These things can help when life seems to be out of control.
Nothing seems normal these days. Many people say, “I just keep pinching myself thinking I’ll wake up and this nightmare will be over.” Sometimes life can take a real toll on everyone – both physically and mentally. As you continue to navigate through these times, there are ways you can be intentional about protecting your family’s mental health.
For starters, it’s important to continually remind ourselves that when we’re going through something that’s very unusual, we remain in a heightened state of anxiety and stress that impacts our mental and physical health.
One thing that can help you regain your footing is to establish routines, rituals, and structure.
In times of high anxiety and stress, the consistency of routines and structure is soothing to everyone.
Make your home a peaceful place—a refuge from all the craziness going on in the world.
Spend some time thinking about things you can do to create calm. Play calming music, light a lavender candle and let the sunlight in. Encourage your children to find a comfy spot where they can read or play with their toys.
Your children are like sponges. Whether you notice it or not, they’re watching your every move, your facial expressions and even listening to your conversations that don’t include them. They’re quick to pick up and take on your stress and anxiety. Have adult conversations out of the hearing range of your children. Be proactive in dealing with your emotions.
Be open and intentional about having conversations about things that are going on in your world.
Ask your children to tell you what they know or have heard. Use their information as a platform to affirm accurate information and correct inaccurate details. Assure them that your job is to make sure they are cared for and protected and you are doing that.
Exercise, getting enough rest and eating right are three essentials for protecting your family’s mental health.
This is like the trifecta right here! Walk as a family and insist that people get the rest they need. Involve everyone in creating fun, healthy meals.
Limit the amount of time you and your family members watch the news.
This one action can dramatically decrease the anxiety, stress, anger, fear and drama in your home. Mentally and emotionally, our brains and bodies aren’t meant to live in a constant state of stress, but that’s exactly what happens when we watch news nonstop.
Think of ways you can be helpful to others.
During difficult times, it’s easy to become focused on yourself and all that’s wrong with the world. A great way to combat this as a family is to look for ways to help others. Deliver food, do yard work, run errands, bake bread or cookies and share them with your neighbors. (Let your kids do a ring and run when they deliver. It can be your secret!)
Make play a priority.
Seriously. Play releases all the feel-good hormones that promote an overall sense of well-being. Heaven knows we could all use a triple dose of that right now. Ride bikes, go for a hike, play hide and seek, tag, kick the can, four square, hopscotch, double dutch jump rope or any other active game you can think of. Just get moving!
Remind yourself and your family members – there is light at the end of the tunnel.
This is hard and there are parts of dealing with life right now that are not fun, but together as a family, you can do hard things. When one person’s having a hard day, other family members can be encouraging and affirming to help them get through it. Having healthy relationships with each other is one of the best ways to protect your family’s mental health.
When parents model and lead using these strategies, children learn how to navigate through hard times in healthy ways. It shows you believe they have what it takes to keep going even when things get really challenging. This builds self-confidence and helps them learn how to think and be creative in the midst of change.
A side note: if you feel like members of your family aren’t handling all that is going on well, don’t hesitate to seek help. Talk with their pediatrician and/or a counselor to seek guidance on other ways you can help them.
If you or someone you know is struggling and you need immediate assistance, you can find 24-hour help here:
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/pexels-elly-fairytale-4008800-3-1-e1602084544645.jpg7381400Julie Baumgardnerhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJulie Baumgardner2020-10-07 11:25:462022-07-25 14:02:07How to Protect Your Family’s Mental Health
Sometimes life just seems to be getting harder. For many, most days feel like slogging through thick fog and it’s really hard to see the road ahead.
Perhaps you or someone you know is really struggling at the moment and you’re wondering if the sadness is due to a single life circumstance or if something bigger is going on like depression or some other mental health issue.
First, let me just say, you’re not alone! We’re living in a moment in time where everything—marriage, parenting, work, socializing with friends, even the most normal things—seem more difficult than they should be for many people.
Second, regardless of whether you or someone you care about is sad or dealing with something else, the good news is, help is available.
Sad? Depressed? How do you know the difference?
Glad you asked!
