Feelings Are Not Fact
By Keri Smith Gaylord, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
During this time of high emotion, extreme change and courageous resiliency, I am finding myself repeating the adage that feelings are not facts. As I talk to clients and friends, I have realized that this feeling of uncertainty is nearly universal. COVID 19 and the associated pandemic are real, oftentimes scary, and frequently isolating boogeymen. Protecting ourselves and our families from invisible dangers is exhausting and confusing. It is both expected and logical to experience some grief, anxiety and frustration at the way that this illness is changing all of our lives and turning once well-laid plans upside down. Feelings are not facts however, reminds us that although our feelings are perfectly okay to feel, and even functional in their own right, they are not to be depended upon or believed fully without examination. Reminding ourselves of this truth allows us to take a step back, release ourselves from the captivity of our emotions and make mindful choices about how to proceed.
If I feel sad because I miss seeing my friends in real life, it does not automatically mean that I live a sad life or that I will be sad forever. If I feel worried and disappointed that the plans I carefully made for my baby’s birth (ie: who will be present to support me in person?) are no longer 100% in my control, I must be careful to remember that I can still have a beautiful, meaningful birth experience and have a healthy baby. If I feel agitated and exhausted from the relentlessness of parenting young children while balancing work and family, it is important to keep in mind that my frustration doesn’t impact my value and worth as a Parent or my long-term relationships with those that I love. My worry and disappointment, my anger and frustration, my physical isolation are not guarantees that the worst will happen. They do not suggest that I will be devoid of joy, or that my loneliness will not abate.
Our emotions are valuable guides for our actions and behavior, but they are not all-knowing entities to be blindly followed. Mindful awareness of our emotions allows us to consciously choose when and when not to allow feelings to guide our thoughts and our actions.
The Natural Baby Doulas have given wise counsel over the course of this outbreak of COVID 19. Their recommendations to sleep restfully, eat nutritiously, move regularly and practice mindfulness are sound and based in fact. When we feel as if our world is overtaken by chaos and change, the things we find grounding, that offer structure and order to our days become even more important and foundational. I urge you to heed their advice, and to be conscious of how your thinking is impacting your emotions and actions. Remembering that feelings are not facts will not change the course of this pandemic, but it very well may change the way you respond to it.
Keri is a former doula client and she's a licensed clinical social worker with an all-online practice, where she focuses on helping people (especially parents) who long to feel supported and knowledgeable but feel caught in an echo chamber of conflicting advice and support-with-strings-attached. More information about Keri and her clinical work can be found on her website here.