Feelings are not linear, they are not black and white or all or nothing – we can feel a multitude of feelings of different intensities all at once Written by division E psychologist, Amy Shayle.
When we are stressed or overwhelmed, as so many of us are feeling at the moment, it can feel more difficult to think clearly all the time. In turn, not always having the space in our heads to work out solutions can leave us feeling out of control and overwhelmed, feeding even more into our feelings of stress.
As humans our reaction is to try to regain a sense of control when we feel out of control. We often do this by trying to find certainties and absolutes that we can anchor on to. This can be very helpful, for example making plans ahead of time that we can look forward to, even if it is something as small as planning what you are having for lunch.
Wanting to have a feeling of control is true also of the way we are feeling. It can feel easier, and safer, to focus on one feeling, be that happy, sad, angry, tired or any other feeling in between. When we name that we feel a certain way ‘I feel angry today’ that helps us feel prepared to know what to expect for that day e.g. ‘people are going to annoy me’ ‘I’m going to be shouty today’ . The reality is however that we can feel lots of different feelings at once BUT we don’t always have the space in our heads to plan how to respond to and manage all these feelings.
We know at the moment there is so much to manage and deal with, so much change on a daily basis, so many unknowns about even the next week and this can feel terrifying, daunting, overwhelming and ultimately out of control.
It is likely that it will not feel possible, and may even feel unhelpful, to think about all the different feelings that a time of ‘crisis’ brings up for you. It is important though to remember that we don’t have to feel one feeling all the time to make it valid. It is okay to smile and find laughter within the day and this does not diminish the fact that you are also feeling overwhelm, fear or any other feeling at the moment.
Equally, it is always important to recognise this in others. If they are smiling and laughing for that moment doesn’t automatically mean that they are doing well or wouldn’t like the opportunity to talk.
Checking in even with colleagues that you may have seen laughing and joking is just as important, remembering what we see of others and what they see of us is just a snap shot.
Messages to take away this week:
1. You are not abnormal for feeling the way you do. Your experiences and emotions are yours; they are not right or wrong. If you feel able to take time to notice the different feelings. You don’t have to solve or change how you are feeling, just see it and let it be.
2. Just asking someone ‘how are you doing?’ can be really helpful. Even if someone looks happy this is probably one of the many different feelings that are going on for them at the moment.