Feeling sad and down about things like job loss, finances, marital issues, a child giving you a run for your money, or a breakup is normal for a period of time. But, when you:
Can’t seem to shake those feelings and you begin to feel hopeless and desperate;
It feels impossible to think clearly;
Making a decision seems out of your reach;
Work is consistently challenging;
Things that used to bring you joy in life don’t anymore;
Food doesn’t interest you or you are eating way more than normal; and
You’re either not sleeping enough or you are sleeping all the time and still feel like you don’t get enough rest.
These are like blinking caution lights warning you something is not right. There are some things you might be able to do to help move you to a different place, though.
Here Are 5 Ways to Work Through Depression
1. Surround yourself with a supportive group of friends.
Not necessarily people who are experiencing the same thing you are, but people who seem to be mentally and emotionally healthy right now. Ask them to walk this road with you and help hold you accountable for changes you’re trying to make.
2. Create a new bedtime routine.
Lying in bed watching television or scrolling through social media doesn’t count as rest. Stop all screen time at least an hour before you plan to get some shut-eye. If silence makes it hard for you to sleep, download a white noise app or purchase a white noise machine. Maybe you could try a simple fan in your room. Don’t use your bed for anything other than sleeping… and well, those things that you typically do in bed (like sex). Otherwise, keep your bedroom as kind of a safe place where your body knows it’s time to relax and rest.
3. Get moving.
Exercise has been shown to be one of the BEST ways to combat depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise releases feel-good hormones that can make you feel better about yourself. It also can help you get out of the negative thought cycle that feeds depression. Exercising on the regular can give you more confidence, it’s something you can do with others and it is a super positive way to cope with and manage depression. Don’t forget, being outside, getting enough vitamin D, drinking plenty of water, and fueling your body with healthy foods are all powerful weapons for fighting depression.
4. Pay attention to how much news and negative information you take in every day.
Remember, the motto for the newsroom is, “If it leads, it bleeds.” Their whole goal is to be sensational to draw you in. The more you are drawn in, the more it will affect you. It’s a vicious cycle. Your brain doesn’t know it’s the fifth time you’ve seen information about the plane crash, murder, latest political blunder, or car wreck. All of this impacts you mentally and physically whether you realize it or not. Put a time limit on how much news you watch. The same applies to social media.
5. Eliminate as much stress as possible.
Think through all you have on your plate. Is there anything you can let go of for a while to reduce the stress in your life? If you can’t let go of certain activities, can you ask others to help you?
In addition to doing all of these things, be bold and ask for professional help. Plenty of counselors are providing telecounseling and Zoom sessions right now. If you don’t know where to look for help, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline is 1-800-662-4357.
If you’re worried about someone you care about, don’t be afraid to step up and say, “I see you. How can I help?” Guiding them through all the above is a great place to start if they’re open to your support.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/pexels-inzmam-khan-1134204-1-e1600806395453.jpg6261400Julie Baumgardnerhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJulie Baumgardner2020-09-22 16:22:232021-04-20 11:43:10Is Depression Affecting You and the People You Care About?
B.C. (Before COVID) plenty of us lived life at a frenetic pace and had resigned ourselves that it would always be that way. Fast forward to COVID lockdown and a forced stop. We actually had room to breathe in our lives whether we liked it or not. Being forced to taste the simple life for a few months reminded a lot of us how much we actually longed for a less frenzied existence. With things opening back up, some folks are trying to figure out how to keep a little bit of that margin in their life.
Maybe right now you’re already missing your quarantine life. Perhaps you’re finding that, once again, you don’t have time to do the things you want to do. If this is true for you, you don’t have to settle.
Here are five simple things that can help you reclaim or keep margin in your life moving forward.
1. Decide what you don’t want to pick back up.
Make a list of all the things you and your family were participating in B.C. Decide now what you’re not willing to add back into your schedule. Making the decision ahead of time will make it easier to say no as opportunities arise. Think of it as being proactive instead of reactive when it comes to knowing what your priorities are and sticking to them even under pressure. This will require you to keep your guard up so you can recognize when something is encroaching on the boundaries you’ve set.
2. Schedule quiet time just like you would schedule any other appointment.
It’s that important. Living life in a whirlwind leaves you feeling empty and exhausted, not to mention a hot mess when it comes to relating with the ones you love. Whether it’s early in the morning, the middle of your day or right before you go to bed, taking a few minutes to reflect can make a world of difference in how you go through your day. It can also impact how you rest at night.
