Imagine for a moment that it’s a typical day in the “Before” times, when the concept of COVID-19 didn’t yet exist in all our minds. Let’s say it’s one of those crummy days that you can’t wait to end. Maybe the “check engine” light comes on in your car, you have back-to-back meetings all day and a recent fight with a relative is constantly your mind.  Your emotions are being pulled many directions.

By 5:00 on a day like that, you would probably be exhausted, irritated and frustrated. Worrying about the cost of the car repairs might have you feeling anxious. You’d still be stewing over what was said during the fight. In a pre-coronavirus world, what would you do to get some relief? To manage all those difficult emotions and reach a place where you felt some peace by bedtime?  

We all have different strategies for releasing steam on tough days, by doing things like:

  • Go to the gym
  • Attend a yoga class
  • Meet a friend for coffee or a drink
  • Zone out at the movies
  • Hug an old friend
  • Go to a game
  • Get a pedicure
  • Window shop
  • Go to a museum
  • And, of course, sack out on your couch with Netflix or a book

Practically overnight, all of those options that don’t include your couch went away. At a time when life became more stressful than ever, many of us lost our preferred stress relief strategies. So if you’re struggling to manage your emotions these days, who could blame you? 

Right Now, Emotion Management = Time Management 

Even if you haven’t seen “A League of Their Own,” you’ve probably heard Tom Hanks’ famous line from that movie: “There’s no crying in baseball!” It’s an old-school idea at this point, though there are certainly plenty of professionals who believe that emotions have no business in the workplace.  

But as we’re all now being reminded every day, emotions and productivity are completely intertwined. Giving your full focus to your work is impossible when you’re anxious, angry, hurt or grieving. Effective time management is especially challenging when you’re emotional. Right now, when we’re all on an emotional rollercoaster all day, a lot of us are naturally struggling with productivity and time management.

Managing those tough emotions, instead of letting them control your day, is the key to getting past them and regaining your focus. 

So what can you do? 

  • First, I want you to notice the emotions that are getting in the way of your productivity. If you’re sitting at your desk staring into space instead of answering emails, what’s the emotion that’s coming up there? Name it and acknowledge it instead of trying to ignore or push past that feeling. 
  • Next, ask yourself: In the past, what has worked for me in terms of managing that emotion?  

Let’s say you’re really struggling to focus on a task because you just read a news report about a political decision you disagree with. Instead of stewing at your desk and getting more agitated, close your eyes and ask what emotions that report brought up for you. Maybe you realize you’re primarily feeling frustrated and angry.  

In the past, what has worked for you for managing anger? And how can you amend that strategy to work for you during lockdown? If the answer is “lift heavy weights at the gym,” are there any quick weight-training exercises you can do at home? Or, if you would normally manage anger by venting to a particular coworker, can you shoot that person an email or schedule a quick call to release some of that tension?  

The idea here is to figure out what has worked well in the past so you can build on it now. Your go-to emotional management strategies may not be available right now, but getting clear about what they are allows you to find some modifications that will work during lockdown.  

Finally, I want to urge you to lean into support.

We need connection with one another more than ever. Reach out to friends, family members and coworkers whenever you need them without hesitation. They’re all on the same emotional roller-coaster you’re on and may need that personal connection just as much as you do.  

And count me as one of your sources of support. I’m always here, and I want to help you however I can. Please reach out. We’ll get through this together.  

Be well,  

Sarah 

Sarah Reiff-Hekking
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