The Ultimate Guide to Handling Stress During a Pandemic
By Tasleem Jessani, Rubiks Coaching
When we are forced into situations out of our control, stress can rise rapidly.
At first, it may have been an unexpected event – being quarantined at home, shifting to working from home, and for those with kids, having the kids home past spring break.
But as the situation continues, not only is there uncertainty as to how long it will continue, but each day the curve rises instead of flattens leads us to believe this is going to be long-term.
The truth is we don’t know how long this will continue, but it’s still going, and we’re all going stir-crazy!
Naturally as we are cooped up and trying to make the best of our situation, things are going to start getting on our nerves – especially the people around us all the time.
Further, if you own a business, or are an independent consultant, the slowing down of work is a huge source of fear and stress.
And for all of us, not knowing when our kids will return to school and what the economic impact is going to be even after all this is over is enough to send us into a spiral of fear.
Now, you may be telling me – I’m not experiencing fear – I’m quite chill about all this.
I’m going to challenge you today. Is that 100% true? Is it possible that you’re not experiencing any fear at all? Or are you deflecting that fear by portraying that you’re completely okay? I’m not convinced that the current situation is bringing you absolutely zero discomfort at all.
Regardless of how you’re personally handling the pandemic and world crisis, I want to enlighten you with what we naturally turn to when we experience fear.
You may have heard this term way back when you took a psychology class. Projection is when we project ourselves onto others – often meaning that when someone’s actions or behaviors bother us, it’s because deep down it’s something that we don’t like about ourselves, or something we’re denying about ourselves.
That’s not the only explanation of projection. Resentment and irritation can also rise if we see something in the other person that we’re lacking – and we secretly wish we had that ability or skill. You must remember that this all happens subconsciously, so it’s not actively in our awareness. Which is why you might be saying you feel perfectly fine, but the indicator that you’re projecting is when you’re reacting to someone or something around you – especially with some type of anger or resentment.
Projection can also have a positive intention. For example, if you love working from home, you may project in every conversation that people should feel grateful of this opportunity. But others may not feel the same way – and your projection of how you feel about working from home could result in you feeling resentful or disappointed that people aren’t appreciating the gift they’re receiving right now. Can you see in this example how your feelings are a result of your own projections onto others?
This is nothing to feel bad about. We ALL do it, because it’s innately human. We can’t relate to others if we haven’t experienced it ourselves. Which is why being fully empathetic is pretty much impossible – we can simply empathize more deeply if we’ve experienced the situation before. It’s just human nature.
How Projection Affects Our Stress Levels
Let’s go back to our current state. Every single individual on this planet is experiencing a unique and interesting time. Every person is being forced to stay indoors, or limit interactions with others. The result is now we’re spending a whole lot of time with our loved ones. Don’t get me wrong, that is amazing! But let’s be honest, how many of you are finding that family is also getting on your nerves?
These types of situations even cause couples to break up. Why? Because we are being forced to look inward. At a time when we can’t distract ourselves as easily, it’s now a moment of really asking yourself, what do you want out of your life? Where do you want to make changes? What truly brings you happiness?
Most humans, when faced with a time like this, instead of really digging deep to answer these questions of angst, start DEFLECTING. We are very used to a fast-paced world – work, social media, cell phones, technology – go, go, go. When everything halts, guess what? We’re vibrating at a high frequency of activity and suddenly we have to slow down. With such a major change, we will desperately try to keep things “normal.” So you see social media exploding. You see posts everywhere about the “new normal” and cute pictures of kids on teleconference calls with their mom or dad. So now when we’re stuck at home and seeing all these posts, we want the same. So we start pushing for this reality to happen to us – and we feel frustrated or resentful when our days don’t look like these “perfect” posts on social media. This is projection doing its work – the stuff we are seeing out there start to highlight the lack we are feeling.
We may start trying to fill this feeling of “lack” by posting our own stories, or trying too hard (subconsciously) to make our stories sound amazing. We may really crave likes and shares on social media for our posts. We may start to compare ourselves to others, and then feel resentment or irritation by others’ action. And the thing is, resentment is a blessing because it’s an indicator that something isn’t right. When you feel any form of trying too hard or discomfort, this means you’re projecting and denying an internal feeling of lack – and just being aware of this is the first step to healing.
Another example is some of the angry posts out there. There are people who are so frustrated that others aren’t listening to the rules of quarantine. While I know that is a very noble reason for being upset, when you look deep down, it’s a resentment – the fact that others are gallivanting around freely while the rest of us are following the rules and suffering. How dare they do that? It really highlights our feeling of lack of freedom, and we resent that they are still experiencing freedom and making us (and humanity) suffer more. This is neither right or wrong! It’s just what is, and is an example of projection doing its work. And my point is, this type of behavior is amplified when we buy into our own fears.
How to Start Reducing Your Stress Levels
I know what you’re thinking. Meditation again?
We have really glamorized meditation, and with that process, have lost all meaning to it. Up until recently, I repeatedly tried to take up meditation in hopes that it will solve all my problems. After all, it’s the magic remedy, right?
