone if you need to process your emotions. Otherwise, there are other ways to regulate your emotions, such as through journalling, breathing exercises, or changing body postures.
Reframe to find opportunities in setbacks
When we face a challenge or obstacle, it is important to tap into our inner voice. Ask ourselves, what is the good and the meaning of this experience? Understand how this setback can be an opportunity, and can help us grow stronger, wiser and more resilient.
For example, if you find yourself burnt out from having too much to do, the learning opportunity could be setting personal boundaries and learning to say no.
Start the day with Intention setting and end the day with Self affirmation
Society tends to measure us on how much we have achieved. It is too common a response to beat ourselves up if we did not attain productive goals during this period.
Setting an intention helps us be mindful and purposeful throughout the day, instead of being pulled in multiple directions or operating on autopilot mode.
However, setting intentions in the wrong way can have unintended effects:
Negative Example: Have-Do-Be model - "My goal is to finish my business plan by crunching numbers, so I can be worthy." This may then be interpreted as, “if I did not finish my business plan, I am therefore not worthy.”
The nature of intention is not outcome-oriented (have), but rather, focused on being and doing.
Recommended: Be-Do-Have model - "Be confident and focused. I will crunch numbers, so I can finish my business plan."
The difference is, even if you did not finish your business plan (goal), but did your tasks partially, you are still confident and worthy. Also, you can be restful without doing anything during my downtime and breaks. In fact, to recharge, it is helpful to take more mini breaks throughout the day.
Intention setting is positive. This means instead of focusing on the negative such as "I want to avoid negative thoughts", use positive values such as "I am patient and confident today."
Intention setting should also be realistic. On days when you are feeling low, setting the intention of "being happy" may not be realistic and authentic. In this case, setting an intention such as being “grateful”, “calm”, or “kind”, could be more achievable as it is closer along the mood scale.
At the end of the day, it is more important to pay attention to our being (who we are), and acknowledge the tasks completed. We are not our results. Success or failure is just feedback of whether our efforts are bringing us in the right direction.
An example would be, "I demonstrated confidence today. I acknowledge I crunched the numbers but lacked focus in finishing my business plan."
That being said, evaluate constructively if anything can be improved - "What can I do to improve focus tomorrow?"
The next day, you can decide whether to set the same intention again, or change your intention to get different results.
We are grieving, together. The thing about grief is that we don't know how long it will take to heal. It is unique to each individual.
Since you are on your own roller coaster ride, how would you choose to respond? Be kind to yourself. Give love to others.
While fear is present, may we have the hope and strength to do the next right thing, one day at a time. And oh, remember to smile at the camera gracefully, right when the roller coaster drops.