Managing Emotions in an Uncertain Time: 7 Ways to Stay Grounded

April 24, 2020

by Kimberly Jordan Allen

Coronavirus has created an unprecedented new world. We’re social creatures, so distancing can be hard. And this particular contagion, and the fallout of it, can trigger significant stress. The key to sustaining emotional well-being through these times is nurturing awareness, self-care, routine, and compassion for self and others.

Sure, this all sounds great, but, how do we do that when we’re opening the fridge 17 times a day, jumping from one Zoom call to another, and generally feeling anxious?

“This is an unfamiliar situation for most of us,” says Steven Leonard, Lead Faculty member at Kripalu. “It’s important to maintain structure when we’re in ‘stay home, stay safe’ mode. This can impact our emotions positively and help us maintain balance. Remember what feels safe for you. Are you in a good spot, with space around you, with people you love? Can you carve out time for you?” Familiarity in unfamiliar times can be an anchor. 

Ride the Wave of Emotions

The information we’re digesting is changing daily, and the uncertainty can be scary. Many of us are plugged in, perhaps more than normal, because we’re in meetings, communicating with loved ones, and monitoring what’s happening. Remember that it’s okay to struggle and feel up and down at times. And don’t forget to also notice the good things, the uplifting moments, both at home and in the world. (Here’s a recent viral video of John Krasinski’s quarantine-based news show, Some Good News. We could all use it right now.) 

Establish Routine

Creating routine has a huge benefit for our physical and mental well-being: Wake up, make your bed, drink some tea, do some journaling. Perhaps you practice yoga first thing or sit in meditation

“Be strategic with screen time; try not to get sucked into the black hole of the web indefinitely,” Steven says. “Make conscious choices about when and for how long you’re online. Move your body and get outside as much as possible. The earth is resting—with less travel, pollution, industry. Connect to the earth’s refreshing energy.” 

Cultivate Comfort

What familiar things can you lean on right now? What helps you feel centered? For some, it’s using the breath. Or perhaps knitting creates a sense of ease and stillness. And don’t forget about nourishment: Good nutrition helps us feel grounded and vital. It’s also great to touch base with the people who help you feel at ease. What are the podcasts, TV shows, songs, and books you’ve been meaning to check out? Now’s the time to enjoy them. 

“Because there’s so much uncertainty, we need to balance that unknown. From an Ayurvedic perspective, opposites balance each other, so seek out the things you know you can come back to time and again for solace,” Steven adds.

Observe the Story

Be aware of the stories in your mind. What is the story you’re believing? “There’s so much internal chatter going on in our heads,” Steven says. “How many different stories are happening in our minds right now about the virus and how we will be affected? The flipside is that no story is totally true. So, how can you, in moments, just let go of the story and be with what it is that you’re feeling and doing without having to craft a narrative around it?” 

When we’re fully present, it gives us a break from our stories. This sense of presence can be found in the state of flow, which is when we’re blissfully lost in a focused activity. For example, this might arise when we’re so connected to our body, breath, and sensations during our yoga practice that we’re able to get out of our heads for a while. What are some of the things you like to do that can help you get into that flow state?

Savor Moments of Connection

This isn’t always easy, but it really helps. Many of us are savoring these moments as we have more time to slow down. “The first practice for me is just to be present in this moment,” says Steven.

While some may find the news overwhelming, others find that being connected to the larger context helps them feel less alone. Knowing that we’re staying at home for the sake of the greater good is meaningful. This is a conscious act of awareness around our interconnectedness. 

Everyone might need a different dose of connection, depending on where they are and what they’re experiencing. Observe how you’re feeling. It’s important to know when to turn off the technology, get up, and go outside for a walk.

Show Up for Yourself and Others

What are some ways we can show up for our loved ones? Anxiety, depression, grief, and trauma might be stirred up more than usual due to the high levels of uncertainty. “Conscious communication and deep listening are extremely beneficial,” says Steven. “When you’re meditating and holding space for yourself, you’re performing an act of safekeeping and being there for yourself. Apply this to your relationships, as well: Listening is a way of being there for others. Ask questions such as, ‘I’m hearing you feel scared about what’s going on in the world. What can we do here to help you feel safer, more connected?’ This can help more than you know.”

Embrace Intimacy 

This coronavirus experience is a unique one. We’re distancing from most but developing more intimacy with a few, such as our partners, children, or other loved ones we share space with. “Intimacy is a skill that is becoming rarer in our world. It’s a powerful way to work through emotions,” Steven says. In fact, it’s a practice in itself, he notes. 

“In my intimate relationships, sometimes there’s a sense of ‘I’m more balanced than the other person right now, so I will be there for them.’ Then the reverse happens: ‘Okay, I’m the one who’s more vulnerable right now.’ This acknowledgment takes a certain level of maturity and awareness. The empathy and emotional intelligence we experience with others deepens our relationships, and that will stay with us even when the intensity of this time has passed.”

Kimberly Jordan Allen is an award-winning writer, editor, and content strategist.