Avoid the temptation to schedule yourself back to back in order to make the most of every waking minute. Take a walk, do some deep breathing or light a candle. Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, listen to calming music, read, or do something else that will allow you to take a break from the chaos. Inserting buffer zones into your day will actually give you energy and help you be more creative. Plus, it’ll make you more effective and present with the ones you love.
You might find it helpful to literally block out times on your schedule for this. Blocking the time off can lessen the temptation to put something in that time period because it isn’t available. If you are a high energy person who likes to be productive, this may feel like time wasted. Here’s a challenge for you, though. Try this for a whole month. Then assess your energy level, what you have been able to accomplish and the state of your relationships. You might be pleasantly surprised at the results. Just sayin’.
This is a time vacuum and we all know it. It robs us of time with our kids, spouse and friends. If you don’t believe it, the next time you jump on social media “for just a minute,” time yourself. See how long you end up scrolling to see what everybody else is doing. Limiting your time on social media will give you some margin to live your own life and pay attention to the ones you love and your own needs. (And if others have your full attention, you won’t be distracted and miss something important!)
5. Create transitions and hard stops.
There is something to be said for the impact of routines and rituals when it comes to incorporating margin into our lives. Intentional transitions help your brain know the difference between work, play and rest. If possible, have set start and stop times for work, time with family and friends, and time to take care of yourself.
It can be helpful to prepare for the next day before you go to bed each night, too. Go over your to-do list, decide what you will wear for work (even if you are working from home) and other activities, take a look at the schedule, plan meals, etc. For example, the act of preparing to be in work mode helps your brain know you are making a transition. At the end of your work day, changing into “play” clothes is another transition that tells your brain it is doing something different. It’s a physical exercise that mentally prepares you for being fully present.
As one who has struggled with margin in life, I can tell you it’s very easy to fall back into old habits. Don’t beat yourself up. It happens. The best way forward is to remind yourself of your goal, identify where the breach happened and keep moving ahead.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/pexels-thought-catalog-904616-1-scaled.jpg13662048Julie Baumgardnerhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJulie Baumgardner2020-09-01 16:37:452021-05-28 10:50:045 Simple Things You Can Do to Reclaim Margin in Your Life
Make your conversations more productive with these tips.
It’s nothing new to disagree with the ones you love, whether it’s about current events, religion, guns, racism, politics, football or something else. In fact, chances are pretty good that you completely disagree on certain topics with someone you care deeply about. The disagreements may be so intense you wonder how you can actually co-exist.
The level of intensity might feel more so at this moment in time in our culture. In fact, many people can hardly believe that the people they love have such different perspectives from their own. The ongoing stress from trying to navigate these issues can take a massive toll on our relationships.
What do you do when you strongly disagree with the ones you love?
Although you might be tempted to confront them and tell them they are just plain wrong, you might want to reconsider. That plan probably won’t go very well for you because it’s likely your loved one will feel attacked. Nobody wants to feel attacked, right?
Instead, start by asking yourself a few questions.
What’s the goal of my conversation with this person?
Do I just want to share information?
Am I trying to understand their perspective?
Do I feel the need to convince them they are wrong?
Am I trying to prove that I have a valid point?
Do I have to WIN?
Taking the time to think about your ultimate goal can help you prepare to constructively engage with them.
It may help to remember that no matter how hard you try, you cannot change someone else or make them see something the very same way that you do. Yelling at them, belittling them, coming across as condescending, stomping out of the room or being sarcastic will only fuel the fire. And it will take you further away from your intended goal.
Plenty of married couples, extended family, siblings and roommates have vehemently disagreed about things, yet their love and respect for each other was never in question. How you have the discussion matters.
Here are some tips you can use to make your conversations productive:
Look for things you do agree on. It is likely that you agree on far more than you disagree about.
Kindness and respect goes a long way when trying to discuss difficult topics. Be aware of your tone of voice and body language.
Avoid imagining how you think the conversation will go or how it has gone in the past. Playing negative scenarios in your head will actually increase your stress. It could also steer the conversation downhill straight out of the gates.
