Stay at home orders have been issued, work and schools have closed down, everyone is home together. So now what? As the country struggles with managing our current reality of social distancing and staying home, we all need to find some new ways to deal with conflict when we are all together.
Everyone is under a great deal of stress dealing with Covid-19. Even if it may seem like a "vacation" to be working from home, or not going to school, the fact is this is a highly volatile and uncertain situation. Humans like a certain amount of predictability and certainty (much like the stock market).
When that predictability is removed we start getting anxious and may react to others in out of character ways. The novelty and uncertainty of the stay at home orders will eventually give way to predictability, but right now everyone is trying to figure out how to adjust to a new normal.
Home....all of us?
One of the positive benefits being witnessed with the stay at home orders is more family togetherness time. With the need to isolate each family unit from neighbors and friends, the family itself will become the main social hub. There are several ways to ensure that conflict and stress are minimized amongst family members:
1. Make a schedule - and stick to it.
Because everyone's routines are thrown completely off, it is important to develop a schedule and adhere to it. It doesn't need to be as rigid as when you would have multiple activities, deadlines, and events, but it is important to have some semblance of time. It is easy to sink into a funk when you are unsure what you should be doing next. This applies to kids and grown-ups.
2. Make use of the outdoors whenever you can.
If the weather is nice, and you are able, go outside! Vitamin D from sunshine is one of the greatest natural mood enhancers out there. Take the dogs/kids for a walk (maintaining social distancing advice), play catch, basketball, draw with chalk on the sidewalk etc. Whatever activity you can think up that can be done outdoors (yardwork!!!) even for a short amount of time will be beneficial.
Exercise, walk circles around the house, dance, yoga or any other physical activity that can be enjoyed at home (and yes, for consenting adults, sex is one of those activities!). Exercise provides a boost in your serotonin, your endorphins and your immune system!
4. Eat healthy.
It gets said a lot, but you are what you eat. If you take this time to stress eat junk food, you will have significantly higher levels of depression. 90% of serotonin receptors are located in your gut. When you are not feeling well, feeling sluggish and "off" you are much more likely to experience depression and mood instability. Do eat fresh fruits, veggies, fiber and lean proteins. Try to avoid packaged or highly processed foods. This may be difficult while dealing with stay at home orders, and limited supplies at grocery stores. Do your best to choose the healthiest of the options you have available.
5. Tackle a big project that you have been putting off.
My husband and I just went through a "quaran-cleaning" project. We opened every box in the storage room, went through every card, letter, information from previous jobs etc. and THREW MOST OF IT AWAY! We only kept special notes from loved ones, pictures (so, many, pictures!) and financial documents from the last 7 years. 20 bags later....we feel better, refreshed and lightened. In multiple studies, it has been proven that cleanliness and orderliness have a strongly positive affect on ones' physical and mental health The powerful psychology behind cleanliness.
6. Communication is key.
Communicate with each other. When there is nastiness, anger or just plain snark don't take it personally, even if it is directed at you. Instead, ask the person if they are ok. Most likely they are experiencing stress and need to vent (even if they don't understand why). Be direct and be kind when talking about the conflict.
7. Turn off the news.
A constant stream of news is NEVER a good thing. Limit the amount of time news is on, and the amount of time you (and kids) spend searching it out. You may need to set a specific time to gather the latest information. Make sure young kids hear age-appropriate information. For the most part, they just need to know that you have it under control, and that for right now things have to be done a bit differently. The older the child is, the more you can discuss with them.
8. Quiet time.
Everyone in the house should get a version of "quiet time". Whether it is a nap, or just some alone time reading, making quiet time part of the schedule will allow people to recharge their batteries and de-stress from the near constant contact.
9. Develop new ways of socializing.
We are blessed to live in an age where there is so much ability to be connected remotely. We can work, go to school and keep in contact with people over the devices in our homes. Be creative with Zoom playdates, card nights with friends (I have a Zoom Go Fish game I developed! contact me for instructions), and checking in with your family and friends. It struck me when we were cleaning things out (see #4 above) that I don't send letters anymore! My personal goal is to send one actual, handwritten letter a week to someone I have lost touch with.
10. Finally, have patience.
Patience with each other, with ourselves and with the situation. This too shall pass. If we can take advantage of the opportunities in the midst of this crisis, we may find ourselves stronger after.
One last note - all the above advice is predicated on a normally functional family dynamic. If you are in an abusive situation, forced confinement may intensify that abuse. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for assistance on making a plan for safety.