TO: Management

FROM: John Daum

RE: Going back to work at the office

Dear Management, 

What the heck? I just got used to working from home! Do you realize the adjustment that was? Do you think I can just switch everything up now and go back to the office? This disrupts all my family routines and we just got into a rhythm. Who knows if it’s even safe? Last time I checked, you aren’t the CDC. Plus, I can do the same thing at home that I do there. All I’d be missing is bad coffee. You guys seriously need to rethink this. This is so…

[Record Needle Scratch] 

TO: Management

FROM: John Daum

RE: Going back to work at the office

Dear Management,

I want to thank you for how you lead our company through a global pandemic. My family and I are grateful for the adjustments you made that allowed me to stay employed during such a chaotic time. I realize others were not so fortunate. Thank you for your flexibility and considering your people while other companies were only worried about profits.

I would like to say that working from home has been a great experience for me and my family. Additionally, I’d like to suggest that it has benefited the company as well. After the initial adjustment, I believe that my productivity and contribution to the company actually increased significantly. If it is at all possible, I would like to explore the possibility of continuing to work from home and coming in on certain days to touch base with the team.

Regardless of what you decide, I have already begun preparing myself and my family for how the transition back to working at the office will change some of our routines. I believe that some foresight and good communication is essential to make the transition as smooth as possible for my family and me. We’ve met as a family to discuss different scenarios and how we will navigate them—working from the office full-time or working from home on certain days and the office on others.

I’ve honestly wondered how I have been able to work so well from home and actually be more productive. It definitely seems counter-intuitive. There are some obvious reasons—my “creative zone” seems to be later at night after my kids have gone to bed. Also, I’m able to focus on work without distraction from early morning until lunchtime and have about five hours of solid work done before noon.

Beyond those obvious reasons, there have been a few that have come as a surprise to me. Integrating my work life and my family life has greatly reduced my stress about both. 

For instance, instead of the morning being a hectic time so I can beat the traffic into the office, I’ve been able to have a cup of coffee with my wife. Instead of a “working lunch” at my desk, I’ve been able to sit down and connect with my kids and talk about their day. Also, instead of worrying about my elderly mother-in-law who lives with us, I’ve been able to keep tabs on her and build my relationship with her. Instead of fighting traffic to get home, I’ve been able to have dinner ready for when my wife gets home and we eat more meals together as a family.

I know that this is a lot of family talk and not a lot of work talk, but it has become clear that having more family stability and connectedness has made me a happier person. That happiness translates into more energy and focus for work, more creativity, and less distracting stress and anxiety. I have the ability to work from my deck and be outside in an environment that keeps my mind clear. I have the ability to go for a walk around the block and think through a work assignment. Plus, I have the ability to work while I’m in “the zone” regardless of a time-clock. 

This kind of flexibility and efficiency has given me more margin to take care of myself and my family. A healthier, happier worker is a more productive worker.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter. Regardless of how my work situation plays out, my goal is to creatively and consistently keep these lessons learned as a regular part of my family life. I believe that if I do so, the company will benefit—no matter where I work from.

Was I the only one who was worried when COVID-19 forced me into endless hours at home to quarantine with my family? Was I the only one fearful about how this may affect my employment? Anxious about catching COVID-19? Uncertain about the potential damage to my bank account? Concerned about the impact on my children?

No. I’m not the only one. You know how I know? I went to the grocery store and I could feel the anxiety. I scrolled through social media, watched a little news, and talked to people. You could feel it. You could feel the tension and the uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus.

After a couple of weeks, some good advice from loved ones, some timely articles (some written by my co-workers), and prayer, I decided to not allow the outbreak to negatively affect my mental health. A good friend of mine’s words stuck in my mind, “Don’t waste this time.” 

As a leader of a family and within an organization, I needed to be my best self to lead those around me. COVID-19 highlighted my need to be “me” at my best. Being “me” at my best meant taking care of myself so that I could bring the best me into battle with those that are alongside me.

Instead of focusing on what’s been taken away because of the quarantine, I shifted to what needs to be in place for me to be my best. In other words, “self-care.” Here are the ways the COVID-19 outbreak has improved my self-care. 

  1. Getting outside.  Walks with my wife. Bike riding. Sitting outside while working. Quarantining has helped me be intentional about simply getting outside to work, play, decompress, or chat it up with a neighbor. The experts say that getting some sunshine relieves stress, boosts the immune system, sharpens your focus, improves mood, reduces anxiety and increases creativity. You know what? I concur. I can feel the difference. Sometimes just 15 minutes does the trick.
  1. Exploring my emotions. During COVID-19, we are inundated with information about mental health. Instead of getting annoyed with the information overload, I’ve intentionally identified and explored emotions that I’ve experienced. I’ve done this by talking, prioritizing some quiet time, prayer and writing. Some of those emotions are directly related to the pandemic while some may be a side effect. To identify and explore those emotions with people I trust has been helpful to prevent my emotions from controlling me. My emotions taught me a lot about myself. I should really keep this up.
  1. Connecting with family and friends. Do you know what happens when you’re not always running from one activity to the next? You actually have meaningful, substantive conversations with people you like. Who knew? Simple check-ins with friends, hours-long conversations about life and being held accountable for taking care of myself have all become the norm. Relationships really are what matters most.
  1. Prayer and/or Meditation. Remembering how to be still and be quiet has been beneficial, too. Finding quiet spaces to simply slow down and pray more regularly has helped me be aware of what’s important. Numerous studies show that prayer and/or meditation helps us respond better to trauma and crisis. And just as importantly, it has kept me from that land of fear which can be paralyzing.

