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4 Action Steps to Manage Emotions During These Uncertain Times

By Lori Jackson and Steve Peck

How are you? It’s a question we are asking each other while navigating through these unpredictable times. For many, it’s harder to stay positive with all the uncertainty and unknowns. It is this state of feeling out of control and overwhelmed that has become our new norm.

So, we got to thinking – how do you stay positive in times of uncertainty and manage emotions when things feel out of control around you?

It’s not easy. But with some simple planning and practice, it’s entirely possible.

The 4 step plan

Step 1: Limit the inflow of information

The most challenging aspect of managing emotions is how to ensure you don’t become emotionally flooded by the 24/7 information overload in our environment. Set a limit on the amount of time you spend on social media, watching TV news programming, and reading the news. While it’s essential to stay connected, it’s also important to realize that you’ve likely reached your “emotional” maximum level well before you think you have. Instead of giving yourself unlimited time, set a limit, and then schedule it around the time you know is available to transition to something else. 

Step 2: Keep an emotions journal

As you may know, we are strong proponents of the importance of emotion management. Being able to identify the situations and events that drive different emotions is critical. On your phone, or in a small notebook, keep track of the emotions that you experience during different situations. Does scrolling through the latest news make you feel anxious? Does thinking about what next year’s school year will look like make you feel worried? Does taking a walk with your dog make you feel happy, confident, calm? You get the picture. 

Step 3: Make the emotions journal active

Once you get used to the idea of the journal, it’s important to make it not just a repository of emotions, but a place to take control of them. This is pretty simple, actually. What are you going to do the next time you feel anxious around reading an article about Covid-19? Can you take a walk? Do a minute of calm breathing? Make a cup of tea? What can you do in the moment you feel the emotion that will help you to manage it? Note this next to the emotion in your journal, so you remind yourself to do it.

This action step is usually the most important and the most difficult part of this plan. We often don’t take the time for ourselves to change our own mood. But if we did, we’d realize it is this very step that keeps us in control during times of stress and uncertainty. 

Step 4: Make it a habit

We don’t always take our own advice; we’ll admit it. We get busy with life, and often the first thing that can get left off is the journal. But it becomes evident when it isn’t in use as the emotions look for a way out and subsequently come out in less desirable ways.

The answer: Make this step as automatic as your morning coffee (or tea), and you’ll avoid the occasional miss. In fact, take two minutes while drinking that hot beverage to note the events and activities for your day; this way, when you’re pressed for time, you’ll have the start to your journal already done. 

As this journal becomes more routine, you’ll realize that it’s worth the few minutes to gain hours of emotional management as with it comes better productivity and a sense of control.

Give it a try and let us know how it goes. We wish you luck!

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