Yale webinars: Using emotional intelligence to combat COVID-19 anxiety

Illustrated collage of people engaging in a variety of healthy behaviors
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Uncertainty and anxiety go hand-in-hand, according to experts at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence (CEI), and that is why the many unknowns about the coronavirus pandemic — when cases will peak, when schools will reopen, when it will be safe to visit loved ones — are creating widespread anxiety. 

But there are strategies that can help people mitigate anxiety as they are social distancing and subject to constant pandemic updates. In a series of webinars beginning March 25, CEI experts will address ways of maintaining emotional health, regulating emotions, and developing resilience using emotional intelligence strategies.

The webinars are:

Ideas for Practice and Play with Emotional Intelligence. Wednesday, March 25, 3 p.m. ET. In this webinar, Robin Stern, associate director, Jessica Hoffmann, director of high school initiatives, and Kathryn Lee, director of RULER for Families — all of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence — will explore ways we can develop our emotional skills together using the Mood Meter, RULER games, and prompts to get everyone talking about their emotions. Register here.

5 Steps to Healthy Emotion Regulation at Home. Thursday, March 26, 2 p.m. ET. In this webinar, Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and Stern will discuss how we can grow our emotion regulation skills, and apply them to a variety of situations that are coming our way. Register here.

Managing Emotions Through Self-Care & Building Resilience. Wednesday, April 1, 3 p.m. ET. In this webinar, Stern and Nikki Elbertson, director of content and communications at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, will explore strategies you can use to care for yourself and build your capacity to cope. Register here.

The new seminars follow a pair focused on addressing anxieties more generally around the coronavirus that the center hosted March 18 and 19 that each attracted 300 registrants within hours of their announcement. View the first webinar here.

A list of tips related to managing anxiety around COVID-19 can also be found on the CEI’s website.

It’s important to remember that anxiety is totally normal,” said Nicole Elbertson, director of content and communications for the CEI, who has designed CEI programming and curricula and who co-led the earlier webinars with Stern, a licensed psychoanalyst. “Anxiety can motivate us to do things to protect ourselves. Of course, it can also paralyze us.” 

Nicole Elbertson
Nicole Elbertson

Stern advises people feeling anxious about the pandemic to practice self-care, to focus on calming themselves before they help others manage their feelings. “You need to check in with yourself first,” Stern said, “to bring yourself to a calmer place so that you can help others. Over time, you’ll discover which strategies are most helpful.” These strategies can include breathing exercises, meditation, limiting news intake, and simply saying “no” to uncomfortable asks.

Routines and habits are important for grounding us, and the disruption of those routines can contribute to day-to-day anxiety, said Stern.

One of the reasons people feel dislocated is that they are home all day long,” she said. “Normally, they grab a coffee on the way to the subway, they ride the subway, they walk into the office and greet people at the desk. Now, they’re not doing any of those things.”

And, adds Elbertson, too much free time can lead to rumination about the crisis, heightening anxiety.

The solution, they said, is to create new schedules to guide daily life, carving out dedicated time for work, free time/play, movement, meals, and meditation as appropriate.

Many people, of course, are managing not only their own anxiety but their children’s anxiety as well, something the CEI experts also address in the webinars.

One thing that is really important is accepting reality — accepting that things may not be smooth and may be stressful for an undetermined amount of time,” said Stern.

Robin Stern
Robin Stern

While parents cannot reassure kids that everything will be back to normal next week, they can share that they are doing everything possible, she said.

At the center, we focus on giving kids skills based on development level,” said Elbertson. “That can help to guide the conversation and how much you share.” 

She added that with her own 9-year-old son, she’s looked for opportunities to highlight positive connections amid the crisis: “I’m promoting gratitude that we are spending more time together, cooking together, and taking walks.”

For many, community connection is key to managing anxiety — and the lack of social interaction during the coronavirus has been particularly hard. “Social support is one pathway to resilience,” Stern said, noting that the enthusiastic response to the webinars is in part due to people seeking “that feeling of belonging.”

This time of self-isolation, she said, is also time to discover “different ways to connect” and to make use of all the digital tools for connection at our disposal.

Through it all, we will find new ways to build resilience, Elbertson and Stern agreed.

We are all learning so much from this,” Elbertson said. “And we will all come out with a different approach based on what we’ve learned.”

Added Stern: “At the CEI, we talk about the ‘hot-air balloon perspective.’ This challenging time will show us how resilient we really are.”

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Part of the In Focus Collection: Yale responds to COVID-19

Media Contact

Fred Mamoun: fred.mamoun@yale.edu, 203-436-2643