Robert Griffith | 10 July 2024
Robert Griffith
10 July 2024


If it feels like your emotions are all over the place during these troubled times, you are not alone. The stress which came with the Covid pandemic has now been replaced by the stress of our current cost of living crisis, not to mention the bloody conflicts in the middle east and Ukraine.

Stress can also be a good thing. For example, the stress of preparing for the final exam motivates us to study diligently. The stress of getting ready for a speaking engagement or a presentation at work inspires us to rehearse thoroughly. However, the introduction of multiple significant stressors simultaneously can put us in a serious state of distress. Distress often upsets our emotional equilibrium.

Emotions are complex. I find it helpful to think of my emotional flow as a traffic pattern. When we are following a normal routine, our emotions follow familiar roads. For instance, when we arrive at an intersection, there is a traffic light or stop sign that prompts us when to stop and when to go. The intersection entails certain risks, but we feel safe and confident because we are familiar with the pattern and we have a fairly high degree of certainty that others will follow the prescribed prompts.

However, when multiple stressors are suddenly and unexpectedly introduced into our life, our normative emotional traffic patterns are disrupted and often rerouted. Imagine that you are approaching a major intersection of two four-lane highways only to discover that there has been a power outage and the traffic lights are not working.

Every vehicle approaching that intersection is trying to determine who should stop, who should go, and who is next. And because the normal standard (the traffic light) has been removed, chaos ensues until common courtesy is extended and cars proceed to navigate the intersection carefully knowing that though the drivers share the same goal (to get through the intersection), they do not have a mutually agreed upon method for navigating the new dynamics.

Describing a similar change of patterns, Terry Pratchett cautioned, “This isn’t life in the fast lane, it’s life in the oncoming traffic.”

During the recent pandemic, in an effort to flatten the curve and minimize the impact of the covid virus, the preventative measures we all needed to take also created new and significant sources of stress for us. Depending on our individual circumstances, we may have been adjusting to stressors such as working from home, providing childcare at home, loss of job or reduced income, caring for a sick friend or relative, adjusting to economic realities, or loss of contact with your primary social group or community of support.

Based on their level of emotional intelligence (EQ), some individuals can manage one to two significant stressors without throwing their emotional balance into a tailspin. But for most of us, the sudden and simultaneous addition of two to three significant stressors creates a traffic jam in our emotions.

What is the best way for us to navigate the rush hour traffic of our new emotional realities? Here’s a few tips:

> Slow down. Whenever we are navigating unfamiliar territory, we need to travel at a slower pace.

> Anticipate emotional fluctuations. Momentary surges in anxiety, frustration, anger, and melancholy are normal. These will pass.

> Exercise patience. Be patient with yourself as the new normal actually becomes more normal.

> Own your emotions. Discuss your emotional fluctuations with a trusted friend, accountability partner, or counsellor. Verbalizing your emotions may prove to be therapeutic.

> Nurture important relationships. Invest in encouraging others and stay connected to your closest friends.

Become more grounded in your faith. Let your relationship with God, in Christ, serve as an anchor. Emotions are fickle, even when they are held in balance. They can also lie to us and convince us that something is true when it isn’t. On Jesus can provide the truth which sets you free!

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