Nick and I were talking last week about the shifting moods we have both been experiencing lately; hard to pinpoint or describe them really but an underlying sense of uneasiness or agitation. For me it felt like there were things that ‘should’ or ‘could’ be done but lacked the drive or maybe interest in taking action or perhaps was overwhelmed by all of the possibilities.
It seems that recent times have put most of us on an emotional roller coaster probably with more dips than high spots. In the dips you may have felt shock, stress, anger, depression, worry, denial, grief, loss, anxiety, loneliness, shame, fear or a combination. In the occasional high spots perhaps optimism, gratitude, appreciation, connection maybe just in small ways that have meant a lot and helped offset the dips to a certain extent.
As a result of the many, prolonged dips you may be concerned, as I have been, about their emotional impact not only on our mental health but also our physical health; the mind and body are working in tandem all the time. If we continue to experience emotional load over a prolonged period that can increase the possibility of, or aggravate, existing health issues. This may be affecting you, someone you love or a colleague and it’s important to find a way through but what helps?
I suggest the first step is to be aware of the emotion(s) that is coming up for you and name it. All emotions are there for a reason; none are right or wrong, it’s just information so let go of any self-judgment you may feel. Naming the emotion can be easier said than done for some of us as we may have become masterful as burying and masking it to keep us safe and therefore find it difficult to recognise it let along name it. Just do your best.
Are you able to define exactly what it is that has caused the emotion? Is it a person, an event, a situation? The closer you can get to recognising that, the easier it will be to find a solution.
What about the impact it’s having on your body; is it creating pain, tension, exhaustion? If so where? While it may seem strange, the body has infinite wisdom and will demand your attention with pain or discomfort and it’s worth paying attention to the clues it offers.
A starting point for reducing emotional load in general is to settle the mind and promote calm by shifting awareness to our breath. There are various techniques to do that but the one that Nick and I use most is to take as deep a breath as possible and then breathe out for longer than in, find your own rhythm and maintain that for around 2-3 minutes, longer if it feels good, stopping if it makes you light-headed. There is science behind why this works well and quickly but too long to mention here.
This is just a first-aid approach however. If you are experiencing ongoing emotional lows (around 1 in 7 Australians experience anxiety even in ‘normal’ times), it is important that you find someone who can help on a deeper and more personal level.
It’s not brave to struggle in silence and hope it will go away, it won’t. It’s vital to be vulnerable and honest with yourself, own up if you’re not coping and ask for help. Even though doing that might feel like weakness to some (which can be a masculine trait), it is in fact courageous and necessary and more so now than ever. We all need to talk. How about you? Is now a good time?