My daily “emotional education” series is designed to offer guidance to those feeling strain during this time of COVID-19, to prevail over their emotional blocks and irritations, and to live fully content, rationally mindful and genuinely gratified. Today’s column, my 30th in this run, focuses on principles of living rationally, wisely and emotionally well through these times that are leaving many on edge, stretched far too thin, cranky, and irritable. Understandable certainly, but not at all necessary. 

Albert Ellis, Ph.D. believed that when we cultivate our ability to live by “rational principles,” we will likely experience positive emotions and satisfaction of our life’s goals.

We have a choice. If we choose to live with irrational thinking governing our lives, with high negative emotionality, dogmatic, rigid beliefs, we are in a very real sense, electing to suffer. We irrationally think about adversities by expressing our preferences and desires, our hopes and wishes, as demands, shoulds, commands, and musts. “Because I want to be able to socialize freely and get back to work and return to my gym, I MUST be able to!” Said simply, irrationally believing, “I SHOULD have what I want, and OUGHT NOT have what I don’t want!” engenders self-disturbance.

On the other hand rational potentialities, with its associated pleasure, cheerfulness and joy, and the absence of negative emotions, is anchored in a very different set of beliefs. These are best described as “preferential” desires, in which, sure we’d like things to be different, but we simply acknowledge reality while refraining from thinking that just because we’d desire life to be different now, it doesn’t HAVE TO be. When you abandon demanding that life be different, you’re more likely to take steps to achieve what you hope and wish for. 

By discovering healthy approaches to promote your self-interest, social interest, and self-direction, by expanding your self- and other-acceptance and amplifying your short and long-range hedonism, while pursuing creative, absorbing activities and finding comfort in taking some risks, you will live far more fulfilled, more content and more easygoing during these challenging times. Add to this, increasing your frustration tolerance and fostering more open-minded flexibility in solving inevitable daily problems, and you’ve got the complete recipe for staying cool under pressure.

Above all, regardless of the hardships you are currently experiencing, be a bit more involved in helping another live with more ease, alleviate another’s discomfort, at the very least, make a more concerted effort to smile during this crisis. Your sense of fulfillment will soar.

Want to read more on this? I suggest How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable about Anything, Yes Anything!, by Albert Ellis, Ph.D. and Rationality and the Pursuit of Happiness: The Legacy of Albert Ellis, by Michael E. Bernard