Life After Lockdown: Emotions, personalities, relationships, and more

Life After Lockdown: Emotions, personalities, relationships, and more

Mental health is a topic which is very close to Elana Afrika-Bredenkamp's heart. At a time when we are all locked in (our homes), we also now finally have time to look in (to our minds).

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Elana Afrika-Bredenkamp had an enlightening discussion with clinical psychologist Janine Boulle about how different personalities cope during the lockdown and about how relationships – such as those with our spouses and children – are also affected.

This led us to the topic of mindfulness, a useful tool for everyone both during and after lockdown. Below are Janine’s four steps for practising mindful thinking for our daily emotions:

1. Notice and name the feeling that is emerging for yourself 

Emotions are neurological impulses that are sometimes experienced or felt first in the body as a sensation before we recognise them as emotions and are able to give them a name. At times, we observe and name a single emotion, and at other times we have a group or cluster of emotions that emerge together.

The simple question of ‘What is coming up for me right now?’ can guide this step.

2. Accept and allow

Mindfulness emphasises non-judgement. At this stage, we do not view the emotion as good or bad. A feeling is simply an emotion that emerges. At times we can view behaviours as good or bad, or perhaps helpful or unhelpful. When we become aware of a feeling, we allow it to be. A helpful question is: ‘Can this feeling simply be?’

As we observe and accept, we create a clearing or space in our inner world to allow the feeling to both emerge and diminish in a natural way.

3. Curiosity and closer investigation

We observe and allow, and then we examine the experience more closely. Helpful questions at this stage are, ‘What other feeling am a feeling?’, ‘What do I believe to be true about this feeling?’, and ‘What is the root or primary feeling behind this feeling?’

Unpacking and understanding the feeling is helpful. At times, the beliefs and thoughts we have about a feeling create more pain than the feeling itself. 

For example, if we experience a feeling of jealousy, we can possibly believe that feeling jealous is bad, and then we can feel both jealousy and shame. This can begin a self-critical thought process that leaves us feeling worse than the original feeling of jealousy.

Being mindful of emotion is most effective when we are able to identify the primary feeling.  The primary feeling is the heart or root of the matter. Perhaps the primary feeling behind jealousy is sadness around the experience of neglect. Moving to the next step, we are then able to be with the self that feels sad, and do so in a caring, loving way.

4. Self-compassion and nurturance 

As we care about someone we love who is feeling a difficult feeling, so we aim to care for ourselves. Generally, we will acknowledge the loved one’s feeling. That is, ‘I can see you are feeling sad’, ‘It is normal to feel sad’, ‘I understand and feel for you’, ‘It will be okay’ and ‘I will be here for you’ .

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