Be prepared to genuinely listen to their perspective—even if you already believe you don’t agree with them and can’t fathom how they could believe what they believe. When people feel heard, you are more likely to keep the conversation going and avoid damaging your relationship. **PRO-TIP:Paraphrase what you hear and avoid using the word, “but.” Using “but” negates everything that the other person just said. Try using “and” instead.**
If it feels like the conversation is becoming heated, remember that getting louder will escalate the situation for sure. Plus, it actually makes it harder to hear what is being said. If you’re struggling to think clearly or keep your cool, take a break. Say you need to go to the bathroom or you need to get a drink of water—anything to take a break in the action and allow yourselves time to breathe. Pausing is powerful.
Avoid using “You always, you never,” and “You should.” Instead, focus on yourself and share your perspective while using “I” statements (I feel, I believe, I want, I need, etc.).
These are particularly stressful times, and when you disagree with the ones you love, IT’S HARD.
This means that many of us are experiencing extended periods of heightened anxiety and are constantly in a fight or flight mode—which is totally not normal. Fuses are shorter and we are probably more easily irritated. And, we may react more quickly, especially if we’ve been thinking or dwelling on the topic at hand. Acknowledge this and think through the fact that how we handle difficult conversations can impact the quality of our relationships.
It’s vital to remember that this is a process. If over time the conversation seems to go nowhere, you may need to set boundaries around this topic in an effort to keep from destroying the relationship. Keep in mind that if you choose to walk away from the relationship, you will no longer have the opportunity to present a different perspective.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/disagree-priscilla-du-preez-ZxMASvRPEn4-unsplash-1-e1596214094110.jpg205500Julie Baumgardnerhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJulie Baumgardner2020-07-01 06:07:272022-03-18 12:43:35What to Do When You Disagree With the Ones You Love
First, the world shut down. It was inevitable as COVID-19 was spreading. But you weren’t sure how you’d handle it. Work, school, health, friends, jobs, money. There was so much uncertainty.
Then, at some point, you settled. You recognized what you could control. You started making the best of it and even realized that it wasn’t so bad. Who are we kidding? You were surprised at how much you were enjoying it. Slower pace. Family time has been fun time. Meaningful conversations with friends. You found your routine.
You noticed the anxiety level in your home decrease. Not because of the absence of issues. Jobs aren’t all steady. Health concerns are everywhere. There’s lots of unrest in America right now. But the slower pace, the presence of the people you care most about, the ability to connect with family and friends, even if they are virtual connections, has helped you to live and process life in real time.
During pre-quarantine days, many of us were moving so fast that we were simply going through the motions of life, but weren’t processing all that we were experiencing. We had become accustomed to our way of doing life and never considered alternatives. And now the world is ready to open up and you’re not sure you’re ready to give up the benefits of this new lifestyle. So what do you do?
If You Aren’t Ready, Try These Things
Accept: Just like we accepted the shelter-in-place orders and the fact that COVID-19 was spreading. We must accept that the world can’t stay shut down forever.
Identify your fears: This could be anything from COVID-19 to busyness. You may be scared of losing the deep connections you’ve formed. The return of stress, anxiety, perpetual activity. Loneliness.
Be intentional: Just because the world is opening up doesn’t mean you have to dive in headfirst and resume everything you were doing before. Identify the things you have to do. Think through the things that are optional.
Practice Using One of the Most Powerful Words in the English Dictionary: NO. Be willing to say “no” to those things that compromise the very things you’ve said you don’t want to lose. You WILL say NO to a lot of good things. Good will often keep you from BEST.
You may not be ready for the world to reopen for many reasons. Taking control of what you CAN will help you to re-enter the world with purpose.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/arturo-rey-5yP83RhaFGA-unsplash-scaled-e1596224952538.jpg233500Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2020-06-09 09:05:152020-07-31 15:49:34The World is Reopening, And I’m Not Ready
I miss my friends. I really do. Though overall, I have to admit I have enjoyed what quarantine has done for my relationship with my husband. (Check out my blog here.) I don’t like that keeping up with my friends on social media looks like scrolling through Instagram rather than making plans to hang out in person.
As much as you love seeing what’s going on in your friends’ lives, it can become a little overwhelming. When someone is on social media, they aren’t just seeing friends’ posts. They are also exposing themselves to the negativity filling the spaces amidst the photos and posts from friends. Time spent on social media has increased by 20% during COVID-19 lockdowns, according to SocialMediaToday. Forbes also confirms that social media is full of misinformation.