Bonus: Watching Documentaries. I didn’t realize this was so helpful until recently. I have indulged in several documentaries including one by Ken Burns about New York and one he made about baseball. I’ve also checked out The Last Dance about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. It’s been a nice getaway from the mundane and a good chance to learn something new. 

These are all little things that have helped me stay in touch with myself. While working, my focus has been better. Thankfully it has helped me to have more patience with my kids (in other words, I haven’t blown up at them recently). Who knew that there would be positive side effects to being quarantined?

About four weeks into our quarantine, I told my husband, “I feel like I’m working harder than ever. At the end of my work day, I feel like I need a nap because I’m exhausted.” I really began to wonder if something was wrong with me.

Then I started hearing other people talk about how fatigued they felt. I decided to do a little research, and guess what? Quarantine fatigue is for real. Even with all the Zooming and FaceTiming going on, human beings don’t thrive in extended periods of social and physical isolation. If this pandemic has done anything positive, it has shined the light on the reality that just seeing people on a screen is not enough to satisfy the human longing to be in the physical presence of others or to experience a hug. The lack of that takes a toll on all of us, even the introverts of the world.

It is pretty unlikely we will return to what any of us considered a normal way of life anytime soon. This means we all need to be on guard for recognizing that we are at risk for experiencing quarantine fatigue.

Psychotherapist Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., author of Fragile Power, explains in a piece on Health.com that quarantine fatigue stems from that emotional exhaustion the pandemic has placed on our lives. “I’m hearing from all of my clients that they are exhausted from the sheltering in place rules. They feel unkempt. They’re bored. They’re broke. They want to divorce their partner and give away their children,” he says. “This pandemic has elevated the notion of powerlessness and uncertainty to a level we’ve never before experienced.”

Many can probably relate to this. I mean how many of us were planning to be the first in line for a haircut once barbershops and salons were allowed to open back up? Others were clamoring to get back to the gym, and should I even mention retail therapy? I spoke with someone who works at HomeGoods. She said the line to get in on their first day wrapped around the building. People waited two and a half hours to get in and apparently, the wait to check out wasn’t much better.

Since the experts say it is unlikely we will return to what we consider “normal” anytime in the near future, a big question remains. How can we cope with this quarantine fatigue without putting ourselves, our family members or others at risk?

What Can Help With the Fatigue?

  • One of the best things we can do to alleviate this type of fatigue is to move. Not locations, but get up and move your body. If you can’t get outside to walk, run or bike, find something else to do. Rearrange the furniture, do jumping jacks, run in place, clean, plant a garden—anything to break a sweat.
  • Do things to intentionally work your brain. Try things like jigsaw puzzles, crossword or word search, learning to knit or crochet, or learning a new language. Anything that will get your brain to think but in a way that is different from your norm is ideal. This will help with the brain fog you might be feeling.
  • If you have been in the same routine since you started quarantine, consider shaking it up a bit and trying something new. With children transitioning away from online classes and into summer mode for real, it’s a natural time to create a new schedule for them and you.
  • Remind yourself and those around you that things won’t be this way forever. It is for sure inconvenient and in some ways discouraging, but we have come through hard things before and we will again. Your mindset really does matter. If you constantly tell yourself and talk with others about how horrible this is, it will for sure make this time harder to navigate through.
  • Focus on what you can do. You can write letters to people. You can try to safely connect in person by practicing all the CDC social distancing recommendations, plan your next dream vacation or tackle a project you have been putting off because it was going to take too much time.
  • Stop giving yourself a hard time about what you aren’t doing. It’s highly likely that none of us are really functioning on all cylinders. This is difficult. Take each day as it comes. If yesterday wasn’t a great day, give yourself a pat on the back for getting through it even if it wasn’t pretty and then move through today one step at a time.

We still need to be careful and considerate of others, and self-care is actually a vital component of that. Walking around feeling like your brain is numb or that you are in a dense fog doesn’t feel very good. Putting some of these things into play can help. Notice I didn’t say, putting all of these things into practice. The goal is not to overwhelm yourself, but to do some things differently with the intent of keeping things fresh when everything feels stale or boring. In other words, we all might benefit from hitting the refresh button to help ourselves get through this.

Children are funny—at least mine are. I love them to death, but if I had to explain why they do, say or think many of the things they do, I’d be up the creek. Sometimes there is no rationale or logic. Kids are weird sometimes. 

