Consciously Working With Feelings in Times of Upheaval


“We plan, God laughs.” – Yiddish Proverb

A lot of us are at home right now. Many of us have lost jobs. Some of us are ill, recovering from illness, or have loved ones who are ill or at risk. 

No one planned for this situation. 

Many of us are experiencing fear along with a whole host of other emotions, including disappointment or a sense of instability due to a change of our plans and not knowing what the future holds. 

We never truly know what the future holds and life is always uncertain, but our society is experiencing considerable disruption to what we’ve come to think of as “normal”, which can make it especially tricky to make any sort of plans for the future. 

Our finances might be different. We may be celebrating holidays and birthdays differently. Trips and outings may be canceled.

Most of all, our day-to-day feelings have changed because of the extreme situation we are experiencing.

Here are some ways to approach these emotions with consciousness and find a sense of equanimity amid the disruption. 


Consciously Working With Feelings in Times of Upheaval


Plans are just ideas, not guarantees

Right now, we are challenged by many, many changes in our plans because the world around us is changing so rapidly as we scramble to contain this virus. Expectations we might have had for this year are not being met. 

Now (and always), it can be helpful to remember that plans are just ideas, but we mistake our plans for realities. We may expect something to happen a certain way, and feel disappointed when it doesn’t come to pass. 

We go through life assuming that there’s a tomorrow. Usually, we plan for the future, which makes sense, because we want an idea of where we’re going. 

Now more than ever, we have no idea what the future holds. None of us planned on this. We do not know what this virus will do or how we will be affected in the future. We don’t know the full extent of the economic, emotional, political, and social impact of this pandemic. And we don’t know when it will be safe to go out and live life more “normally.” 


Allow for expanded perspective

What we considered “normal” has changed very rapidly. We’re living in uncharted territory, and will be for a while. There is no such thing as normal. We have an illusion that our lives are predictable and under control.

For example, at this time of year, many of us celebrated Easter, Passover, or Ramadan, and those celebrations looked different this year. We might have missed having our family together to celebrate. If we typically attended religious services, those were conducted virtually. And let’s face it, it’s just not the same.

Resist as we might, the current circumstances aren’t under our control. Resistance is futile. 

More than ever, this is a time for us to adopt an “attitude of gratitude.” We might want to think about all the other people who don’t have the homes, the food, or the family that we may have. That’s their norm. 

This gives us a teeny idea of what it’s like to live a less entitled life and helps us expand our perspective. 


Be open to whatever feelings show up

You may be experiencing a whole kaleidoscope of emotions right now, and some of them may not be what you expected. 

Maybe you expected to feel sad during this time, but instead, you feel angry. Maybe you expected to feel lonely, but actually feel connected and united with everyone else. (We are in this together, after all.) 

Expectations about feelings are as futile as expectations about what’s going to happen on any given day. We don’t know what will happen and we don’t know how we’ll feel. 

Allow for the feelings and be gentle with yourself. Be compassionate. I’m not suggesting that you dwell on your feelings, but to feel the feeling and let it go. This is easier said than done. This is where spiritual practice and skills come into play.

We might feel sad one moment and then laugh at our cat for doing something silly in the next moment, then feel restless, then feel something else entirely. 

We have feelings all day, and those feelings are there to inform you of what you’re thinking and if there’s anything you need in that moment.

If you’re hungry, your stomach tells you you’re hungry. If you’re restless, maybe your body is asking for exercise. If you’re sad, maybe it’s time to pay attention to what you feel like you’re missing and soothe that part of yourself. 


Don’t fight reality. Reality will always win. 

The bottom line is this: life is what’s happening right now. Though many events have been canceled, our lives are not on pause. Our lives are continuing through this global disruption, and we can choose to be mindful and live in the moment or to fight against this new reality and remain stressed out, fearful, and angry. 

No one expected this. Life is turning out differently than we planned, and it may continue to be different in ways we can’t even conceive of. Things may reconstruct in a way we didn’t imagine. 

It is what we call life. This is how life has always been.

There’s no “right” way to go through this. I’m suggesting consciousness practices to help you cope, but be aware that whatever you’re feeling is valid. There is no way to fail at this. 

Be gentle and compassionate with yourself and expect that your emotions may be all over the place for the foreseeable future. You are not alone. Everyone is going through this right now.


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