Isolation Guide #2: Elevate the Emotional State of Well-being
Here at KDAlive, we aren’t experts, we are well-being generalists. Our goal is to take a large amount of information, synthesize it and distribute it to you in a digestible format. Last week we covered how to take care of your physical health as part of our Isolation Survival Guide. For this week’s issue, we’ll be discussing emotional tips and tricks to actively monitor and regulate our emotions. Emotional balance is a foundation – arguably the most important – to Ultimate Well Being.
Is the endless negative news cycle exhausting you? Are you an emotional victim of your own mind and thoughts at home?
What’s the key takeaway from this section? Learn to identify emotions as they arise, put them aside and then address them later. How do you do this? Learn to separate emotions from thoughts. The cause-effect of thoughts and emotions can go either way, but once you identify the origin, you can identify it and address it. Then you are on the way to Eudaimonia – the Greek word meaning human flourishing or prosperity.
Learn to Observe the Physiological Effects of Emotions
Your emotions become actual physical states. Anxiety comes with shallow breathing, increased heart rate, chest pain and other symptoms that can escalate to full-blown panic attacks. Anger produces heat and tension while depression brings a heavy lethargy. Do you track your heartbeats? I do and notice a strong correlation between heart rate and anxiety so try to keep yours as low as possible.
Learn to observe these changes objectively as a way to take your mind out of the intensity of the emotion. You can also address them at the body level, for example by exercising to diffuse anger or doing restorative activities such as walks and baths to soothe anxiety. You cannot always control your emotions or the physiological effects they have, but you can certainly control your response to them. Developing calm awareness of emotions both physically and mentally will help prevent you from acting on them in an unhelpful way. So how do you know when you are out of whack?
Balance, Balance, Balance
This is the core of UWB but the trick is to know your balance. Manage your time between various types of activities. We all need a certain amount of work, play and rest for our wellbeing. Track how much time you need of each and start to tweak it day to day. Even within these categories, there are infinite variables.
Do you need to be working on the computer right now or outside in the yard? Does “play” mean frisbee in the park with your dog or Netflix on the couch in your pajamas? Knowing your own needs and how best to fulfill them, then actually doing that, is a sign of wisdom and maturity. There has never been a better time to practice this than NOW in the confines of isolation. Raj from HappySmarts says it’s simple – Maximize your happiness, do more of what makes you happy.
Start noticing when you are out of balance. When you can identify quickly when balance shifts, then you can figure out how emotions are playing.
Choose the Right Media
As many of us are living at home, the quality of input has a heightened effect that stays longer. Watching, reading or listening to disturbing things should be done with caution. This includes talking to negative people.
Watch comedies (Trevor Noah) rather than thrillers, listen to uplifting, not depressing music, and read inspirational or lighthearted books instead of downers. Buffer the impact by asking a trusted person to give you critical updates while filtering out what you don’t need to know that will only upset you.
Classical music creates an amazing euphoria. I often listen to Bach as a way to create positive emotional states. Or read a book. The last one that gave me a very lifted emotional state was Stephen King’s short book called Elevation.
Create Positive States
Elevated qualities like love, kindness, compassion, goodwill, peace, tolerance, generosity, gratitude, faith and contentment are universal to the higher nature of humanity. There has never been a more important time to cultivate them!
Develop gratitude by writing down all the good things in your life. Do acts of kindness and generosity for loved ones or strangers. Practice loving-kindness meditation—just a few minutes a day repeating kind words mentally, then filling the whole body with a feeling of love that can be projected outwards, is a powerful cleansing tool to wash away negativity. When faced with trying difficulties, return over and over to a place of faith inside yourself—whatever you have faith in that has given positive proof of its beneficial influence in the past.
Check out this course formulated by Eve Eckman who has worked closely with the Dalai Lama. https://wisdomexperience.org/courses/cultivating-emotional-balance/
Avoid Isolation Withdrawal. Stay Connected.
Working from home self-isolates ourselves to our immediate sphere of people. Know when you are too lonely. Whatever goes through our mind during this time may become amplified with solitude – including negative emotions. While solitude can make us more aware of our internal dialogue, it’s easy to overly dwell on our thoughts and lose perspective.
Let’s remember that others outside our work and home exist! Now is a great time to reach out to all those friends you’ve been meaning to catch up with. You may be surprised how a few meaningful remote interactions can make you feel “social” despite having been alone all day!
It’s also powerful to remember old memories that you’ve enjoyed together. The cover is a picture of my nieces and I at the Church of 8 Wheels – roller skating church disco in San Francisco.
We will cover more of this is the Social Component of UWB.
Know That Your Mind Can Play Tricks
Learn how to out-think your emotions.
At home, you may find yourself consumed by unhealthy emotions such as anger, jealousy, suspicion or insecurity. Try not to act on them impulsively, but account for the fact that you are hypersensitive due to isolation. The storm will subside and you will have a different perspective, so give yourself extra time and space to assess your feelings before deciding whether or not to act on them. This may spare you regrets and embarrassment later.
You can learn to address these emotions at the body level. Exercising to diffuse anger or doing restorative activities such as walks and baths to soothe anxiety. You cannot always control your emotions or the physiological effects they have, but you can certainly control your actions. Developing calm awareness of emotions both physically and mentally will help prevent you from acting on them in an unhelpful way.
I like the book Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple, 10 Strategies.
Break Down Your Fears
When you analyze fears with logic, you see that the created story around them has become more prominent than the actual reality. If something had already come to pass, it would no longer be just a fear! It’s the incessant delusive narrative of what might happen that imprisons you in an unhealthy state of fearfulness.
Stop, take a breath, and try to break down the situation as rationally and objectively as possible. What is actually happening in this moment? What are all the possible outcomes? Which of those are most likely, and how might they affect you? By identifying the ultimate worst-case scenario, you might see that it is not as bad or as likely as you thought, which can help diffuse the fear. But if it truly is that bad, calmly tell yourself that when it comes to pass you will face it the best you can. Living fearfully in the meantime does not actually make you safer.
Be okay with down-time! Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not totally on your A-game right now—we all need a little extra space to process this unusual time. Be patient with yourself, your shortcomings, and whatever feelings arise. Maybe you want to help out the cause and feel bad if you can’t. Understand that emotion and find a way to help if you can. If you can’t, just be like the 99.9% and stay at home – that’s helping.
Take a sound bath. Here is a session of one I took at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco.
Emotional states can fluctuate widely at even a small interval, so it doesn’t make sense to attach yourself or base your identity on them. Instead, understand emotions for what they are—passing states—and learn to identify the triggers, physical effects and reactions they provoke.
There are so many ways life can take its toll and cause us to react emotionally in unhealthy ways. But it’s possible to overcome this! The first step is awareness. We’ve all had struggles and traumas, so realizing the why behind your emotions is essential to forward growth because it opens you up to compassion. Through self-understanding, you begin to be freed from the pain, which allows you to grow and change positively. Be kind to yourself—if you can gently forgive your own emotional problems, they will settle down more easily.
Be okay with downtime! Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not totally on your A-game right now—we all need a little extra space to process this unusual time. Be patient with yourself, your shortcomings, and whatever feelings arise.
Take a light healing session.