And it’s very possible that, if your experience is anything like mine, they are doing just fine in quarantine during this COVID-19 pandemic situation. I asked my youngest (she’s 11) the other day if there was anything she liked about being in quarantine. She muttered, “Eh, I guess so. Maybe.”

Typical. 

Then she proceeded to play outside for three hours, baked some cookies, and watched a movie with the family. I think she’s doing alright. 

So this article is for all you parents out there whose kids seem happier being in quarantine and have thought, what do I do with that? And I’d like to suggest that exploring why our kids are happier during quarantine can make us a better parent. 

The Two Sides of Why Kids Are Happier 

So, just why are the kids happier during quarantine? There could be two sides to that answer— a healthy side and a not-so-healthy side. We can learn from both. 

Maybe you’ve seen the not-so-healthy side of happier-quarantined kids. You see the signs:

  • The video game console burns more electricity than the refrigerator
  • Their bedroom door is always shut, all day, and you’re starting to wonder what your kid looks like. 
  • The pantry is now a free-for-all, and you’re beginning to miss those sweet school lunch ladies who you had never met before. 

Granted, this doesn’t necessarily reflect every happy kid’s quarantine experience. But if it does, these are signs you might not have noticed before in the normal humdrum of life. Now that you are together more often, you notice the patterns and the red flags go up. 

But there’s possibly a healthier side to why children might be happier in quarantine. 

Kids are happier when families do stuff together. They love being around each other. Even teens, who typically need time away from parents as a normal part of their development, find comfort, belonging, connection and a more solidified identity when the family is more available. (But don’t expect them to tell you that!)

True, many kids miss seeing their friends (as do many adults). But consider the idea that the last few years of technology have possibly conditioned kids for quarantine. They, especially teens, are already accustomed to hanging out with friends and family electronically. 

Another explanation for quarantine-induced happiness in your kids: During the quarantine, have you noticed how much you are jumping from activity to activity, grabbing dinner on the go, not enough room for good family conversation, just like in pre-quarantine times? No? That’s because you probably aren’t. 

With the cancellation of baseball, dance lessons, band practice and other extracurriculars that devoured the family calendar, the pressure of jumping from activity to activity with little downtime has disappeared. Consequently, so has the pressure to do everything well. And kids really like this. 

One more possible reason kids are just happier in this crazy situation: They can focus on schoolwork better, and for shorter periods of time during the day. 

Schools are wonderful places, and the hardworking educators and administrators who devote their lives to kids are invaluable. But I also know that schools inherently contain distractions that, frankly, aren’t present at home. Rowdy peers, bullies, loud environments, busy hallways, busy lunchrooms, busy work—these can easily interfere with an otherwise productive day at school. At home during quarantine, kids can do what we all like to do—get in there, get their work finished and move on to more exciting things in the day. 

Ask ‘Em About Happiness

So how do we go about exploring these ideas with your children and gaining some parenting perspective? One simple answer to this is, ask them

  • What have you liked about being in quarantine? 
  • Is there anything you have not liked? If so, what is it?
  • What has made you happy being in quarantine? 
  • How has school been different for you in good ways? In bad ways? 
  • Are there things we’ve done in quarantine that we normally didn’t do before as a family? Are there things you would like to do as a family that we’ve not done before? 
  • Is there anything we did in pre-quarantine that we haven’t been able to do now, and you don’t miss it?

I believe knocking around these questions with your kids can make a big difference in how we parent and what we can look forward to in the future. It’s going to take intentional conversations, and depending on the number, age and personalities of your children, you may need to choose your strategy carefully. 

Younger kids may need help to articulate answers to these questions without putting your words in their mouths. With preteens and teens, you might have to wait for the “the right time,” the “teachable moment,” to bring up the subject. Some kids like to know these questions ahead of time before giving answers so they have time to think about it; others love spontaneous conversation. You know your children well and can figure out (sometimes through trial and error) how best to approach these questions with them. 

How It Will Be After The New Norm

The big question here is, how will what you learn from your kids about being happier in quarantine affect how you parent after the quarantine? 

What will your family focus on more? Less? And how do you want to direct your parenting based on what you discover during quarantine?  

These are the kinds of questions that simply take time and ongoing conversation in order to draw solid conclusions. But keep this one big idea in mind: The experience of going through quarantine will impact our kids for the future, but not nearly as much as how we parent during the quarantine. 

The ways in which your family has shifted during the pandemic—spending more time together, eating more meals together, slowing down, enjoying the outdoors more, having more intentional conversations, making time for more play and fun (in other words, all the reasons my funny, weird kids say they’re happier)—these are all touchstones to be cultivated by us, the parents, for the future. 

What we do now helps kids navigate transitions, deal with change and stress, develop resilience, foster positive values, make tough decisions in the face of the crowd. Because, hey—that’s life, right? 

Talk to your kids about what’s making them happy right now. Lean into what they say (or what they do after they mutter I don’t know). We can learn a lot from what’s making our kids happy.

