The Corona Situation: our emotional rollercoaster

by Juliane Wisata; republishing content with permission from Michaela Brugger (c)

I see a lot of angry people in Australia right now – we returned from Austria two weeks ago yesterday and I haven’t been out of the house yet, bar for one run by myself. Yet on the few times I dare to open my social media accounts I can see the anger and a lot of people on the wild rollercoaster of emotions in this situation of crisis. Being confused, being angry, some still being in denial and some dealing with the situation in their own ways… like me, I guess.

What helped me a lot was an article written by one of my dearest and closest friends from university published in early March – Michaela Brugger is an Italian living in Tyrol in Austria. Both some of the areas in Europe affected by the coronavirus the most. With a career as an executive in corporate marketing and distribution like me, she has now become a psychologist and mental coach and has been working as a corporate consultant for the past four years.

With her permission, I would like to share her article “The emotional rollercoaster of the Corona situation” with you in the hope that it will help and explain some of the feelings you and we and the people around us go through. I translated it from German for you, because I think this is really important. Michaela talks about the individual phases how people are dealing with crisis situations and compares it to a rollercoaster and the phases with its carts. There is a really amazing graph below that illustrates that rollercoaster and its carts. I keep looking at every day myself and I added a few links, which might be relevant for us Australians too. – Comment below with your experiences, if you want!

Here we go:

What’s happening to us right now? Why are we reacting that way? And how can you actively react to it?

Here are psychological facts combined with helpful tips and suggestions, how you can deal with the current coronavirus situation well.

Currently the media literally bombards us with new information and we have become unable to cope with it all. We don’t know what’s happening to us right now. With this article I want to offer some help:

  • To understand, what is happening to us/you right now
  • What you can do

We humans react to a change or news like the coronavirus in individual emotional phases. This phase model was developed by Elisabeth Kübler Ross (1926-2004). She was a Swiss-US-American psychiatrist who has become known for her research into the reactions by people to extreme change, like death for instance.

What do these phases look like?

⏳ Phase 1: Premonition

In the beginning most of the time there is this negative premonition, which all of a sudden becomes reality. The result first of all is a state of shock which can vary in intensity. This happened already in January/February when the first corona-infection cases people were recorded outside of Asia and in Europe and when the first news broke about the high cases in countries like Italy.

⏳ Phase 2: Shock

At first we can’t or don’t even want to believe the bad news or change. Emotionally we sometimes even react like we are paralised:

  • Sitting in front of the TV all evening, watching one horror news story after the other.
  • Or the reaction when we received the directives about the ‘Stay at Home’ and ‘Social Distancing’ measures, “That can’t be true!”
  • Hasty and impulsive actions: the hoarding of supplies, all shelves are empty, insane amounts of toilet paper is purchased.

⏳ Phase 3: Defence, anger, denial

This is the classic defense mechanism and we are desperately trying to avoid any change to our way of living, to force everything to stay as it is.

  • We try to find someone to blame, “That’s not true. They are all exaggerating. That doesn’t concern me.”
  • We ignore warnings of the medical experts.
  • We believe fake news or follow those ‘experts’ who tell us what we want to hear: “It’s just a normal flu, the statistics are normal for a virus, this is all just panic-driven.”
  • We avoid the truth: in Italy for instance there were many deaths in early March already who died because of the effects of the virus and the system burst at its seams. The amount of infected people increased on one day by 3,233 cases from 24,700 to over 28,000 that week (

What can I do in these phases?

  • Observe and accept all feelings
  • Immediate relief of fear: define the reason for your fear, write it down and do a mindful breathing exercise (see below)
  • Stay informed from quality and trusted news sources
  • Seek help if you can’t cope by yourself

Mindful breathing exercise

When: It doesn’t matter, at home, when shopping, standing up or sitting down – whenever you feel an anxious feeling coming up or fear or you feel uncomfortable, then this short exercise helps you to pause for a moment and to mindfully decide your next step.

Instructions: Put your hands flat onto your belly and take a deep breath into your abdomen for 4 seconds. Focus your attention on your breath. In doing so, your abdomen will rise. Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Then, mindfully exhale for 8 seconds. The abdomen will fall again. Repeat the exercise until you feel the anxious feeling or tension go away and you become calm again.