It’s been rock bottom for a lot of people and an uphill battle for the world. Thousands of people are heartbroken over the deaths from COVID-19, hardships, job losses, divorces, families separated from loved ones in the hospitals, and the list goes on.
However, I really do believe there are silver linings for every dark cloud. We have seen the world set aside its differences and make trade agreements. People are sharing intellectual property for the good of humanity, not just the people in their country. We’ve seen volunteers come out of the woodwork to help deliver food to students and families who needed it. Artists share their skill and their specialty and teach people online. Musicians do in-home concerts and athletes provide free at-home training.
I think we want to see the good—to keep up with what’s happening in our friends’ lives nearby and around the world. We also want to filter out the negative.
Here are some ways to help you keep up and stay positive:
Limit your time on social media. As soon as you feel yourself start to scroll for the habit of it or because you’re bored, find something else to do. Once you’ve seen your friends’ posts and gone through their stories, shut the app. It’s when we get through the relevant posts that we start seeing the suggested videos, photos, or news.
If you know someone or an entity you follow is negative each time you come across them, unfollow or block them for a bit. On Facebook, you can prioritize who you see when you click News Feed Preferences. Put your close friends and family as a priority. Help yourself keep tabs only on who you want to keep up with right now.
If you have an iPhone, you can set daily limits on social networking in your settings or download an app to help you monitor your time. Android phones have apps that do this as well. Not only does putting a cap on your time help you create boundaries, but you are taking a step to protect your mental health. Substantial amounts of research from TheUS National Library of Medicine—National Institutes of Health have found associations between heavy technology use and poor mental health outcomes among adolescents and young adults.
If keeping up with your friends is your main concern, try setting aside time to FaceTime or have a Zoom call with them instead.
This will take keeping up with each other up to a more personal level. It’s way more personal than a text or even a phone call.
It’s been a time of transition for everyone. Be patient with yourself as you adjust and be patient with your friends as they navigate their new normal. Some people use the comment section on social media to vent, but that doesn’t mean you have to engage with it. Hopefully, this helps you to keep up with your friends more and negativity less!
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/austin-distel-tLZhFRLj6nY-unsplash-1-scaled-e1596469058219.jpg217450First Things Firsthttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngFirst Things First2020-05-11 08:55:062022-12-01 12:47:38I Want to Keep up With Friends on Social Media but it is SO negative!
Perhaps you’ve seen the pictures on social media. Brother and sister have been fighting all day. Mom has had enough. Mom gets one of dad’s t-shirts and makes brother and sister wear it—at the same time.
Brother and sister look thrilled.
Some have called this a “Get-Along Shirt.” The funny thing is, while this may be a great deterrent for kids to stop fighting (“If you two don’t stop it, I’m getting out THE SHIRT!”), I’m not sure it does much to help brother and sister get along while they’re in the shirt. In my opinion, quite the reverse: It just makes them want to fight more.
This is how I picture being in quarantine with a spouse that you don’t particularly like. You feel glued at the hip, but you can’t get away.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us all to change our way of life. And if there has already been tension in your marriage before this whole mess began, then right now you might be wondering, how the heck do I get out of this giant shirt?
Let’s think about this situation. Chances are, back in the “old days” (pre-pandemic) one or both of you spent at least some of your day apart, possibly at work. Point is, your regular routine gave you time apart so that when you came back together, your relationship was more manageable. Life provided some ways to cope with the tension.
Not so at the moment in quarantine. There is no coming back together because there’s no time apart. Together is your reality right now. If there was tension in the marriage before, the coping mechanisms you used back then aren’t there anymore.
And whatever differences were coming between you back then, now they are magnified. You see the differences more. You are in difference-overload. And so the tension builds.
Your situation gives you a couple of choices:
You can choose to avoid the issue, be miserable in your Get-Along shirt,and live in increasing conflict, tension, stress, and anxiety. Sounds fun. (See picture above.)
Or, you can dig in your heels, be intentional, and decide to do what you can to lessen the tension and improve the situation with your spouse
★Disclaimer★ What I’m about to share with you is helpful, but it’s going to take intentionality and humility. When two people don’t get along, things only get better when pride is put aside. And yes, both people in the marriage need to make the effort, but it takes one person to begin to lead the dance. In other words, choose to be the first person to take up the mantle of humility; more often than not, the other will follow.