Right at the start, I want to offer you hope. I’ve been married for 25 years and we have survived the day-to-day marital difficulties as well as some things considered “Marriage Killers.” Our marriage isn’t perfect—no marriage is—but we have learned that it is possible to go from surviving to thriving. Remember: Marriage is two imperfect people, building an imperfect relationship, striving to fail better every day. Don’t lose hope.

Quarantined in a difficult marriage! You probably feel like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. That’s not an easy position to be in. Quarantine has probably magnified and intensified things that you were already struggling with in your marriage. You’re not alone. Many couples are discovering difficulties with quarantine. You and your spouse’s fuses are shorter now and you are stuck together with more to stress about and get angry about. Understanding that dynamic is important. It really is a rock and a hard place. Don’t draw any conclusions during this time and don’t make any big decisions.

Since we might be inching toward the end of quarantine, let’s think about why your marriage is already difficult. We are gonna run with the idea of “rocks” and “hard places” for a bit to talk about marriage. Some people expected their marriage to be this easy, fun, delightful walk in the park. Marriage has those moments, but… Every marriage is a rocky road. You will experience everything from a pebble in your shoe to a mountain that you have to scale. The stones on your rocky road come in all shapes and sizes. But there are ways to navigate them all and stay on the road together.

✦ Speaking of stones and rocks, a rock’s hardness is measured on something called Mohs Hardness Scale. For our purposes, this is now the Marriage Hardness Scale.

What is making your marriage difficult? Where are you on the Marriage Hardness Scale?

1. The Little Things (Marital Hardness Level: I Feel Annoyed.)

Examples: Oh, you already know them! (You can just mentally scroll through the list in your head.)

The bottom of Mohs Hardness Scale is talc. We know it as talcum powder. It’s soft, but it can get everywhere. This fine powder is going to work its way into all the unique cracks and crevices of your relationship. You may have married someone who is the complete opposite of you. Those differences can get annoying really fast. You may have married someone who is exactly like you. That too has its own challenges. The bottom line is that no matter what, you are two individuals with unique personalities, needs and habits. Don’t be surprised that your spouse does little talcum things that annoy you. (And don’t forget, you probably have little ways you annoy them too, just sayin’…).

You can do two things with Annoyance Level hardships—you can overlook them or you can address them. Overlooking them requires you to exercise patience, grace, empathy and humility. Addressing them is going to require conversation. “I feel X when you Y. Could you please Z?” You’ll need to be able to do both along this dusty road. Maybe that takes care of it; maybe it doesn’t. When it doesn’t…

I love this clarifying question: Is this a tension to be managed or a problem to be solved? You’re two different people doing life together. Some issues and annoyances don’t change. That’s normal. You can choose NOT to give things the power to annoy you. You can accept your spouse the way they are, warts and all. Learn to lean on your differences and put them to good use. Learn to laugh about them. (I know that sometimes the “little things” can bother me the most. If you let annoyances accumulate, if you give them power, eventually, they will bump you up a Hardness Level or two.)

2. The Not So Little Things (Marital Hardness Level: I Feel Discouraged.)

Examples: Disagreements about finances, sex, parenting. Constant busyness. Undealt with annoyances. Lack of good communication.

Some difficulties in marriage rise above the expected annoyances of living with another person. (And sometimes those annoyances, never dealt with, get aggregated and form a rock that is harder to deal with.) These rocks become “a thing” between you and your spouse. They can twist your ankle and trip you up. These rocks can also be picked up and weaponized—“You always… You never!

Marriage is work. You’ve heard the saying, “You can work harder or you can work smarter.” Marriage requires BOTH. Yes, it takes effort, but a healthy marriage also requires some skill sets. 

  • How to respond instead of react. (Control your emotions, don’t let them control you. Know when to call “timeout” and cool off.) 
  • How to actively listen. (Body language—look like you’re listening. Put what you heard in your own words. Ask clarifying questions.) 
  • Conflict management skills. (Attack the problem, not the person. Use “I” statements, not “You” statements. Have a plan and rules for how you will handle conflict.)
  • Intentionally staying connected. (Date nights. Learning your partner’s “Love Language” and exploring new ways to love them. Expressing gratitude. Being intentional about doing things that strengthen emotional and physical intimacy.)

When you can navigate the rocks as a strong TEAM, instead of tripping you up or being weapons, they become mile-markers of your growth.

3. The Big Things (Marital Hardness Level: I Feel Exasperated.) 

Examples: Mistrust. Constant conflict. Boundaries being approached or crossed. Resentment.

These are boulders along the rocky road of marriage that can get in your way and make you change direction and get off course. You can become divided as you navigate different paths around the boulders and now you’re not walking together. You can feel the separate lives forming. Plus, you feel like co-owners of a small business named, Family, Inc. and your communication has devolved to a level that has all the romance of a business meeting—“Did you pay the electric bill? Who’s driving to soccer practice? What’s this charge on the statement?” Maybe, after a few boulders, you’re just trying to keep it together for the kids.

