Emotional phases during the coronavirus pandemic, and what you can do

The coronavirus outbreak has radically changed our sense of security and daily routines. Everyone will experience this trauma uniquely, based on their past experiences and current situations. Even though we are each different, there are predictable emotional phases humans experience in response to crisis. We can use our understanding of these emotional phases to build resilience and give ourselves, and others, grace.

The following information on the emotional phases you may experience during this pandemic is based on research by the NeuroLeadership Institute. Following the review of emotional phases, you will find an overview of additional resources. Remember, what you are feeling right now is normal. Be gentle with yourself and nurture your emotional health as we move through this together.

Phase one: Shock

The experience:

  • You feel numb
  • You can’t think
  • You are volatile and lash out
  • You deny the reality of what is  happening

 

What you can do:

  • Name your feeling, be patient with yourself, and practice self-compassion
  • Use these self-care strategies recommended by Balanced You

 

Phase two: Pain

The experience:

  • You feel confused
  • You feel sadness or grief
  • You can only think in the immediate, not long term or strategically
  • You are exhausted by trying to establish new habits and manage emotions
  • You experience burnout
What you can do:

  • Be realistic about the pain you are experiencing and don’t try to be overly optimistic
  • Use the self-care strategies recommended by Balanced You

 

 

Phase three: New normal
The experience:

  • Your new reality begins to settle in
  • You recover from trauma
  • You adapt to new reality
  • You develop new skills and routines

 

 

 

What you can do:

  • Create new habits and routines to fit your new circumstances. See these tips from Balanced You if you are telecommuting and these tips if you are an emergency responder
  • Develop new skills to adapt to the changing needs of your job
  • Leave time to recuperate each day so you can maintain resilience

Grounding exercises

If you find yourself in a spiral, one quick way to help lower anxiety is by doing a grounding exercise. Here are some examples of grounding exercises:

  • Place a cold cloth to your forehead or hold something cool in your hands.
  • Become mindful of your breath by inhaling while counting to four and exhaling while counting to four.
  • Connect with the senses by naming five things you see, four things you feel, three things you hear, two things that you smell (or like to smell), one thing you taste (or like to taste), and one good thing about today.

Therapy via telehealth

If you meet with a therapist, let them know your concerns about coronavirus. Regence and Kaiser therapists and other healthcare providers can be accessed from the comfort and safety of your home, via telehealth. If you don’t have a therapist and would like one, contact your insurance provider or Making Life Easier.

Making Life Easier and Employee Assistance Program

Making Life Easier (MLE) provides many services, including free counseling and referrals, credit and legal consultations, mortgage assistance, and childcare resources and referrals. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides free counseling to help King County employees navigate workplace stress. Click here for more information.

Mental Health Resource Guide

View this guide for additional King County and community-based mental health support resources.

For questions or for more information, please contact balancedyou@kingcounty.gov.

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