May 20, 2020

Counseling Services

How to Support Them During COVID-19 to Thrive 


What are emotions?

Emotions are psychological states comprised of thoughts, feelings, physiological changes, expressive behaviors, and inclinations to act.


What is the purpose of emotions?

Some emotions are considered primary emotions that we are innately born to experience. Other emotions are considered secondary, or are learned through experience. As humans, our emotions have an evolutionary basis, purpose, and we are so lucky to have them!

  • Protective, life-preserving, and life-enhancing
  • Communicate to and influence others
  • Organize and motivate action
  • Self-validating, give us information
  • Shape meaning-making


Did you know that there are 2 types of emotions?
Approach and Avoidance Emotions

Approach emotions feel nice and we want to lean into them.

Joy, Love, Pride


Avoidance emotions are often difficult to endure and give us a sense of wanting to move away from the someone or something that is making us feel that way.

 Fear, Anger, Sadness


Approach Emotions
Suggestions how to increase them


[happiness, pleasure, play, fun]

Experiences that are pleasurable. Positive touch and holding.

  • Practice smiling on purpose.
  • Live in the present moment. Slow down and enjoy simple pleasures.
  • Make time for play. Be like a kid. Connect with what you enjoyed doing as a child.
  • Practice “The Inner Smile Meditation” (free versions can be found on YouTube).
  • Cultivate healthy relationships. Surround yourself with people who are healthy, encouraging, and optimistic.



[curiosity, interest, excitement]

Leads to learning, entertainment, and stimulation.

  • Change up your routine. Brush your teeth with the opposite hand. Take a different way to work.
  • Make a “Life List” or “Bucket List” and commit to crossing these items off your list.
  • Travel whether it be to local park or to a new restaurant near home for take away.
  • Take a class and learn something new.
  • Join a new social group to meet new people. Many places are offering virtual groups during this time.



[concern, like, adored, nurturance, love]

Makes us feel cared for or want to care for others or things. We feel important, connected, and secure.

  • Grow something. Plant a garden. Nurture houseplants.
  • Get a pet. Or spend extra special time with your pet.
  • Truly listen to and validate your friends and family. Ask for full attention and presence when speaking with people important to you.
  • Be patient with yourself and practice self-compassion and kindness.
  • Listen to music you enjoy.



[pleased, proud, arrogant]

When we do something that takes effort and turns out well. Gives us energy.

  • Practice random acts of kindness. Make a goal to do one a day.
  • When faced with difficult decisions or conflict think: How can I respond in this situation so that I feel proud of my behavior?
  • If you do something you are not proud of, be accountable for it, and make amends.
  • Become a morning person! Being an early riser is a quality many successful people have.
  • Practice being appreciative.



[thankful, recognition, appreciation, respect]

A sense of appreciation. Research shows gratitude increases physical and psychological health including happiness, mood, and life satisfaction, decreases materialism, mitigates burnout, improves sleep, social relationships, and workplace climate, and leads to less cellular inflammation.

  • Journal
  • Gratitude Letters: Send notes or message to those you appreciate.
  • 3 Good Things: List daily and state the causes
  • Experiential Consumption: Invest in experiences rather than in possessions
  • Death Reflection: Contemplate what you’ll miss when gone



Avoidance Emotions
Suggestions on what to do with them

Emotions are energy in the body therefore they are always moving and shifting. Trust and know that this too will pass. As best as you can, allow and honor your emotions. Be curious and watch how they change.



[concern, vulnerable, worry, anxiety, scared, stress, panic, afraid, terror]

Lets us know danger is present whether real or perceived. Triggers our innate flight, fight, freeze, or faint response to keep us safe.  

  • Name It to Tame It! Being able to label our emotions calms our nervous systems.
  • Orientate to your physical surroundings. Look around in your space, above, below, and behind and notice what you notice.
  • Practice Grounding: Place your bare feet on the ground and noticing the earth pulling your body down, supporting you.
  • Practice deep belly breathing. In through your nose and a longer exhale out through your mouth.
  • Shift your worries into hopes, blessings, and prayers. Rather than” I’m worried about my mom getting coronavirus” instead say “I wish for my mom to be healthy and strong.” 



[annoyance, irritation, frustration, mad, hatred, rage]

Protects us from being harmed or hurt. Motivates action. Gives us the energy needed to fight or flee.

  • Anger Thermometer + Deep Breathing: Identify how “hot” your anger is between annoyance to rage, begin taking deep breathes and imagine your temperature dropping with each exhale.
  • Identify the Anger Trigger: What happened that lead to you feeling angry? What emotion did you feel right before the anger set in?
  • Safely Release: Draw a picture of what or who you’re upset about and then tear it up, crumble it, or destroy it in some way.
  • Sit with your anger. Notice your anger and the body sensations that come with it. Try to relax and sit with it until it begins to shift.
  • In private, make sounds that express your anger.



[disappointment, grief, anguish, loneliness, hurt, despair, hopelessness]

Lets us know we have lost something or someone important to us or that we need help and no one is there.

  • Identify what you are feeling and the cause of it.
  • Ask Yourself: What is this (emotion) trying to tell me?
  • Comfort: Give yourself a self-hug, ask someone you trust to hold you, or do anything else that brings you comfort such as a warm cup of tea or wrap yourself in a comfy blanket.
  • Talk your grief on a walk. Notice how or if it changes.
  • Create some sort of art that gives your sadness shape and texture.



[humiliation, rejected, insignificant]

I feel bad about who I am in relationship to others. Protects us from doing harm. Lets us know that a boundary has been crossed, dignity has been compromised. It’s the sense that we’re flawed, defective, unwanted, or not good enough in some way.

  • Practice Healthy Boundaries: If someone has harmed you, use your voice to express how you feel and make a request of what you need to move forward. If you have harmed someone, apologize and try to make amends.
  • If triggered into shame, think about what your child self would want from your adult self to feel reassured.
  • Do not blame others for how you feel or allow others to blame you.
  • Think of a mantra or positive affirmation to repeat over and over such as “I am good enough, I am capable.”
  • Identify 5 qualities you have that you know other people admire in you.



[regret, remorse]

I feel bad about what I did, not who I am. Tells us we have made a mistake.

  • Identify if the guilt feelings are connected to your needs or the needs of someone else. Are your boundaries being crossed?
  • Be Accountable: Admit to what you have done wrong and make amends.
  • Put yourself and your needs first!
  • Give yourself permission to say no.
  • Journal: Who did you learn about guilt from?


Remember, this situation is temporary. Take it day-by-day. The Counseling & Therapy team at FamilyMeans is here to support you via tele-therapy. FamilyMeans is following the recommendations of the CDC and local authorities to maintain safety. Please join us in following those recommendations. For more information, or to set-up an appointment contact us at 651-439-4840!


We are all in this together!


Written by Cori Hildebrandt, MA, LPC, LPCC