It is incredibly valuable to have a Marital Mentoring Couple. I’m talking about a couple that has made it 20+ years and has the war stories and the lessons they learned from them. People that will be honest with you and you can be transparent with them. You might be surprised to find out how normal and expected some of your “unique” problems are. Expectations are everything and finding out that some things are “normal” can take some of the power away from them and encourage you. A mentoring couple can pass on lessons, skills, and maybe more importantly—a new outlook and hope.

The boulders of marriage can unite you, rather than divide you. It’s all in how you approach them.

4. The Hardest Things (Marital Hardness Level: I Feel Hopeless.) 

Examples: Infidelity. Apathy. Emotional Affairs. Contempt. Separate Lives Under One Roof.

You are going to face some problems and issues that seem “irreconcilable” along the rocky road of marriage. This isn’t an annoying pebble in your shoe, or a rock you can twist your ankle on or throw at your spouse; this isn’t even a boulder that has come between you. There are mountains to climb. And the fact is that you can also move up the Hardness Scale very quickly. Situations, issues, problems can escalate from Annoying, Discouraging, Exasperating, to Hopeless quickly if left unchecked and undealt with.

Don’t be afraid to call in the pros at this point. (Or at any point.) By pros, I mean marriage counselors. We have personal blindspots. We have marital blindspots. A counselor might be able to see what you aren’t seeing, hear what you aren’t hearing, and show you that you’re doing things that you both don’t know you’re doing. (Or NOT doing.) They can help you cultivate the skills that you didn’t even know were available or you were capable of. Don’t be ashamed of getting counseling. You probably already know couples that have benefited from it—you just didn’t know a counselor helped them. Even if your spouse isn’t willing to see someone, that shouldn’t stop you. It only takes one person to change the dance.

Fun (IMPORTANT) Fact: There’s been a lot of “rock” talk here. The hardest stone on Mohs Hardness Scale is the DIAMOND. That’s right. It’s likely that one of you gave a diamond on your wedding day and one of you received it and is wearing it right now. That hardest of stones comes in handy for ALL your marital hardships, especially for the hardest of situations in your difficult marriage. And you already have that stone! You’ve had it the whole time! Remember why you got married in the first place? When you climb the Marital Mountains together, you’ll find an incredible view and a whole new perspective.

Back to hope. This Marital Hardness Level can go from Hopeless to Hopeful. All of them have the potential to bring you closer together instead of driving you apart. Annoying can go to Amazing. Discouraging can go to Encouraging. Exasperating can go to Exhilarating

During this quarantine, remember, you’re between a diamond and a hard place. You can do this.

***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.***

For forever both of you have lamented about how busy you are and how you wished you had more time just to be together and enjoy each other’s company. Then Corona hit the scene and BOOM! Just like that, you are together 24/7 and romantic dinners, at-home date nights and long conversations are now on the table again. So, why is it that just when opportunity presents itself, one or both of you feel like you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’? 

I mean, isn’t sex at the top of your list in the midst of worrying about your jobs, money, aging parents, trying to help your kids finish school, dealing with your graduate’s disappointment over no graduation ceremony or celebration, your college student who isn’t happy about being home and you aren’t particularly excited about them being home? 

Was that an emphatic, “No!” I heard? Well, you aren’t alone for sure. And, truth be told, there’s a really good explanation. Simply put, most of us are in survival mode.

The Why Behind How You May Feel

When we experience stress and anxiety for an extended period of time, it is exhausting. COVID-19 has tossed all of us into the land of the unknown at breakneck speed. Stress, anxiety, and fatigue often result in a decrease in your sex drive. The good news is, it is unlikely that you’ve permanently lost that loving feeling. Plus, there are some things you can do to help get you through quarantine.

  • There is some truth to the saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Everybody needs time to themselves, so make sure you are finding ways to be separate AND together.

It’s hard to be together all the time. There are probably plenty of things your spouse does that under normal circumstances would go unnoticed or just wouldn’t be that big a deal. Throw in the level of intensity we have all been experiencing and all of a sudden, these things are annoying idiosyncrasies that sound like fingernails on a chalkboard—it’s true. See it for what it is and do your best to not get revved up about it. It’s a pretty sure thing that you do stuff that gets on their nerves as well. Cutting each other some slack will most likely serve you well.

Be intentional about finding ways to be playful with each other that don’t take much effort. Take a walk or leave a clue on the bathroom mirror for something fun they have to find (like their favorite candy or you)! Dance to your favorite songs, do something unexpected that they will appreciate, or play Spin the Bottle Strip Poker. Anything that has the potential to make you smile or laugh will release hormones in your brain that make you feel good. Doing this with your spouse makes you feel good about being around them, even when things are Coronavirus challenging.

  • Take good care of yourself and help your spouse to do the same. Not getting enough exercise or rest and not eating right can make you not even want to be around yourself—much less anybody else. 

