Emotional overload during the pandemic

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Robert Maurer


Emotional overload during the pandemic

Our emotions at this time can overload us, inducing apathy, lack of concentration and even depriving us of strength. Emotions speak: let's take care of them, now more than ever.

Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.

Last update: 15 November 2021

Pandemic emotional overload is a psychological reality we have to deal with: a tangle of sensations, thoughts and emotions that exhaust us physically and mentally. It is a condition that can easily overwhelm us and intensify if we do not have adequate coping measures.

Carl Jung said that the pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong. It is all the more true in a moment of difficulty and uncertainty like the one we are experiencing.

In these weeks it is completely normal to fall into fear-filtered thoughts. Fear is understandable, but it can cloud reality and erect walls that leave no room for hope.

If we add to this the constant flow of information, data, statistics and uncertainties about the near future, it is easy to swing from a more relaxed attitude to seeing the world through the lens of anxiety. While it's almost predictable to feel in emotional chaos, we need to try to stay in control as much as possible.


Emotional overload during the pandemic: how to recognize it?

Emotional overload during the pandemic can have two sources. The first and most serious may correspond to a traumatic event such as the loss of a family member due to Covid-19. The combination of emotions, pain and the obvious difficulties of grieving in the current circumstances exacerbates this psychological dimension.

It is equally common among healthcare workers who are experiencing the effects of the pandemic at the forefront, between forced shifts and empathy fatigue.

An emotional overload, however, can also be the result of a constant accumulation of small situations. The daily stress, the worries that add up, the days that seem to be all the same can plunge us into an abyss. Let's see what the symptoms are.

Am I suffering from emotional overload?

  • React disproportionately to trivial situations. You may be suffering from emotional overload, for example, if you panic when you return from the supermarket and do not immediately find the keys in the bag.
  • Difficulty concentrating or completing simple tasks.
  • It is difficult to maintain a normal conversation with family or friends. It is as if the rest of the world lives on another frequency making us feel misunderstood and even angry.
  • Emotions are always close to the skin. You feel like crying about anything, you get angry about nonsense; or, on the contrary, constant apathy does not allow you to get distracted, to be interested in anything.
  • Physical exhaustion, so intense that you think you are sick with Covid.

How to manage the effects of emotional overload in the current context?

Emotional overload warns us clearly: our emotions speak and require attention. The goal, therefore, is not to dispel the emotional fog by denying reality or with a logical approach (I have to stay focused and control myself, otherwise I go out of my mind).

This is no time to be hard on ourselves. Emotions give meaning to experience, are the heritage of human nature and must be integrated through acceptance. Only in this way will we be able to navigate this complicated sea better.

Accept and give space to every emotion

Don't turn your back on this emotional confusion, don't blame yourself. Visualize it as a skein made up of threads of many colors. The work is to separate them, to recognize them, to give them a name. What is this feeling? Sadness, anguish, fear, frustration, nostalgia...

Give space to all feelings and accept yourself without criticism for how you feel. These emotions take time to dialogue with them, with compassion.

Be aware of emotional reasoning

One of the reasons the pandemic is causing an emotional overload is the emotional reasoning that follows everything we hear, see or think.

  • If at every data or figure of the contagion you tell yourself that there is no way out, which will get worse and worse, you are processing reality through the most negative emotions. It is an attitude that must be kept under control.
  • If you keep repeating phrases like "I have too much anxiety, I can't take it anymore", you give excessive force to the emotional brain, to the amygdala that anticipates risks and dangers.
  • Escape the power of this emotional filter: reduce it. Stand in front of the door of your thoughts, become guardians. Freeze the way to ideas and verbalizations that worsen the vision of things and of yourself.

Moments of disconnection, spaces of calm

We can all experience emotional overload these days; here, then, is a kit of small tips for daily survival.

  • Regulate your exposure to information.
  • Keep a notebook of emotions and thoughts. A logbook in which you can get in touch with your inner universe.
  • Indulge in moments of calm, diving into pleasant activities, those in which thought rests and positive emotions flow.
  • Talk to people who can listen to you. People who add and not subtract.
  • Imagine your mind as a room. It must be in order, light must enter from every angle. Do not leave dark areas, where emotions remain trapped or hidden.

Finally, in complicated situations like this it's always good avoid anticipating the worst in an attempt not to be caught unprepared. This formula doesn't work. It only serves to increase anxiety and increase overload.

In this circumstance, there is an ingredient that must support our days, hope. Let's work on this idea.

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