Your emotions are probably in survival mode right now. Here’s how to successfully navigate them through a crisis and in your everyday life.

The spread of COVID-19 has created unprecedented, uncertain and uncomfortable times. Everything from school closures to our offices shutting down has dramatically changed our daily lives and shifted our routines. In times like these, our relationship with our emotional system is front and center in our world.  

Understanding our emotional system

We may be experiencing new emotions that make us nervous, uncomfortable and worried about what’s to come. We have to accept that fear is unavoidable – whether it be fear of the virus itself or fear of what the shutdowns mean for our businesses and livelihood. 

But I believe every experience offers a lesson. In this situation, we have an opportunity to improve our emotional intelligence. Basic emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your own emotions, identify the lessons they offer and put those lessons into action. Advanced emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize emotions in other people and move toward harmonious growth. 

During uncertain times, every one of us will have to navigate the “fight, flight or freeze” response triggered within ourselves, our families and our co-workers. Whether you’re in the office or working remotely, every individual in a business – from executives to entry-level employees – is trying to navigate these survival emotions. 

Survival emotions involve our intimate relationship to safety, approval and control triggers. Safety triggers include our personal security, health and financial well-being. Our approval triggers relate to whether we feel love and belonging in our community. Control triggers embody our ability to affect what is happening in our companies and communities. During this crisis, all three are being affected, creating a trifecta of stressors in our system. When activated, these stressors cause our body to secrete stress hormones, which, according to the Cleveland Clinic, “decreases your body’s lymphocytes – the white blood cells that help fight off infection.”

In short, stress and anxiety could literally turn your fears into reality.  

As you work through this challenging time, you must be mindful of your own survival emotions and those of your staff and colleagues, instead of being crippled by fear and anxiety. Here are some tools you can use when your survival emotions take over.