In times gone by we probably craved the chance to work from home and spend more time with the family. After a couple of weeks of lock-down the chances are we are craving being in the office and however much we love them, we are dreaming of a break from the family.
The coronavirus outbreak has also led to families needing to regroup as young adults have returned to their parents home following loss of income or the need to put study or travel plans on hold. Under these circumstances living together can be even more challenging.
I had severe ME for 14 years and spent many of those years house and wheelchair bound. I also spent two months confined to a hospital ward. I learnt a lot about the issues of isolation and how hard it can be to have to remain in close confines with others. However there are lots of things you can do to minimise the difficulties.
So how do you stay home and stay sane?
The Serenity Prayer states “…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
We waste energy and lose resilience when we battle things we cannot change. Currently we cannot change the fact we need to be working from home, restricted from going outside and are often living in close proximity with our family 24/7. Someone who copes well looks for their sphere of influence and makes good use of it. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It achieves nothing other than wearing you out! Instead focus on the positive changes, both big and small that you can make to improve your daily life.
Communication! Communication! Communication!
When we are stressed, or under pressure, (as many of us are at the moment), some of the first things that are impacted are our tolerance levels and our ability to communicate logically and unemotionally. Household dynamics, often tricky at the best of times can escalate. We may find ourselves using passive, passive aggressive, or even aggressive communication styles, saying things like, “I’m fine!” when we really aren’t. The problem with doing this is that tension and resentments build and before we know it explode into an argument about not putting out the bins, or doing the washing up…nothing to do with the initial problem we had failed to address at the time.
Think about how you communicate. Is your communication style helping or hindering good relationships at home? Are you currently part of the problem? How can you make sure you are part of the solution? Consider non-judgemental, open, honest, assertive communication. You can’t solve a secret so talk calmly about possible issues, and call them.
Space: we all need it. Ensuring you have somewhere you can get away from everyone is not a luxury; it is a necessity for your mental health and wellbeing but not easy under the current circumstances. Different personality types will need different amounts of space. Introverts need more space than extroverts and they reboot their energy levels by getting away from people. Make sure you use your daily opportunity to go out for exercise. Respecting the need for time alone can make the difference between someone rebalancing and coping and an almighty row!
Talk to the people you live with about how and when shared space is used; you may find you need to alternate your use. When it comes to working from home this is all the more important, be clear with others about when you can be interrupted and when you absolutely can’t. To get through this we all need to respect one another’s boundaries.
Factor in the fun
In hospital we had what was described as, “Friday fun!” Frankly, in practice, it was my idea of hell. I hated it, feeling that the little autonomy I did have was being taken away and I resented being made to join in! However, although badly executed the premise behind it was sound. We maybe confined to a small area, but we can influence how much fun we have. What would make it more enjoyable? Silly card games? A quiz night? Online dinner parties? Family Zumba? Film nights? How inventive can you be? How much fun can you make it?
These are extraordinary times, helped by the fact that at some level we are “all in it together”. I hope that you are managing to stay safe and find your way through the challenges that are being presented to us.