Security, attention, autonomy, connection, status, privacy, achievement, a sense of meaning and purpose: these are our 9 emotional needs. When our needs are met our stress levels stay low and our immune system stays strong.
How do you get your emotional needs met? We all find different ways of making our lives work, with varying levels of success during different periods.
When circumstances change it can be a challenge to get all our needs met in a balanced way – especially during a crisis.
With the whole world now affected by the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), we are, of course, all thinking about how best to protect our physical health. But we must also consider the impact on our emotional health and well-being.
As schools and workplaces close, gatherings and travel are curtailed, and family, friends and neighbours require our help, our coping resources may be stretched to the limit. Our routines, supports and finances in many cases are being disrupted and we don’t know for how long.
With so much scare-mongering around and the constant flow of alarming statistics on the news, it is vital that we take action to ensure our safety and security and our sense of autonomy and control – otherwise we will feel vulnerable and helpless.
The best antidote to worry is action. This doesn’t mean running around like a headless chicken being busy – that gives a false sense of doing something but does not relieve stress. It means taking positive action steps to address the cause of the worry and letting go of those things we cannot control.
We can follow the advice given by the professionals in order to maximise our protection from infection. We can look after our physical health to maximise our resistance to infection and build up our immune system i.e. by eating healthily, staying hydrated, getting enough quality sleep, getting plenty of exercise, (ideally in nature) etc.
During this challenging time consider perhaps just pay attention to your stress levels and notice how you are feeling. Name it, even writing it down can help. Reflect on what is missing, what you need and how you might get that need met in some new way.
Look to the Positives
Interruptions to our work and school regimes might be an opportunity to spend more time in nature, enhancing health and fitness, both physical and mental, more time to begin or catch up on those projects that have been on the back burner, more time to read a good book or get creative, recharge the batteries, learn something new! . . .
Take advantage of any unplanned extra time this provides … don’t miss the opportunity!
People often look back on a crisis and think – that was the best thing that ever happened to me – if that hadn’t happened, I would still be …. (fill in the blank). You may find yourself looking back with gratitude at the learning and opportunity provided.
Crises shake us up, shock us, we are compelled to change our behaviour – and we build our resilience as we survive.
So Covid 19 is here and spreading. A big scary fact!
Chronic worrying is destructive and harmful – when we worry we generate stress hormones (cortisol) and this affects blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, immune function and so on.
This arousal – emotional and physiological, affects our sleep. We have disproportionately more REM (dream) sleep to deactivate the arousal and therefore wake up feeling tired.
This can become something else to worry about and so the cycle continues.
So how do we take back a sense of control and dissipate the worrying?
Practice Staying Calm
- Relax – build relaxation time into your daily schedule – whether it’s meditation or movies, push-ups or poetry.
- 7:11 breathing – learn and practice this powerful stress busting technique
- Exercise – flushes out those stress hormones and stimulates production of endorphins (the feel-good hormones)
- ABC – Aware, Block, Challenge those worrisome thoughts (which are a misuse of the imagination)
- A good nights sleep – sleep improves when you are calm and relaxed as much as possible during the day, especially before bedtime. Regular sleep time and getting up time helps too.
- Eating well – a healthy diet maximises energy, hunger causes stress
- Be careful who you listen to and what you read – it’s not all accurate!
- Take control of your own safety strategy. Don’t feel helpless.
We need to let go of things we cannot change and accept them.
We need to learn to trust our own amazing ability to deal with problems. Our problem-solving capacity works best when we can stay calm so we can think clearly.
Why worry? – as long as we do what we can do, what will be will be!