Remember when We Used to Go to the Coffee Shop?
There is no doubt that our lives are transforming at an unprecedented rate this year. Our routines and daily rituals have been disrupted, leaving many of us uncertain and unsure of what to do next.
I believe that in times of change, people tend to operate from their default settings.
That means that if you are a person who is generally happy, you will respond to a new circumstance with happiness or a sense of curiosity that looks for happiness. If you’re someone who is often stressed or angry, you will respond to change with anger and stressed feelings.
So, what is your default setting? How are you responding to the changes around you?
Are you mostly feeling calm, or are you mostly feeling scared? Do you see things to celebrate, or are you focused on fear?
The good news is that events like this give us the opportunity to deeply notice our “factory setting,” and from there, reinforce or recalibrate it.
It’s a great opportunity and one that will serve you well for all your life if you learn it now.
Here’s how I think about feelings and emotions:
- All feelings serve their purpose, but when we find ourselves stuck in a pattern of feeling that shuts us down and makes it difficult to operate, it’s useful to learn how to adjust course and change the trajectory of emotion.
- Emotions are meant to ebb and flow.
- They are always passing through, and we only really get stuck in one place when we tighten up around a feeling and give it meaning.
- The stories we tell ourselves about why we feel what we feel have the power to keep us holding onto an emotion way longer than it needs to be around.
- Even a tiny nudge in a better direction changes your course trajectory for the long term, so moving from anger to determined or resolute vastly changes your experience and actions going forward. Loosening your grip on despair and moving to grief is an improvement that will greatly change your experience, too.
- We tend to judge certain emotions and experiences as “bad” and others as “good.” But they are just experiences, and we can thrive through them, even when they are unpleasant.
So, how do we do this? How do we let our emotions move through us rather than letting them run us?
One way is to simply notice when you are feeling something, and tell yourself, “I’m feeling ___ right now.”
This lets you instantly gain a little bit of space between the immediacy of the emotion and lets your body relax just a tiny bit.
So, notice your feeling, and locate it in your body.
As you feel it, if it starts to get too overwhelming, and you find you’re adding the fear of the experience into the mix (ex: I am afraid that if I start crying I won’t stop. Or, I am afraid if I express this anger it will turn to rage and I’ll do something I will regret.) then you pause, take a deep breath, and say to your feeling:
“_____ (name the feeling), I appreciate that you are here for me. I know that this experience is just moving through me right now. Right now, it feels like too much. So, I am going to feel just 1% of it for now. I’m going to trust that the rest will take care of itself. I know that I can come back to this experience at any time. For now, I am choosing only to go into it a little bit. Thank you.”
Then, take ten breaths. With each breath, allow the feeling to lighten, just a tiny bit – only 1% is enough to set you on a happier course.
At the end of ten breaths, shake your arms and legs if you want and let your focus go somewhere else, knowing that you have just done everything you needed to let that emotion start moving through you and onward.
Celebrate that you can let it be this easy!
Even if you still feel crummy, recognize that it’s at least 1% or maybe even 10% better than you felt even five minutes ago! YAY!
If you make this a regular practice, you will find that you stop being afraid of having big emotions. Feelings that overwhelm you will move through so much faster than they used to.
It’s a small thing, but it is effective and will help you get through difficult times with just a bit more ease. I use this technique every day, and while I still face the fear and uncertainty of this pandemic daily, too - I am OK. I'm functioning and feeling trust in myself that no matter what I feel, the feeling won't overwhelm me, and I WILL get through it.
With gratitude and joy,
PS – if you would like some assistance in real-time to navigate whatever emotions are coming up for you, I'm happy to coach you through it. Simply pick a time here that works for you, and we’ll get through it together! Connecting online and via phone truly helps. We are in this together!