• Relay Resources

A rollercoaster of emotions during COVID-19

Updated: May 13, 2020

Does anyone else feel like they have been on a roller coaster of emotions since COVID-19 started? Feel exhausted and tired?

COVID-19 triggers a stress response for just about everyone. You may feel one dominant emotion — like worry, fear, or sadness — but also cycle through many others, including boredom, gratitude, guilt, or shame. All these feelings are normal, no matter how they show up.

If you’re feeling like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster because of COVID-19, you’re not alone. Here is why this experience is so common right now:

We don’t know what survival response to pick

Most people are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic as a threat. As a result, your fight-flight-freeze response gets triggered. Renee Fabian wrote for The Mighty about "5 Reasons COVID-19 Makes Your Emotions Feel Out Of Control." Since your system doesn’t have experience with all the unique threats of a pandemic, you may be cycling through fight, flight, and freeze as your survival instincts try to help you best respond. It cycles through fight. If that doesn’t work it will try flight. When there is nothing to fight and we can’t flee from this pandemic, our survival system kicks on and chooses freeze. We can feel freeze as depression, numbness, hopelessness, shame, or feeling trapped. This cycle feels like a rollercoaster and that rollercoaster is exhausting. If you add on past trauma histories or pre-existing mental health issues, your experience of this threat could be even more extreme.

I was listening to Brene’ Brown’s podcast called “Unlocking Us.” In her episode, "Comparative Suffering, the 50/50 Myth, and Settling the Ball," Brene talks about how we have collectively hit exhaustion. This is especially true for people on the front-line, and also for the people who love and support them which is all of us at Relay. She talks about how the adrenaline surge we get during a typical crisis or disaster helps us make it through. During earthquakes or fires, everyone comes together, it is a sprint and we are fueled by getting it done and how to help others. This is similar to COVID-19 but it is not going to be a crisis like a sprint as we see with these other disasters, COVID-19 is going to be more like a marathon, Brene’ says:

For us to make it through this marathon it is essential we start identifying resources that we know can help us build sustainable resilience. Remember resilience is not the idea that we don’t feel these emotions, it’s the ability to feel the effects of trauma/stress and get ourselves back to connection/safety mode... and to do that we need tools on hand to help us. - Brene Brown

Check out this helpful Building Resilience Toolkit to help you identify the resources, activities, and mindfulness techniques that can help you to manage these normal feelings back to that safe mode.


Cultivating Resilience is a twice-weekly video conference series curated by Relay Resources Learning & Development Manager, Jonathan Cresson. The series was started during COVID-19 to allow employees time for sharing and provide them with a new tool or technique to help focus on resilience while managing the overwhelming emotions they may be feeling. This blog series captures the topics covered.

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