⏳ Phase 4: Rational understanding

Our reasoning and intelligence catches up with us and we realise, “OK, it’s true after all.” Now it is important to filter the information we are bombarded with. You can actively decide, which and how much news you consume. I limit my general news consumption to 20 minutes a day, to stay informed about the current statistics and trends in my country. That’s it.

What can I do in this phase?

  • Filter the news and limit your consumption to 20 min maximum a day.
  • Take a proactive approach – what can I personally do to improve this situation?

⏳ Phase 5: Grief & fear

After the shock and the typical denial what follows is grief. This is often called the “Valley of Tears”. In this phase it is very difficult to be active and do anything about the situation.
Accept that this reaction is part of the process and try to focus on the things you can now actively do. I would recommend to treat yourself to a meditation.

What can I do in this phase?

  • Observe and accept all feelings.
  • Write down your feelings on a piece of paper and do the mindful breathing exercise – take the approach of acceptance and trust
  • Set yourself goals, how you can actively organise your time together with your family at home for instance
  • Be aware of your strengths and apply them
  • Meditate regularly
  • Seel help if you can’t cope by yourself

⏳ Phase 6 & 7: Actively react – gain insights – being brave

Slowly we are coming to terms with the new situation and accept the current situation. Now I can actively do something:

  • The people help each other and go shopping for each other for instance
  • The schools are offering e-learning so that the students can continue their education
  • Businesses offer tele-working arrangements, a lot of people work from home
  • Many people and businesses start helping out in the community
  • Meditations, kids activities, information sessions are offered for free across social media and newsletter channels (see links below)
Graph: The emotional rollercoaster of change or bad news – in which cart are you sitting right now? (c)

📌 Phase 8: Integration – Self-confidence

We are dealing and have become friendly with the new situation. We are seeing the positives and can find creative new solutions. Self-confidence is rising, because we see that our personal actions positively contribute to the situation and show effect. Examples are:

  • Singing people on balconies, fun videos on social media how people are spending their time at home
  • Nature is getting a break right now and shows its joy – dolphins have again been swimming in the water channels of Venice and in Trieste after many, many years of absence so close to town.
  • We laugh and try to make the best of it.

Additionally we are able to make wise and forward-looking decisions about how to deal with the situation:

  • We can find creative home-office solutions
  • Events are postponed and we are planning for their return
  • People are making financial plans and provisions
  • People are actively looking after their health so that they are ready for ‘after the crisis’ and to return to work full of energy

These phases are happening at different intensities for every person and differs in length for everyone too. Over the course of the coming weeks and months we will go up and down this rollercoaster of emotions several times. It can also happen that we are stuck in a phase or even fall back to a previous one, like from grief back into shock.

What else can you do to stay active?

  • Establish a morning routine of journaling or 15 minutes meditation to start the day proactively
  • Make a plan with your family and your employer
  • Each morning and evening remind yourself to be grateful for what you have and the people that surround you
  • Seek help if you can’t cope by yourself
  • Help others and encourage them
  • Is there anything that you have wanted to do at home for a long time?
  • Find goals for the time at home
  • Define goals for the time after the crisis and visualise them daily

Do you want to help?

In which cart am I right now? Where are we, Martin and I you ask?

Me, Juliane, I’m currently hopping in between carts 5 and 6 it seems and I’m trying to actively move into cart 7, cautiously toying with the idea of sitting in cart 8… thankfully, I have Martin who keeps pulling me out of 5, so here is our way to stay active and continue to offer some help:

We would love to share what works for members of our Rocky Trail Family and the community and set up a directory of recommendations and we also want to offer it as a platform to promote what you do so people can support you back.

  • Do you have a meditation that is really good? Is there a link you can share? Or do you have something written down?
  • Is there an exercise programme you do or that you have put together (yoga, meditation, running, indoor/home cycling trainer) that you can share?
  • Any ideas for families with kids at home? What do you do all day?
  • Any recipe ideas for healthy eating or some recommendations for nutritious meals?
  • Any businesses you know of or work for that want to promote what they are doing (example here and here).

It’s a small initiative, but let’s take it step by step and day by day, hey? If you want to become involved, please send an email to with your recommendations or information you’d like to share – include links, photos and maybe a bit about yourself and we’ll get it up and running over the next few days.

We are ALL in this together and we’ll get through this. Together!


Original version of this article in German “Die Corona Situation: unsere emotionale Berg- & Talfahrt.”

Graph: (c)

A huge THANK YOU to Michaela Brugger for sharing her wise words. Danke, Michi!


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