Emotions are highly contagious, and it’s at times like these that we need to be vigilant about the emotions we’re experiencing and sharing with the people around us. Whether it’s fear, anger, frustration, or sadness, learning how to manage your negative emotions has never been more important than it is right now. In this article, we share five ways that will help you manage your negative emotions during lockdown. Why? Well, let’s first have a look at the impact that these powerful emotions can have on our system.

Unprocessed Negative Emotions Can Make You Ill

Emotions are high at the moment. They could either be fear of the future, or gratitude for privileges that allow us to be safe and healthy. All emotions are OK right now. However, it’s good to be aware that negative emotions like anger, anxiety, or fear create energy and movement in the same way that positive emotions like joy, love, and forgiveness move us forward.

The challenge is that negative emotions are generally not seen as socially acceptable, whereas positive emotions are favoured. The reason for this is that negative emotions drain us and make us feel low and uncomfortable. They also reduce our overall level of well-being, and the extent of bodily damage caused by suppressing negative emotions can crystallise into cardiovascular diseases, or even cancer. We’re not telling you this to scare you; rather to help you to see the value of processing, rather than suppressing, your emotions.

Now more than ever, we need to give ourselves permission to feel the negative emotions and allow them to ow without repressing or holding on to them. It’s precisely this state of suppression that drains our energy and leads to health problems like stress, high blood pressure, or digestive disorders. In very simple terms, disease is triggered by the right side of the brain which in turn spills over into our glands and hormones, and results in the entire body being affected with negative emotions.

It’s therefore vital, especially now when we’re in such a difficult time, to share ways to manage your negative emotions during lockdown.

Five Ways You Can Manage your Negative Emotions

We need to learn to cope and manage our negative emotions by making them felt, and letting them come and go. We must give ourselves permission to have emotions move through our body without stopping them or attaching to their stories. The only emotions which will serve us at this time will be calm, humour, and gratitude, and we need to find strategies to increase our experiences of these over this global lockdown.

1. Use water wisely

Whenever we wet our face and neck, we activate the vagus nerve which has a relaxation and reset function on our body. So once you’ve washed your hands, you can also splash water on your face which will immediately provide you with an emotion reset.

2. Limit the time spent on social media

While it’s tempting to spend this “free” time trolling the internet for the latest reports, updates, regulations, or friends’ posts, it’s vital that we monitor the amount of time we spend on social media. It is a precious resource at this time of social distancing, but we need to be aware of all the information that we’re receiving – not all of which is true, healthy, or helpful. Be mindful of your screen time, and take this time to challenge yourself to engage in creative, handy, and physical tasks around your home. Bake that bread, read that book, or spring-clean that cupboard in your garage. Start that novel you’ve always wanted to write! Make the most of this time at home. Spend it with yourself or your loved ones. The positive emotions from these experiences can quickly and easily outweigh the fear mentality which can be in overdrive at this time.

3. Write it down

Journaling about a negative emotion allows us to process and order our thoughts. This makes it easier to make sense of a situation and to let it go. Be aware of sharing these writings on social media! This can make your emotions more contagious to others. Be sensitive about what you’re sharing, and with whom.

4. Give yourself space to reflect

There’s no better time than the present to be developing your emotional intelligence. When emotions rise, start asking yourself:

“What emotion am I feeling?”

“Why am I feeling this way?”

“How can I best release this emotion and not attach to it?”

Give yourself time to process this; however make a cut-off time for your reflection. Spend the time you need, and then consciously stop mulling over it. Your time is up – you’ve had enough time to dwell.

5. Practice gratitude

Bring your emotions into balance by looking at the positive moments in your day. Don’t give the latest update on the news the power to ruin your entire day. Try and counterbalance all the negative news by identifying three positive emotions or situations for each negative one you feel. There’s plenty to be grateful for – whether it’s as simple as Cape Town rain (or a Highveld thunderstorm), the turning of the seasons, or the sound of birds outside. Take time to reconnect with what you have, rather than tuning in to what you don’t.

In Conclusion

Emotions are just that: emotions. They exist, and they’re part of us. Embrace them, and learn to manage them. Don’t repress or ignore them. Rather, use these five ways to manage your negative emotions, to acknowledge them, and to take in the lessons they have to teach you. Unprocessed emotions are silent carriers of disease and psychological illness, so find ways to express and process your emotions in healthy but effective ways.

Our negative emotions aren’t bad. They’re powerful indicators of our fears, shadows, and frustrations, and can help us to know ourselves better.

Be safe. Be vigilant. Be compassionate. Be brave.

Wishing you all luck during this time of national lockdown.

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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