emotional toll coronavirus

Why is it so hard to work right now?

Why are we lethargic or manic? 

My theory is that we are operating at about 50% capacity right now. 

We place such a great emphasis on pretending everything is fine, that we are in control. 

In other words, we have this illusion of control.

But coronavirus is spelling out how little control we have. This is the death of not just people, but the old world. The plans we had. 

When I taught three webinars in the last 3 weeks, I checked in with attendees. We had to acknowledge if we were in the fear zone, before we could get into the learning zone. The result? Nonprofit leaders told me they were scared, optimistic, anxious and everything in between. 

In our workplaces, there are acceptable feelings to show and unacceptable feelings to show. Usually happiness, pensiveness or neutrality are the few emotions that are appropriate to show. Unless you ask people, you might never know what they are feeling. And they may never share their anger, fear, rage, sadness, grief, bitterness, and much of the emotional spectrum we are embarrassed or ashamed to share with others. But we are still feeling them, no matter if we try to stuff them down or not. 

What is the emotional toll coronavirus is taking on our state of being, day to day? 

I talked with a therapist recently and asked her what she is generally seeing with her clients right now as we are in crisis mode

Inner Child

First, she told me that everyone’s inner children are coming out right now. People might stay stuck at a certain age when they experienced some trauma. So perhaps you are at age 3 when you felt abandoned by your parents, and you are now physically isolating in your house. Part of you might be feeling back at the age where you first felt abandoned. And that can be hard to cope with if you don’t realize it’s happening. 

Anxiety and Depression

Another thing that happens when we go into crisis mode is that we are swinging from Hypo-arousal to Hyper-arousal. What does that mean? It can look like swinging from depression, boredom, demotivation, or simply no reaction to anxiety, hyperawareness, freaking out and an urge to “do everything at once!” Does that sound like you? If so, you are not alone. 

Why is this happening?  

Because right now our nervous system is continually getting shocked with news about people dying, funding sources being cut, friends losing their jobs, clients getting sick, new routines with work, home, children, and new vigilance required in the outside world. To read more about hypo-arousal and hyper-arousal, go here.

Here are four things you can do right now to be aware of the emotional toll coronavirus is taking: 

  1. Observe what is going on. What feelings are coming through for you? Allow yourself to recognize what the feelings are. If you try to push them down or away they will just come back later. Remember, you are not your feelings. What age do you feel like right now? Do you feel like you are in hyper-or hypo-arousal? 
  2. Feel where this feeling is: Where do you feel this feeling in your body? Is it in your heart? Your stomach? Your throat? What color is it? Can you make a drawing and show where it is in your body? When do you remember feeling this feeling before? 
  3. RECOGNIZE: What age you are at, and what your inner child might need, and offer that. Often we look to others to fulfill our needs, and we feel let down when they do not. But if we step out of codependency, we see that we can fulfill our own needs most of the time. What does your inner 3 year old need to feel safe? Is it a blanket? A cup of hot cocoa? What does your inner 12 year old need?Do they need to draw or dance? What are some things that feel soothing to you? Why not make a list?
  4. Make Space and take a Deep Breath: I was talking with a friend recently who said in a meeting that one of his co-workers was just babbling, and he didn’t even realize he was doing it until about 8 minutes in. I suggested that each time they begin meetings with a deep breath, to help everyone get present, and hopefully calm their nervous systems a little bit. 

Thomas Hubl says, “The nature of trauma is that we are always in a hurry. The idea of not having enough time and not enough space is a trauma symptom.”

Do you feel like you don’t have time to feel right now? That’s a sign you need to stop and feel it because the emotional toll coronavirus is taking is real. Hold space for yourself. Can you take a breath before you get out of bed in the morning? Can you take a deep breath once per hour?  

REMEMBER: We are experiencing this trauma at both a micro and macro, global level. Have compassion for yourself in this moment. No matter what age you feel like. No matter how much you might feel ashamed of freaking out, and want to stuff it down. You are not alone. We are all here with you.  

Mazarine Treyz
Mazarine Treyz is a nationally-recognized strategist for fundraising planning and communications. She is the CEO of Wild Woman Fundraising and the Author of The Wild Woman's Guide to Fundraising, as well as other books. Creator of over 12 e-courses, 3 masterclasses and 3 books, she has coached and taught over 12,000 nonprofit professionals how to be better fundraisers since 2010. Mazarine is the founder of the Fundraising Career Conference and the Nonprofit Leadership Summit.