When we are stressed out, tense and anxious, it is easy to allow the one we love the most to experience our wrath. That doesn’t exactly help that lovin’ feelin’ show up. While they may know you best and understand that it’s your stress speaking and not you, over time your spouse may feel like you are using them as a punching bag—and that gets old fast. Instead of taking your feelings out on them, try talking through how each of you is feeling about your present circumstance. It is highly likely that the two of you aren’t going through the COVID-19 experience feeling the same emotions. 

  • Believe it or not, working through a really hard thing together can make you feel more intimate toward one another. 

So, the goal in the midst of and beyond the quarantine experience is not to do anything that would damage your relationship and the love you have for one another. You may not feel overly excited about sex at the moment. However, as stress and anxiety decrease and the tension melts away, it is likely that you will find that lovin’ feelin’ again.

***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.***

The freeway is a terrible place for my emotional health. 

Perhaps like you, the chance to leave the house for something essential is a bit of a treat these days. A couple of days ago, we needed bread. So, I joyfully hopped in the car to head to my favorite locally-owned bakery with thoughts of fresh sourdough on my mind. 

Joy quickly turned to temper as I entered the on-ramp and encountered other—I’ll call them “drivers”—on the road. Let’s just say that those around did not have the same philosophy of operating a motor vehicle as me. They were either too slow, too fast, or just too unlike me in how I preferred them to drive. I’m a bit ashamed to admit it: choice words flew, and the stink-eye was given from the driver’s seat on several different occasions. I mean, I was irate, irked, ill-tempered. Don’t these people know when a loaf of sourdough is on the line?

I’ve yet to understand what it is about the freeway that can turn my elation into exasperation, my peace into petulance. And maybe for you, it feels like the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, with all the quarantining, working from home, homeschooling, and mask-wearing, have been escalating trips on the freeway of fury. You may be asking yourself, why is COVID-19 making me so dadgum angry? 

Here’s the Situation

We get angry because there’s an unresolved issue somewhere. Many times that issue is buried more deeply in our psyche than we think. Even though I haven’t figured out my deal with freeway driving, I’m pretty sure it’s not the drivers around me that have me boiling. Even if they really are terrible drivers, they’re just the triggers, the spark that sets off the gasoline-doused woodpile already set up in my mind. 

And the COVID-19 crisis has provided us with lots of potential for things to go up in the flames of anger. Consider the situation we’re in: 

  1. The threshold of our tolerance is at an all-time low due to the stress and anxiety that is so common during this time. Most of us are basically on a short fuse. Times are uncertain. Uncertainty begets a sense of lack of control, which begets negative emotions, which begets anger. Pile up the wood and pour on the gas…
  1. Things going on around us are magnified at an all-time high. We’re home and around the people we live with so… much… more. You notice things you never saw before—little, annoying, nit-picky, normally-inconsequential things—which now drive you absolutely bananas. You know what I’m talking about. He leaves his shoes in the living room all the time. She won’t stop texting me while I’m trying to work. The kids are loud, hungry, bored, tired, whiney. One little match on the pile… kaboom.

The Problem With the Kaboom

When we allow the pile to build and the match to drop, it puts a terrible strain on our emotional health and our relationships. When the kaboom occurs, stress hormones flood the brain. Those hormones override the part that handles impulse control, consideration of the consequences of your actions, and the ability to use logic and process empathy, compassion and guilt. We basically lose the ability to govern these higher-order thinking skills in order to compensate for surviving what we perceive as a threat. We go into a “fight, flight, or freeze” mode. 

And this is when people tend to react, give stink-eyes from driver’s seats, fly off the handle, go off on someone, lose their everloving stuff. It’s bad for your emotional health, and it’s bad for your relationships with the people around you. 

Strategies for Dealing With Anger

Below I’d like to offer some strategies for preventing our anger from flaming up. Before jumping in, however, it’s important to acknowledge one thought: anger is normal. In and of itself, it’s a neutral emotion. Heck, countless social justice movements were successfully launched because someone was angry with a legitimate issue. So give yourself some grace. Know that your anger is okay; it’s all in how you manage your anger, what you do with it. 

Here are some things to think about: 

  • When you’re triggered, take a timeout so the spark can burn out. Marriage researcher and relationship expert Dr. John Gottman found out that it typically takes at least 20 minutes of “self-soothing” for the brain transition out of “fight, flight, or freeze” and to get back to normal working order. For you fellow “manly-men” out there reading this, self-soothing sounds a little… tame. However, this is your best ally to keep the woodpile from blowing up and saying or doing something you’ll regret. Take a walk, shoot some hoops, play an instrument, weed the garden, bake a cake—whatever it takes to take the heat out of the spark. 
  • Explore your anger. This might sound a little psycho-babblish, but the idea is to consider what’s really going on inside that’s making the anger build. Sure, something your spouse or kids (or the drivers on the road) did trigger something; but ask, what’s the real issue here? Is it the stress of this pandemic? Is it the unknown, the uncertainty? Are you missing people you normally see in person? Are there ways you’ve typically coped that aren’t available right now? And are you getting enough exercise, rest, clean food, or connection with the people you love? Exploring these ideas is akin to disassembling the giant gas-laden woodpile that’s been building in your mind so that the next time something lights a spark, the tendency for a kaboom is much less. 
  • Recognize the things that are giving you joy during this time. Has there been an upside to being at home more? Has there been more opportunity to hang with your spouse and the kids? Or maybe to learn a new hobby or rekindle an old one? Have you been given the margin to read more, exercise more, watch more movies, complete home projects, or just enjoy the outside? Recognizing the joys that are coming out of this situation is essential to handling your anger so that the anger doesn’t handle you. Acknowledge these joys on a daily basis and adopt a sense of gratitude for those things. When you do, you’ll notice the positive shift in your attitude in no time. 

