Last week as things ramped up with the Coronavirus, my husband and I were having a conversation about navigating work, caring for family, grocery shopping and the like. In the midst of trying to figure it all out and all the “what ifs,” I kind of lost it. Actually, not kind of – I lost my cool. My husband just stared at me. It took a minute or 10 for me to get myself back together.

Actually, I took our dog on a walk and thought about what had just happened. We aren’t normally snippy with each other. We also aren’t normally in such close proximity for an extended period of time.

Let’s just put it out there: Life is super stressful and unbelievably complicated at the moment. We all are probably feeling some level of fear about the future. In these very moments when things are trying and we are facing the unknown, we need to be on guard and very self-aware in an effort to avoid hurting ourselves and those we love. 

If you’re wondering how to know whether you’re on edge or not, here are a few things to keep an eye out for. These signs could be any or all of the following: 

  • You feel like you are going to explode.
  • You’re not sleeping.
  • You are indulging more than normal in __________ (eating, sleeping, drinking, online shopping, as in retail therapy).
  • You’re quiet and withdrawn when you are normally not that way.
  • You feel like you are going to explode if your spouse leaves their dishes in the sink one more time.

All of these are telltale signs that you may be in the danger zone. So, what can you do?

Your first line of defense is to communicate. Talk with your spouse or someone who is part of your support system. The opportunity to have someone listen to your fears, frustrations and needs, even if they can do nothing to fix it, can help relieve some of the tension you feel.

Create a communication plan. Sit down with your spouse and discuss how you will intentionally check in with each other to know how to best support one another. Don’t assume your spouse knows what you need.

Meditate or pray. Practicing deep breathing, meditation/mindfulness, as well as praying can help relieve some of the pressure you are feeling.

Take a time out for yourself. Sometimes we just need to time ourselves out for a few minutes. Sit in the bathroom, your bedroom, the balcony, your front porch or some other spot that will allow you to have a few moments of silence to recalibrate. It can be helpful to have regularly-scheduled times when everybody goes to a specific space. That way, everyone in the family has a chance to be apart.

Exercise! Exercise is key to helping us release toxins, stress and tension in a healthy way versus taking it out on our spouse. Going for a quick run, a brisk walk (yes, even in the rain) a bike ride, doing jumping jacks inside or anything that will get your body moving and cause you to break a sweat is helpful. Walking the dog has been a huge sanity-saver for me.

Get connected with your support team. Even in the midst of social distancing, relying on your spouse to meet all of your needs will likely lead to even more frustration and tension between the two of you. Create coffee time or social hour through Google Meet, FaceTime, Zoom or some other platform which will allow you to hang out with friends or family.

Take one day at a time. None of us knows about tomorrow. To keep rehashing the “what ifs” will literally drive you crazy. It will be helpful to you, your spouse and the rest of your family if you can take things one moment at a time. The goal is to navigate today.

Avoiding some things like unrealistic expectations and negativity will also be helpful. It is unrealistic to think that you aren’t going to have some meltdown moments. It’s bound to happen with people in such close quarters who are cooped up for an extended period of time. The goal is to avoid reacting. Instead, take a deep breath, count backwards from 10 and then respond to the situation at hand.

If you’ve been focusing on the negative, you might want to refocus on a few positives. Stop telling yourself you are a failure or thinking your spouse is failing big time. Your brain believes what you tell it. If you think negatively about yourself and/or your spouse, it makes it hard to communicate and life becomes more complicated. All of us are trying to figure out how to adapt and adjust – even your spouse. Things are likely to get better as people get into a groove, but it may take some time. We have a real opportunity to look for the good things our spouse is doing instead of focusing on what we see as a negative.

One of the greatest things we can do to survive life as we know it right now is to love each other well. One way we can do that is by watching how we communicate in the middle of uncertain times. Remember the reasons you fell in love with your mate. Reflect on the good times you’ve had and what it took to make it through the hard times in the past. Be intentional about complimenting and encouraging them. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are a team. Listen to their fears and frustrations and be willing to compromise when necessary. When all is said and done, hopefully our family relationships will come out stronger because we’re choosing to think before we speak and trying to make things right when we lose our cool.

***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.***

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