This global pandemic has reacquainted us with a lot of unfamiliar emotions—many of them less than pleasant.
Contrary to popular belief, these emotions are not here to torture us, but rather to teach us.
When we see our feelings as a unique language that offers us understanding about ourselves and the world we live in, they become invited guests, as opposed to unwanted intruders.
Here are three emotions that many of us have felt at some point in the past nine months, and a little insight into what they may be trying to tell us:
Loneliness: Quarantine doesn’t necessarily engender feelings of connectedness. Whether we’ve found ourselves in total isolation, or been surrounded by a select few, we’re likely to have felt lonely during this pandemic.
The old ways of connecting—going to get-togethers, hitting the gym with a friend, even physically being at work rather than teleworking—may no longer be options. Instead of trying to wait the pandemic out until you can resume life as normal, explore new ways of connecting. Go on walks and wave at neighbors. Adopt a pet. Join an online forum where you can share and debate ideas. Write letters to the ones you love.
And don’t forget, there’s one person who is always available to connect with—yourself. You might try reading a good book or learning a new hobby. Keep yourself company. If these ideas don’t suit you, get creative and make up your own. Not only will this help you find ways to feel connected during this lonely time, it will bring resilience and empowerment.
Loneliness = Seek out connection.
Resentment: Whether it’s spending 24/7 next to loved ones, or engaging in politics on social media, or watching the news, resentment is a common thread many of us are experiencing amid this environment.
Quarantine has brought us into closer contact with a select few, while ostracizing us from the broader tapestry of interaction we’re used to. We may get angry that people can’t be how we want them to be. With newfound time, we may hyper-focus on what’s happening in the world around us and blame those decision-makers for worsening our plight. The antidote to resentment is forgiveness. It’s recognizing the imperfections of all humans. It’s also acknowledging that we don’t have the full story. In a world of over seven billion people who think, believe, value, and act in different ways, we can only reasonably expect some friction.
Resentment = Seek to understand, and then forgive.
Emptiness: Periodically, I go through a list of over 100 emotions and try to identify which ones I’m feeling the most. Lately, numb has been popping up a lot on my list.
This time of uncertainty and abnormality has resulted in a lot of emotions. When those emotions get to be too much, it’s almost as though our system shuts down. These feelings may be telling us to slow down. They may be telling us to adjust our expectations. They may be telling us we need to ground or be present. They may also be telling us to rekindle old interests. So pick up that dusty guitar. Whip out the old sewing machine. Start an indoor garden. Whatever it is, find people, things, and activities that fill your life with meaning and joy.
Emptiness = Seek to slow down, be present, and rekindle.
The older I get, the more I realize it’s not the strong who survive, but the adaptable. If we insist on using our same approach to connecting, to understanding, to feeling as excited as we did pre-pandemic, we’re likely to be frustrated and exacerbate feelings of frustration and isolation.
We’ve got to discover new ways of doing, new ways of being. If we can do that, once the pandemic has passed (and it will pass), we will be stronger and more resilient than before. We’ll have even more options for connecting moving forward, and we’ll become more versatile, agile human beings.
While these aren’t the emotions many of us would choose if we had our pick of the litter, let’s take advantage of the opportunity we’ve been given. Let’s learn how to read the language of our emotions and let it guide us to a more fulfilled and enjoyable human condition.