Connection, Quarantine and COVID-19

If you are quarantined with your significant other(s) right now, it could be heaven…or it could be hell. Actually, I hope for you that it is somewhere in between. Meaning, you’re having some conflict, but you are working through it within a reasonable time frame and the conflict isn’t having any lasting effects. If that isn’t what you are experiencing, here are some tips to move you away from hell and closer to heaven.

First, this can be hard on relationships. Spending all day, every day together works great in a romcoms and romance novels, but the reality is much more complicated, If one or both (or more if you are in a polyamorous relationship) are used to leaving your home for work or other activities, being together 24×7 is bound to require new relationships skills. Lowering your expectations of each other is the name of the game.

You will get irritated, annoyed, angry, frustrated, and disapointed with each other. Guaranteed.

Second, if you are feeling less than loving toward your partner(s), remind yourself that your feelings come from you, not them. You get to feel whatever you want to feel, but how you feel is NOT THEIR FAULT.

Before I go on, let me state that I’m NOT talking about disrespectful conversations (name calling, swearing, blaming, shaming, etc) or physical aggression. Abusive behavior is not OK and needs to be addressed. If you need help with this, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for support and to get connected to resources in your area.

For non-abusive conflict, here’s how it works. Someone does or doesn’t do something. You have thoughts about it. Those thoughts create some feels. You then do something to cope with those feelings. While the action belongs to someone else, your response to it is all your own.

For example, in my house, I make dessert for my family every evening. When we’re done, I don’t take my dishes to the sink, my spouse does. Upon taking my dishes to the sink, they could respond to my behavior in several ways.

One way would be to THINK about how lazy and inconsiderate I am, which would lead to FEELINGS of annoyance and resentment.

Or, they could THINK about how it’s only fair because I make the dessert every night and then FEEL grateful and appreciative. See how this works?

When we accept our thoughts and feelings as our own responsibility, we have control to use skills to manage conflict, rather than giving control to our feelings.

Third, if your negative feelings during disagreement are getting strong, take a time-out. Time-outs go like this:

1. “I am getting upset and need a time-out.”

2. “I am going to go for a walk/read a book/knit/(whatever helps you calm down).”

3. “I will be back at <specific time of day>.” (Never say “in 30 mins.” It tends to get confusing. Give a specific time.)

4. “And we can talk about it then.”

At which point, you leave and nothing else is said by you or the other person. It’s important to get everyone to agree to these rules ahead of time, otherwise people tend to argue with you about leaving the room. You also have to return when you said you would. Otherwise, it’s hard to trust you.

Fourth, look at the person you are upset with. Look at their face, listen to their voice, watch what they are doing. Get outside of your thoughts and feelings and get in touch with what is happening with them. Are they an actual threat to you? Probably not.

And five, when it comes to conflict, talk about your thoughts and feelings. Don’t blame your feelings on the other person. Describe the what they did, the thoughts you had about what they, and the feelings caused by your thoughts.

“When you…I thought…then I felt…”

These tips will not resolve all the conflicts you may be having at home, but chances are they will make things better.

One of the disagreements I am hearing a lot about is different levels of caution around COVID-19 safety, such as whether or not to leave your home, and quarantining packages and groceries. Every household has to come to their own decision about degree of caution, and I am not here to reccomend any specific action. However, I know it can be really hard when partners don’t agree.

Make sure everyone involved understands the thoughts and feelings of everyone else. This means that each person gets a chance to talk with everyone else just listening. Once everyone feels understood, you may be surprised at how much common ground there is between you. Common ground leads to agreements everyone can get behind.

If they don’t help, talking with a therapist could helpful. Each couple has a unique story and while these suggestions are universally helpful, all relationships have their own roadblocks to using them. I am offering telehealth appointments and so are many therapists. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need support.

That’s all for now. Be well. Stay strong.

Risky Choices

It is not easy to take risks. Let’s face it, by definition “risks” provoke a little anxiety if not outright fear.

It seems to me that the older we get, the easier it is to maintain our own personal status quo. Even in early adulthood, the pressures of accomplishing our goals…finishing school…getting a job…making enough money to live on…forces us to stay an a fairly narrow path of priorities.

There are 24 hours in a day and we have to choose how to use each one of them. Do I take this precious hour and … do the laundry…complete that report…catch up on e-mail…or do I do something different, something that beckons but just doesn’t fit into my pre-established priorities?

Mostly, we have to do the laundry, complete the reports and catch-up on e-mail to prevent our lives from unravelling. But every time? Every hour, every week?  In fact, I would argue that we do far more damage to our lives by not making unconventional choices once in a while.

There is this great, amazing thing on the internet called National Novel Wrting Month (NaNoWriMo for short.) Have you heard of it? It’s crazy really. Every November, thousands of people from all over the world gather together on the Internet and pledge to write 50,000 or more words in 30 days. And they actually do it! I did it this past November.

You get a ton of support and encouragement from the incredibly enthusiastic staff of NaNoWriMo and the hundreds of volunteers who serve as writing cheerleaders. Yet,  in the end it comes down to you, the hour, and the choice. Do I take the less chosen path or do I fold the laundry?

During the month of November, NaNoWriMo provides the motivation to shift your priorities and choose the risky path. (They also offer Camp NaNoWriMo every April. Guess what MY priorities look like this month?)

Find your own personal NaNoWriMo and experiment with choosing the risky hour. Maybe you can pick the first Saturday each month from 8:00-10:00am to draw, or sign-up for that new Hip Hop dance class at the Y. Has your knitting been calling to you from that pile in the corner? When’s the last time you sang a song?

Try it. Make a risky choice for one hour this week and see what it feels like. It’s good for you.

How to Make a Successful New Year’s Resolution

2016 Resolutions

I don’t completely buy into New Year’s resolutions. I know that for some people, they work incredibly well. If that’s you, more power to you! Keep doing it and you do not need to keep reading this post.

For the rest of us, New Year’s resolutions often end up becoming another source for feelings of inadequacy and failure, ultimately reminding us of what we DIDN’T do in the past year.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. If we shift our thinking about New Year’s resolutions from “goals to accomplish” to “directions to explore,” they can become a lot more helpful (and achievable!)

1. Don’t set your resolutions until you are ready. January 1 is just a date on a calendar, it doesn’t really mean anything. Give yourself time, after the craziness of the holidays, to let potential resolutions percolate through your thoughts organically. If you make yourself set resolutions because of the date, they may not reflect what you really want from your life.

2. Rather than thinking about what you want to “change,” “do,” or “fix” in your life, try out “expand,” “grow,” “stabilize,” “concentrate” or “explore.” Not only are these words more neutral in tone, they are also about a process of growth rather than a behavior correction (which even sounds bad!)

3. Rather than goals, think of your resolutions as experiments. For example, a typical resolution for lots of people this time of year is weight and exercise. Switching out “I will lose 25 pounds and work-out at the gym 5 days a week” for “I will look for ways to increase the amount I move my body. I will expand my repertoire of healthy recipes that I really love to cook and eat” could mean the difference between feeling like a failure and actually making a change  during the year.

For another example, if you believe that you are over committed , try “I will concentrate my time on the people and activities that really make me happy.”

5. If you are wanting to explore an area that feels really stuck, I highly recommend you get professional help. Professionals such as therapists (OK, my bias is showing), coaches, trainers, organizers, financial planners, nutritionists, etc, can make a real difference in our ability to make some shifts in stuck places.

If you want some help changing your goals to experiments, leave me a comment telling me your goal and I’ll comment back with a suggestion of how to make it an experiment.

Good luck and I wish for you all the small moments of goodness 2016 has to offer.