It actually is the magic remedy, but we’re doing it all wrong. Meditation is about going inward and fully listening to your body. It’s a whole-hearted respect for the feelings and emotions your body is feeling. When we meditate, we close our eyes and intentionally focus and breathe into areas of tension in the body. That’s because the place of tension is trying to tell us something – it’s trying to tell us an emotion we’re holding on to. When we keep going with our worldly to-dos, we are intentionally ignoring what our body is screaming for us to process. And don’t get me wrong – processing these feelings hurt. But that’s the point! If you let your body accept and release the emotions you’re feeling, you are going to feel much better! But we are all scared to go inward and learn more about ourselves, because we’re scared of what we will find. That’s where you must meditate with the intention to simply explore without judgement. Feel exactly what you need to feel and release the emotion when your body is ready. This is following your intuition and it’s the key to slowing down and addressing your projections and fears head on.
If you need help with this process, reach out! I am happy to spend a 30 minute complimentary session with you to explore what you’re going through, or walk you through the process.
2. Understand the role emotions play in our body
Emotions fall on a scale. Every emotion has a vibration, and some operate on a higher vibration, while others are lower.
It may interest you to know that anger operates at a higher vibration than guilt. This means that it’s better to feel anger than guilt or shame! If you are in a depressed state, starting to feel anger or resentment or even boredom is better and means you’re moving closer to joy and happiness on the vibration scale.
Let me give you an example. Today I did not know what I wanted for breakfast. Everything made me feel – blah. When I really focused on what I was feeling, it was boredom. Makes sense with us being stuck at home and myself feeling bored with my current surroundings.
The next emotion up from boredom is contentment. As soon as I read that word, I started to feel what contentment feels like. Suddenly I moved to a different vibration. Contentment automatically made me visualize what I could do to feel content. I pictured the type of food I would want – and felt the energy to make it (i.e. moving up to excitement). This involved some baking, but the excitement made me feel motivated to bake. After breakfast, I was now sitting in that place of contentment which felt much better than boredom. In fact, I felt proud of myself, and could say that I was happy – bringing me up even higher on the scale. That’s all it takes, is just moving up one step on the ladder. We can’t jump from despair to joy, but if we just endeavor to move up one rung on the ladder, it’s easier and the vibrations pick up momentum.
Give this a try – next time you feel anger, or guilt, what is the next emotion up on the ladder? As yourself, what would it look like for me to feel that emotion, and what actions would get me to that next emotion? Keep working on this throughout the day and don’t let yourself sit in a low vibration for more than an hour. You will see miraculous things happening as your emotions and energy shift!
If you found this interesting, check out The Emotional Guidance Scale to learn more.
3. Journal and “Ego Work”
Ego work is tough and isn’t something that you can get a handle on quickly. You need to be prepared for unpleasant feelings to surface. Here is a detailed article on ego work and how you can get started.
As a starting step, I encourage you to get comfortable with Step 2 above. Recognizing your emotions, the energies around each emotion, and how each emotion feels for you will be the key to starting some deep work around projection, and how you’re projecting fears onto others and the world around you.
Grab a journal and make sure it is private! When you engage in the emotion work in Step 2 above, write down the emotion. Let’s say it is resentment. Write down – who or what are you feeling resentment towards? Why? Write everything down without judgement.
Now ask yourself how the resentment is making you feel in your body. Take some time to breath into the feeling. Ask yourself from a place of compassion – what insecurities/doubts/fears is this bringing up in you?
Don’t judge this process! Thank yourself for becoming aware of these shadows. We need to accept every part of us, even the shadows we are not wanting to admit or acknowledge. It’s only when we accept ourselves wholly that we can let go of fears and anxieties and truly appreciate that each emotion has a place in our life, and helping direct us to our truth and source of joy.
As you explore the resentment, try to understand how you may be projecting a perceived “lack” in yourself, or insecurity or fear onto the other person. Note where you’re making assumptions about the other person too.
Now forgive yourself for feeling this way, and decide to choose differently. What is a thought you can have about that person that is at a better vibration than resentment (using the emotional guidance scale from Step 2)? How can you see this person in that new vibration? And further, how can you see yourself from a more positive place?
As I mentioned, this exercise is not easy! I encourage you to reach out to a professional counsellor for support if any deep traumas start to surface.
This time we are experiencing is certainly a gift – a gift to slow down, to explore ourselves inward. This is not an easy task, because collectively as humans, we are not comfortable going inward. We are more accustomed to numbing negative emotions and suppressing them, something that our busy technological world has pushed us into further. Remember all those lessons you may have learned growing up – were you told not to cry? To suck up your feelings and move on? Were you shamed in certain situations that you have suppressed, or built walls around to ensure you never feel that shame again?
We have suppressed all these emotions in our bodies, and continue to stuff them down with every distraction we can. Lifting the veil on these emotions is scary because we don’t want to feel hurt or upset! But it is exactly the key to feeling better and addressing our reactivity to others and situations outside our control. This is what you need to bring yourself more and more joy into your world – and NOW is the time to do it, when the whole world is slowing down and doing the same.
This is not an easy journey! But it is a worthwhile one, and I can help you with it. Book a session today, let’s talk about how I can help you remove these blocks from your work and life, truly experience joy, and achieve all the goals and successes you have dreamed of – I can’t wait to see you flourish!
Sending you all much love and praying for your health and safety!
About the Author
Tasleem Jessani is an Executive Coach and the Founder of Rubiks Coaching, located in beautiful Vancouver, B.C. She has over 10 years of experience coaching leaders within several industry verticals such as insurance, financial, aerospace and education. Tasleem’s clients have seen accelerated results transforming their teams through mergers, acquisitions and various organizational changes. Learn more about Tasleem and Rubiks Coaching at www.rubikscoaching.com.