Anger is a normal emotion. Understand how it affects you physically and mentally, have a plan for it, and learn from it as you focus on the positive things in your life!

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 The US 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.  
  1. 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!

Quarantine orders are slowly being lifted. Businesses are opening. Restaurants are beginning to serve to dine-in customers. People are scheduling playdates. And just like that, we’re beginning to move in the direction of “normalcy”—and I use that term loosely.

Wait! Before you fill up your calendar, return to the office or settle back into your routine, let’s think about the impact these last few months have had on you, your marriage, your family and your perspective.

As a couple, you don’t want to waste this crisis. There are lessons to can learn. Growth you can experience. You also don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment because you’ve developed some expectations of your spouse that they don’t even know about. This is an opportunity for your marriage to take a huge step forward. It doesn’t happen by accident. Be intentional about reflecting on this time so that you and your loved one can move forward with purpose. 

Grab a cup of coffee. Put a really good movie on for the kids. Put them to bed early. And talk. Take 3 or 4 of these questions at a time and have a thoughtful conversation. No matter how great your marriage was before the COVID-19 outbreak, we can all improve. Talk specifically with the goal of being better than you were before.

Questions to Discuss

  1. What have you learned about yourself during the quarantine?
  2. Have you learned anything about me?
  3. During the quarantine, what emotions have you experienced?
  4. What have you enjoyed the most during the quarantine?
  5. What has been the toughest part of the quarantine?
  6. Did you notice any physical or behavioral changes in either of us?
  7. What have we learned about us as a couple?
  8. What will you miss the most about the quarantine? The least?
  9. Discuss one situation or decision which I handled through the shelter-in-place order that you were very pleased with. And why?
  10. Discuss one situation or decision which I did not handle in a way that you would have. And why?
  11. Knowing then what you know now, what would you do differently to help us grow during the order?
  12. Did we effectively communicate our thoughts, feelings and desires as they changed and evolved during the quarantine? In what way?
  13. Did you feel valued and cared for during the quarantine? What did I do or not do to make you feel that way?
  14. How do you think the quarantine affected our marriage in a positive way?
  15. Did we do anything during quarantine that we want to keep doing?
  16. What parts of pre-quarantine family life do you not want to go back to?
  17. What are our marriage’s biggest strengths? Biggest weaknesses?
  18. What does a successful marriage look like? How can we work together to achieve that success?
  19. Who are the people outside of this family (extended family, friends, neighbors) that we care about?
  20. How could we be intentional to care for them and stay connected?
  21. What was our pre-quarantine normal? What should be our new normal?

How can you make the most of your conversations?

  • Listen to understand without being defensive.
  • Be specific.
  • Avoid mind-reading. Ask questions for clarity.
  • Keep it positive. This is meant for you to grow as a couple.

This may lead you to want to be intentional about using what you learned as a springboard for greater things within your marriage. Check out How to Create a Family Plan for Post-Quarantine to turn some of the discussion into planned action. If nothing else, don’t miss the opportunity to connect deeply with the one you want to be most connected to.

***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.***

I was in my home office when I heard gut-wrenching screams and wild barking. The dad-adrenaline shot straight to my brain, and I was out the front door quicker than you can say “ankle-biting poodle.” 

Teaching your child what to do when confronted with a strange dog is one thing. Teaching her what to do when confronted with a charging dog while overcome with terror is quite another. 

As my feet left the top porch step and hit the grass of the front yard, my eyes perceived in slow-motion a medium-sized canine barreling across the lawn toward the heels of my sprinting, wailing 8-year-old daughter. In a matter of near-perfect timing and full stride, I jumped in between them, gave the beast my best WWE professional-wrestler-stare, and (quite literally) ROARED at the animal (think Mufasa confronting the hyenas). 

The pursuing mutt immediately wielded a sharp U-turn and trotted in the opposite direction, head hung low and tail between legs. (It was hard to tell through all the adrenaline, but I’m pretty sure he whined out an apology from a safe distance). 

I admit—I felt pretty darn cool. It’s just a shame the rest of the neighborhood wasn’t outside to see it. 

But the most important part of this story is what followed. Once the adrenaline drained from both of us, my daughter and I sat down to talk about what happened and for me to bestow my invaluable fatherly wisdom.