So you first have to ask some questions:
What is it specifically you don’t like about the person you’re in quarantine with?
Do you not like your spouse, or do you not like the situation you’re in?
Does everything about your spouse get on your nerves? Or are there one or two qualities that are magnified by the circumstances of the quarantine?
Could… this… possibly… be…you? Are you stressed, and that affects how you see your spouse? What are you dealing with inside of you that makes you see your spouse in certain ways?
These questions are humbling—they can bring you down a notch or two. But considering sincere answers help you to stop and put the right perspective on the situation. Then you are freed up to make a healthy response rather than a knee-jerk reaction.
Having said that, let’s consider some pro-tips:
Choose to see your spouse as a whole rather than one or two negative qualities. When there is something bugging me about my spouse, I have to stop and consider all the things that make up who she is, and I find the positives far outweigh the negatives. I consider all the ways she contributes to the family, what she’s done for me in the past, her background and history, how good of a mother she is. And it minimizes in my mind whatever it was that was getting on my nerves.
Think of five things you’re thankful for your spouse. The next time you find yourself frustrated at your spouse, try this. It’s a way to train your brain—to condition yourself —to see your spouse as a whole. When I’ve done this, I’ve found more often than not that I was frustrated at a molehill rather than a mountain. And even if you are facing a mountain, thinking of why you are thankful for your spouse clears your headspace to approach the issues in calm, effective waysrather than being reactive. Take a few minutes, write down five reasons you’re thankful for your spouse, and read them over.
Take time to decompress and do things to lower the tension. Lots of times conflict with your spouse is exacerbated by the stress of everything else going on around you. Take the opportunity to detach from life for a little while and do some self-care—both as a family and on your own. Go on a walk, meditate, read something inspirational, do some push-ups, cuddle with your cat or dog. Your self-care should be productive and healthy rather than merely an escape. This helps ease the tension and set a healthier atmosphere for communication. (Here and here are some great ideas on self-care.)
Try not to make big decisions during this time. The idea is to lower the potential for stress, not the reverse. If you can help it, avoid making big, life-altering decisions like major purchases or having children (although you need to keep the ones you already have).
Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Prolonged traumatic situations like the pandemic can cause a person to focus all their attention on the negative. This is extremely stressful and adds to the tension in your marriage. Reverse this pattern by thinking of the things you are thankful for at this time. And no matter the situation, there are always things to be thankful for. Make a list. Add to it daily. Gratitude helps lower the tension in the atmosphere and put the issue at hand in a proper perspective.
Put grace into place. Consider that our circumstances are affecting not only your emotional health but also that of your spouse. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand what they may be feeling. Keep in mind that you probably have magnified qualities that get on their nerves right now as well.
Quarantine has put a strain on all kinds of relationships, especially marriages already under strain. But by being intentional and putting pride aside, the tension can lessen. Putting these practices into place will help you and your spouse get along during this time of quarantine.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/christian-erfurt-sxQz2VfoFBE-unsplash-scaled-e1596645867229.jpg265450Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2020-04-27 08:20:142020-09-02 12:36:25What To Do When You Don’t Like The Person You’re In Quarantine With
These 3 things that can help you argue less and connect more.
Marriage is two individuals doing life as a team. You and your spouse will always have some differing perspectives, needs, priorities, habits, and let’s say – idiosyncrasies – that make you both unique. This means ongoing work on communication skills, learning how to handle disagreements and conflict, and doing the intentional stuff that keeps you connected and your relationship healthy.
Sprinkle in anxiety, stress, anger, and sadness, or maybe uncertainty about the future and tight finances. As a result, marriage can go from difficult to disastrous. Real quick. Heavy emotions or difficult circumstances can take a toll on your marriage. Everything gets magnified and intensified. This can lead to constant fighting.
Tensions, disagreements, arguments, and even some fighting should be expected in marriage, period. But they can be framed in a way that drives you toward each other – not apart.
1. Stop fights before they start.
If the best fight is the one that actually draws you together and strengthens your relationship, then the second-best fight is the one that never happens.
Understand Your Current Situation.
