Written By Alicia Pace, LPC-I
Right now, there may be a presence of more negative emotions than positive emotions with the distress caused by the recent coronavirus, or COVID-19, and the uncertainty about the future. Since loneliness has increased due to the lack of being able to share proximity with others, connections are now more important than ever.
As a relational program, we focus on creating positive relationships with others to navigate the world and restore personal and relational power – so connection is key.
Anxiety is a product of fear from past experiences and uncertainty about the future; if you are anxious you may not be living fully in the present. Living this way can be challenging when there are many factors out of your control, but creating opportunities to increase mindfulness and live in the present is helpful in managing anxiety.
While people may have a list of “things to do after quarantine” or dwell on “what life was like before quarantine,” another option is deciding how to live throughout quarantine and do things that will increase positive connection and emotions in the here and now.
In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), there is a skill used to increase the experience of feeling positive emotions called “accumulating the positives.” This does not mean that negative emotions don’t exist. Rather, it intentionally focuses on building a “folder” in your mind where these positives are stored.
When there are overwhelming negative emotions, it can be helpful to visit this folder to alleviate some of that distress, at least temporarily. This is part of dialectics in which two things can exist together: negative and positive emotions. Negative emotions should not be invalidated and should be discussed and processed. You can actively visit your folder to decrease how strongly you feel them if they are overpowering. This is can be done in building short-term experiences or long-term experiences.
With the limitations around certain activities and socializing, it is still possible to feel connected to others or identify with others’ positive experiences. The way that you can begin to accumulate positives and create this folder for yourself is to create a list of positive experiences as well. While there are activities or certain options that are not possible right now, there are many creative ways that you can participate in increasing positive emotions and experiences.
Below is a list of examples of short term experiences to create connection and evoke positive emotions, which can lead to long term experiences:
- Creating a book or movie review club with a group of friends and meet via Zoom to have your meetings
- Explore your culture of origin or family history by talking to members of your family from other generations
- Host a virtual anniversary, birthday, dance or karaoke party
- Organize photos from past events that bring you joy and share slideshows with family and friends
- Plan and hold an online clothing/accessory swap via a fashion show
- Sending snail mail to loved ones; use those arts and crafts supplies that have been collecting dust and make someone something special to send
- Visit museums online and discuss your thoughts with peers or those who have the same interests as you
- Watching shows that produce feelings of joy and that can also connect you with something outside of yourself (John Krasinski’s series “Some Good News”)