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The Impact of our emotions in a tough reality

April 16, 2020

Day after day we get reports about new cases of infection and deaths, we've been forced to leave behind our daily routines and to rethink our relationship with our loved ones and not only. Something unimaginable a few months ago is here and it's taking a toll on all of us.

During such times, it is very important to remain informed and to take care of your wellbeing. Because we think that the best strategy is to get your information from a specialist, we asked a few questions and recommendations from Oana Danila, a lecturer at UAIC - Department of Psychology and Education Sciences, trainer and emotions focused psychotherapist.

Let’s see how it went:

  1. From your point of view, what are the top psychological and emotional effects of this pandemic that we are facing right now?

One must accept that this is a period of collective trauma (like warzones, tough economic restraints associated with other events, forced labor camps, etc). As such, as Jennifer Yeager (trauma specialist) recently pinpointed, we all must understand that:

  • In trauma, parts of the brain SHUT DOWN in order for us to survive; as a consequence, we will not retain details, we will numb more frequently, and face the risk of re-experiencing later some of the events happening these days;
  • While exposed to trauma, one cannot fully process most of what is going on; there is a great chance that we will have to return to this later in our lives;
  • Using more the strategy of numbing, having trouble with being in touch with emotions, is common, especially if you were already exposed to trauma in your life (violence, poverty, etc.);
  • Some of us can act more HYPERVIGILANT or anxious, while others turn to hypoactivation which can lead to DEPRESSION; neither should become a source of worry if it is intermittent – this is how we cope with high stress;

Due to all the above, less productivity and overall functioning are justified; slowly lowering expectations and taking small steps towards recovery while being kind to ourselves and the others is crucial!

Further readings: Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine

   2. Can isolation produce some distancing in your relationship whether we are speaking in terms of friendship or amorous relationship? What are the consequences of isolation in terms of friendship or amorous relationship?

Isolation is a tough challenge for the brain as it brings to our attention on of the most painful realities- the pressure of loneliness even if it is not doubled by solitude. Conflicts can be higher to tolerate, and escalations are normal to appear more frequently. Acknowledging that we are less efficient in managing emotions, asking kindly to postpone some of the discussions, starting them from the clear statement: WE AGREE TO DISAGREE, but it is not our purpose to find a common solution, but rather to be able to share whatever goes through our minds (as irrational as it might sound) are all crucial adjustment that we need to make during this period in order to minimize the tensions in our close relationships. Finally, it will be a matter of growing our skills of mending the broken parts of our relationships after this period, saying sorry and being willing to repair.

   3. In the long term how do you think we will change emotionally and in terms of everyday life.

Each of us will make sense of this period accordingly to their values and upbringing; it is not my opinion that we should adhere to a single lesson, but, instead, stay truthful to our experience and derive the best we can from it.

   4. For more than a month we shifted our way of working (all of us are working from home). What is your advice to keep the same level of commitment, productivity and our relationships with our colleagues?

Fluctuations in productivity, commitment and engagement are common in highly stressful contexts, no matter the level of education, emotional maturity, gender or culture. Adjusting expectations is crucial – each should be honest in self-assessing the decrease and make a plan to catch up by periodically incrementing/ re-boosting his efficacy (I can be attentive less than 30 minutes – ok; for the first 7 days increase this by 5 minutes; help yourself stay focused for at least 35 minutes and then increase again).

As for staying in touch with colleagues, this can fluctuate as well – there can be days when you miss being in the office and having a break while having a coffee (virtual meetings can be organized for this sole purpose), but as well days when there is less desire to keep in touch when one can honestly let the others know that he is having a rougher time. 

   5. What is the best way to give mental and emotional support to others? Especially if the person started to become anxious.

Emotional validation is crucial – I can see you are scared, I can relate to thee reasons that can nowadays make you more scared than other times, I stay here with you as much as you need.

Our traumatized brain needs to express whatever emotions and when doing so need to have the” guarantee” of non-judgmental criticism, of being left to agonize in solitude. It is as if, one by one, people fall in these huge emotional wholes and need to know that those close to them (lovers, relatives, friends, colleagues) are there, at the edge of the whole, waiting patiently for them to come back up, in their own rhythm.

 Further readings: Nonviolent communication, Marshall Rosenberg

   6. What is one advice that nobody talked about but everyone should be following?

Accept you're vulnerable – this is not the easiest, nor the nicest; ”fighting” it will make you numb sometimes, try to make things perfect (like extra buying food and toilet paper😊), pretend sometimes that what you do will not impact others (what if I go out a bit – I am not infected, it won’t hurt anybody) or try to make things certain when they are the most uncertain. All these are bound to happen, but we need to be aware of them, stop them from gaining control and allow us to be vulnerable while accepting that what makes us vulnerable makes as courageous, grateful and valuable.

Further reading: The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connections and Courage, Brené Brown

   7.We didn’t ask but you would like to say….

Work as much as possible from a place inside of you where you trust you are enough as you are today and you will keep on getting better and this will make you faster improve than spending time criticizing yourself for all that you do not and are not! 

 

Don't forget that this, like all the things in life, will follow their path, and now, more than ever, we should be supportive with each other. If you feel that stress or anxiety is impacting your everyday life, we encourage you to have a talk with a specialist, it might be able to help.

                           Be kind to you!

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