You see, I was taught growing up that if a dog comes at you, don’t run; if you do, you’re acting like prey, and its wild wolf-like instincts are going to kick in (even with the little ankle-biting poodles), and it’s gonna chase you. Stand your ground, look it in the eye, and establish your dominance

Yeah, try explaining all this to an 8-year-old shaking in her sneakers. And consequently, through our conversation I learned some dad lessons on talking to your child about fear. But now we have something else nipping at the heels of our kids: the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Virus?

COVID-19 has our world in a fearful, anxious tizzy. And children are not the least of who are impacted. Kids may not fully understand the situation (Heck, most adults don’t fully understand…), but they sense enough to know that things are amiss—so much so that it feels like this virus is right behind them, ready to pounce. 

And, as much as we want to, it’s not like we as parents can step in between with a wrestler stare and roar the virus into a U-turn. Things are just more… complicated than that.


So how do we help our kids through the fear of COVID-19? I’d like to offer some steps you can take: 

Help your child understand good fear and bad fear.

Fear does serve a good purpose. It protects us, keeps us from harm, helps us survive. But good fear happens in the context of short-term, isolated threats. It gives us the ability to run away from ankle-biting poodles. 

But fear isn’t helpful to us when it’s long-lasting. This is good-fear-turned-bad and can be detrimental to the emotional and physical health and development of children.  

Help your child to understand good fear and bad fear by using words like these: You know, some things scare us because we know there is danger, like unfamiliar dogs or snakes or electrical sockets. And this fear is goodit helps keep us safe

But sometimes we have fear about something and we don’t know why. We think it might be dangerous, but we don’t know for sure. And so it makes us worry for a very long time. For example, sometimes people are afraid of the dark; it’s not because they know what’s in the dark, but because they don’t know what’s there. And what’s happening with the virus might be scaring you, not because you know what’s going to happen, but because you don’t know. 

Normalize fear for your child—even if it’s irrational.

Let your child know it’s okay to be afraid. Say things like, Everyone is afraid of something. And there are a lot of peopleeven adultswho are scared of what’s going on with the virus. It’s okay to be scared. What we want to do is learn more about it and what we need to do to be safe. That way, we don’t have to worry so much. We’re going to work through this together. 

Keep in mind that normalizing fear for your child means validating their fear as a real thing, no matter how irrational it is. Yes, you as an adult know that chances are extremely low that your child could catch the virus simply by walking outside. However, if this is the fear your child has, it’s their fear. This means it’s very real to them no matter how unreasonable it might seem. 

Understand as a parent that fear isn’t something to “get over” but to work through.

It’s a process. Fear is an emotional reaction, and you can’t just fix emotions—especially in kids! So you have to have patience, and encourage your child to be patient with themselves. 

And keep in mind that there’s a bigger picture with helping our kid work through the process of fear. Yes, we are helping them to work through the situation at hand. But perhaps more importantly, we are helping them to build RESILIENCE and PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS that will go with them into their teen and adult years. 

Teach emotional self-regulation.

Encourage them to verbalize how they feel. If it helps, have them write down a few sentences that describe more specifically what they are afraid of. 

Use a tool like the Wheel of Emotion (below) to give your child the language about how they feel about COVID-19. Sure, they may be “fearful” or “scared,” but this helps kids pinpoint some feelings like “helpless,” “nervous,” or “worried” which helps them process what they’re feeling inside. This opens up great conversation with your child, which is essential for processing fear. 

'I Feel' - Emotional Word Wheel

Finally, encourage your child to engage in healthy behaviors regularly such as active play, engaging with their friends and family online, and plenty of rest

I’ve found it helpful to teach my youngest deepbreathing techniques to use when she feels stressed, which can be found on various mindfulness websites and apps. These are all skills which will help your child regulate their fear and gain a sense of calm. 

Coach your child to give their fear a name.

I heard of one family whose child was afraid of the dark, so they directed her to give her fear a name, much like you’d name a pet. The moniker she chose for her fear was “Bob.” Whenever she felt that fear creep into her head at night, the little girl would call it out verbally, and say something like, “Not tonight, BobI don’t have time to deal with you because I really want to get some sleep. So, Bob, you need you to scram!” 

This might seem sort of trite, but in reality this helps children (especially the younger ones) realize the control they have over their emotions. Giving it a name takes the edge off of fear. It also empowers the child to boss it around rather than allowing it to boss her around. 

Regulate your own fears.

Your kids follow your lead. They look to you as an example of healthy emotional regulation and fear management. How well are you taking care of yourself in the midst of the pandemic? If you’re freaking out and not practicing self-care, your kids will play Monkey-See-Monkey-Do. So be sure you are taking care of yourself and regulating your own emotions well. For good resources, read I’m Too Afraid To Leave the House Because of COVID-19 and watch this video on self-care during COVID-19. 

Let’s be real: Ankle-nipping dogs have nothing on the COVID-19 pandemic. But as parents we can teach them either to run away and wail, or to process through it and face down the fear with a ROAR. And they’ll take that ROAR with them the rest of their life.