As the Coronavirus Pandemic wears on, many of my clients have shared about emotions they are struggling with and ways they are judging themselves for how they are currently feeling. Today, I want to talk about why the emotions you are experiencing in the midst of this crisis are valid, and how you can begin taking the steps to validate how you feel without minimizing or second-guessing your emotional experiences.
First off, what is validation? Validation is a major topic within DBT therapy and represents the ability to honor your emotions without judgment, to acknowledge that your emotions make sense and that you do not have to force yourself to feel differently or reprimand yourself for feeling the way that you do. Being able to validate yourself can build an increased sense of compassion for yourself as well as stronger feelings of self-trust and a deeper sense of self-understanding. Given the ways the Coronavirus is impacting life on every level, it makes sense that you would feel an array of emotions, and that these emotions may sometimes overlap or change from hour to hour, minute to minute. I want to walk through some of the emotions you may be feeling these days, and to reassure you that these emotions are valid.
Anxiety: Perhaps you are feeling anxious about the future, feeling fearful about your finances and living situation, or worried for your family and friends’ health. It makes sense that you're experiencing anxiety. This virus has torn away our notion of stability and revealed that life can be tenuous. Your anxiety is valid.
Anger: Perhaps you feel angry when you hear about others who aren’t socially distancing. Perhaps you feel angry that you were finally gaining momentum with certain personal or professional goals, and now have to put things on hold. Perhaps you find yourself getting angrier at your partner or family as you spend more time together and feel challenged to find space for your self. Your anger is valid.
Grief: Perhaps you are grieving a trip you had to cancel, your college graduation which will no longer take place, your child’s birthday party you can no longer plan, the fertility treatment that was suspended, your ability to spend time alone, or the ever so painful grief of losing someone you love. There are so many losses associated with this virus. Your grief is valid.
Stress: Perhaps you’re feeling stretched thin, overwhelmed, and scattered by all the tasks you now have to manage. Perhaps you’re working from home while caring for a little one and just can’t figure out how to do everything at the same time, leaving you stressed and burnt out. Your stress is valid.
Relief: Perhaps you feel relieved that you no longer have to take that one hour commute or drop your kids off at daycare. Perhaps you feel you have more time on your hands to care for your well-being because of the extra time afforded to you. Your relief is valid.
Happiness: Perhaps you feel happy to be spending more time with your family. Maybe you are enjoying the change of pace that this situation has offered you. Perhaps you are able to spend more time outdoors and enjoy your time in nature. Your happiness is valid.
Several clients have shared feelings of guilt, especially when experiencing pleasant emotions, like happiness or relief, stating they feel like bad people for feeling any positive emotions in the midst of the Coronavirus. In DBT, we discuss the concept of dialectics, or that several diametrically opposed ideas can be true at the same time. It is possible to feel sadness, compassion, and empathy for the pain our world is currently experiencing AND be able to experience individual feelings of happiness, relief, or joy within your everyday experience. Being able to hold all these ideas as true at the same time can provide significant emotional freedom, and free you up to validate your emotional experiences - moment by moment. If you are experiencing any or all of the emotions described above, know that all these feelings make sense and that it is okay to feel these feelings. You do not have to force them down or wish them away. Sometimes, sitting with an emotion until it passes is the most effective thing you can do, and demonstrates to you that you can tolerate difficult and painful emotions. Sending wishes for your continued health and safety in the meantime.