Coronavirus talks: Which (emotional) phase are you at right now?
Here we are, all together, in the midst of a worldwide threat, trying to keep our head above water; trying not to panic and, at the same time, trying to be as well-informed as possible.
For the first time after many decades we are dealing – on a massive level – with an invisible enemy: a virus no one knows how to extinguish. And an isolation without a deadline.
How do we feel? Our feelings are on an overwhelming rollercoaster, and we go through many phases through that period. Let’s take a look at them.
Of course, no one was expecting this pandemic. The size of this new phenomenon is inconceivable. We are in shock. “No, no, maybe it’s a joke” we think, because we just can’t believe it.
And it’s okay to be shocked.
Some of us, whether shocked or not, also don’t want to believe that this is actually happening. Maybe we think that people are overreacting, or that the news is fake; maybe it’s a conspiracy theory, or maybe all of this will be gone by tomorrow.
This is understandable. This is quite a normal emotional reaction and is our body’s way to cope with something new, huge and difficult to understand. In such a scenario, we want to process every bit of information piece by piece. That’s why we need to be in denial first, and when we are ready, we can start accepting it slowly and gradually.
And it’s okay to be in denial.
Fear is what we feel when faced with the unknown. This is because our brain, not having prepared for this situation, panics. We then start to imagine the worst-case scenarios, which causes us to feel as if we don’t have any control over our lives anymore. This kind of uncertainty is an overwhelming reality for the human brain to handle.
Another fear we have is one of dying. We are afraid of ourselves getting sick and dying, of a loved one dying, or of people around us dying; but we are also afraid of the lonely death. Even the idea that a family member might get sick and we might not be able to visit them in the hospital is terrifying. We are ALL scared of that.
And it’s okay to be scared.
All the things we liked are gone. We have to stay at home and obey rules that deprive us of important things in our life. We miss our friends, our activities, our freedom and the life we had before. “Why is this happening?”, “When is this going to end?”, “Why does everyone buy toilet paper?”, “Can we all go five minutes without mentioning corona?”, “Why do we need to do homeschooling?”, “Why can’t we just go back to normal?”. We are just so frustrated with this new situation.
And it’s ok to be angry.
Our primitive minds tell us something bad is about to happen, but we don’t know what it is; we hear about it all around us, but we can’t see it. We don’t know exactly how it started and we definitely don’t know how and when it will end.
We don’t know what the consequences will be in our life, or what the state of humanity will be at the end of this crisis. “Can someone give some clear answers here?” It’s all so complicated, and this vagueness and uncertainty confuses us.
And it’s okay to be confused.
Feeling sad implies that there is a feeling of disappointment and loss in our lives. We are grieving for all the losses that we're experiencing right now due to this worldwide crisis: the loss of our jobs (temporarily), the loss of our freedom, the loss of our routine, the loss of having many options in our lives (now replaced by just a few), the loss of our health and the loss of our safety. Suddenly, there is a big wave of sadness splashing over us, and the only thing we want is to go to bed and wake up when all of this is gone.
And it’s okay to be sad.
Sometimes, the feeling of hopelessness and helplessness accompany the feeling of sadness. We then no longer see any light at the end of the tunnel. We feel as if there is no point in trying to do anything anymore about this situation because nothing can change it.
“Why bother doing the right thing, since we will all die one day?” We use the words “nothing”, “never”, “no one” quite often and we see our future through a pessimistic perspective, where humanity is doomed to fail.
And it’s okay to be hopeless.
There are also many of us who see the positive side of this corona-isolation. “Finally some time for myself!”. At this phase, instead of focusing on the losses, we look instead at the gains: we gain some extra time in the morning before we start work, we get to spend more time with our partner, our lunch break is at the park and not at the cafeteria, we enjoy more time with our hobbies, and generally we have decided to do all those activities that we never had time to do before. What a gift in disguise!
And it’s okay to feel relieved.
Accepting the situation as it is right now is one step further. We are no longer challenging the reality of the “corona-monster”, we are no longer in denial; we are accepting it. We feel sad and upset, but at the same time, we are adjusting.
We are not allowing this situation to stop us from living life and enjoying the little things. We take care of ourselves and others, we stop blaming each other or feeling terrified, we limit our exposure to the news, and we finally start believing that eventually, it will be okay.
And it’s okay to be accepting.
Viktor Frankl once said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”This means we can choose how we behave, feel and think in a challenging situation, and nothing can take that freedom away from us. And here we choose hope.
We choose to see all the heroes around us who sacrifice their own health in order to protect us. The volunteers who offer to deliver goods and groceries to the elderly and the lonely. The teachers who prepare online lessons for their students. The parents who try to juggle work, children, school, home and their own relationships. We are all doing our best. And sooner or later this will be over.
And it’s okay to be hopeful.
All the above-mentioned feelings are not phases that you go through in a linear way. You can “visit” them in your own order and pace. Every person is unique in how they are processing their feelings. And that’s okay too.