Here’s What to do When Negative Thoughts and Emotions Sneak Up on You

“We've done our best to adjust to that awful thing that we're calling ‘our new norm’.
The adaptability of the human race does not, however, mean that we are thriving.”

I am a hopeful, optimistic individual. I can find the silver lining in just about anything, or identify ways to cope–then thrive–when handed a challenge or crisis. This quality is a part of what makes me a great coach since it allows me to help others to do the same.

But guess what? I'm human. I sometimes feel weary and negative, especially during this world-crisis brought on by Covid and the current state of our political affairs. I can confidently say that most people are operating on a less predictable mood cycle nowadays. The turmoil that we've experienced in 2020 took us from an acute fight, flight, or freeze response to the chronic stress phase, which is where we are now. We've done our best to adjust to that awful thing that we're calling “our new norm.”

The adaptability of the human race does not, however, mean that we are thriving.

Many people have come to me, not just feeling down but also experiencing things like shame and/or confusion about their mental (and often physical) state. Some individuals endure daily stressors; others are perplexed because, until now, they were managing just fine. I often hear people say that Covid hasn't affected them much. So, they wonder why all of a sudden do I feel like this?

Between the political division in our country, concerns around the impact of climate change, and the global assault brought on by Covid, we are all climbing an uphill battle. Eventually, no matter how well you have managed the constant disruption to life as you know it, exhaustion sets in. Of course, you feel sad (or whatever it is that you feel). And you and your feelings are entirely normal.

Give yourself permission to feel.

So, you feel sad, angry, lonely, or whatever you are experiencing. Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is that comes up for you. Look what's going on in the world–no one is immune to the impact of a worldwide crisis.

Acceptance is the first step toward changing your mental state. We need “permission” to feel. By acknowledging your feelings, you will push any guilt, shame, and confusion to the curb to make room for healing. Like a petulant child, when emotions are ignored, they only grow louder and become more difficult to tame.

Of course, you do!

Do you feel down? Of course, you do!

Here's a little mindset exercise for you:

Think about how you feel. What negative state is alive inside of your body and mind right now? Name it out loud.

Now say, “I feel [insert feeling here].” Follow that by saying, “Of course, I do, and I have every right to feel this way.”

This helps your mind to acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with you. Given all that has changed in your world, possibly ranging from illness, loss of a loved one, financial problems, stress, covid-worry, or general sadness about the sacrifices you've made, you have every right to be someone other than your “normal” self.

When I respond to my clients' concerns about their emotional state with the magic words, of course, you do, a new awareness and acceptance sets in.  They always feel better by the end of our discussion for many reasons, including:

  • They now know that what they are going through is normal; they are not alone.
  • They've discovered what is at the core of their feelings and now they can work through them.
  • It's a relief to acknowledge negative feelings, rather than stuff them down.
  • The energy and motivation to affect change are more accessible.
  • There is an acknowledgment that they will feel better; this isn't forever.
  • They feel safer.
  • Articulating their feelings and the consequences of them somehow frees them from the burden.
  • When appropriate, we create a plan to help them feel more empowered. Or, a plan to slow down to contemplate and nurture themselves.

If you are struggling with a myriad of emotions during this time (of course, you are!), seek out support. As little as one conversation with a coach or therapist can make a world of difference. Nurture yourself, because you deserve it.

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