Acknowledge that you or your spouse may be experiencing high levels of fear, anxiety, and stress. This produces what marriage expert, Dr. John Gottman, refers to as “Flooding,” which is when the brain is flooded with stress hormones and chemicals that make it nearly impossible for the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for complex problem solving) to function. When you or your spouse are in “Fight, Flight, or Freeze” mode, you can’t physiologically function as you normally would. You can’t communicate as you normally should. This isn’t a fault in you or your spouse – this is your body’s nervous system. Hopefully, just knowing this promotes grace, empathy, and patience.
Be at your best when things are going sideways in your marriage. You each still need your space and need to take care of yourselves and find healthy ways to manage and process the stress you are feeling. Stay connected to your friends and the people that encourage you. It’s okay for you to sit in another room and watch television alone. It’s okay for your spouse to go for a walk without you. If you are both working on being the best versions of yourselves, you’ll both be in a better place when you are together.
Set Up Schedules and Routines.
This will make expectations clear, give your day predictability, and give you stability. Are one or both of you working from home? When and where in your house or apartment will work be done? Do you have children? Designate when you will take turns watching them so the other can work or get some alone time. Who is doing what chores around the house? Divide housework equally and play to your strengths.
Choose A Specific Time Each Day To “Check In” With Each Other.
This isn’t fight time. This is when you ask each other how you are feeling physically and emotionally. This is a time to share needs and ask how you can be helping each other. Take turns speaking and listening. It doesn’t have to be a long or formal time, just consistent.
2. Fight nice.
It may sound strange, but when you aren’t fighting, take some time to discuss and establish some “ground rules” for how you will handle tensions, disagreements, and problems. No bringing up the past. No interrupting. And no raising your voices. How will you call a “timeout?” What is the time limit? How will you signal that the “fight” is over? Use this blog to guide you.
Schedule Your “Fights.”
Set a time once or twice a week (max) when each of you gets to air out one (and only one) criticism while the other is only allowed to listen. Avoid words like, “always” or “never” and try to frame it as an “I” statement. “I get frustrated when it feels like you are being distant,” or “I need more help with putting the kids to bed,” or “I would appreciate it if you didn’t raise your voice at me.”
Respond, Don’t React.
You are both going to hear some hard things, especially if you can’t stop fighting. It is important not to escalate the conversation with the volume or tone of your voice, your body language, or your words themselves. Don’t react by letting emotions take control. As you actively listen, respond calmly, compassionately, and empathetically.
It’s not all about not fighting. Make sure you are doing things that help you connect, have fun together, deepen intimacy, create some romance, and deepen your relationship.
Plan Some Fun!
Be intentional and schedule some fun things you can do together. Have a formal, in-home date night. Dress up and make a special dinner. Do something fun and silly like build a blanket fort and watch a movie. Go for a walk together. Have a game night. Don’t try to do any heavy relationship work during this time, just enjoy each other’s company. Generally, men bond shoulder to shoulder by doing things together, and women bond face to face, through conversation. So, make sure you are doing a little of both. Don’t forget why you married your spouse in the first place.
Figure Out What Says “I Love You” To Your Spouse.
Not everyone communicates “I love you” the same way and not everyone hears “I love you” the same way. Some people need quality time together. Some people need words that affirm them. Dr. Gary Chapman dives into this in The Five Love Languages: The Secret To Love That Lasts. You can also go to his website, take a free quiz, and find resources that will help you communicate love more effectively to each other.
What About Sex?
What about it?! Sex is one of the most powerful ways to stay connected! Understand the dynamics of sex – generally, women need to feel connected to have sex and men need to have sex to feel connected. Not a problem! This is the perfect example of how two people have to work to make the marriage work.
Mindset is everything.
When you’re fighting all the time, it’s easy to begin seeing your spouse as an adversary, and then your relationship becomes a contest of winning and losing. Ultimately, you need to remember that your spouse isn’t the enemy; the problem is the enemy. Then you can fight for your spouse and for your marriage.
Don’t be afraid to call in the pros.
Sometimes the problems run deep. One or both of you could have blind spots. You’re too close to the situation and might need a third party who can be objective and see what you’re missing. Get the help you need!
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/man-and-woman-wearing-brown-leather-jackets-984950-scaled-e1596645409759.jpg279450John Daumhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJohn Daum2020-04-22 16:09:582022-05-18 14:21:49Help! My Spouse and I Can’t Stop Fighting!