Over the years we develop ways to cope with, manage or mitigate stress. A lot of those are even really great things. We may walk, meditate, practice yoga, exercise, talk with a friend, go to recovery meetings, go to therapy, the list goes on. Sadly, not even the best of self-care rhythms in the past could have equipped us for the crisis at hand.
The truth is, this is my first time and your first time to experience a global pandemic. We probably are, let’s just say, less than our best selves (aka we aren’t very good at this). Nor should we be, by the way. In addition to awkwardly navigating a completely unknown situation, many of us are with our families, children, partners or roommates more than ever before (aka all of the time). Tension is inevitable.
How do we navigate taking care of ourselves while nurturing and caring for the people we love the most?
I am reminded of an acronym that I learned in recovery meetings that has been wildly helpful for me when I am facing tension within my relationships: HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired). If I am feeling any of these ways, it is best to not engage in a serious conversation or conflict until I can take care of myself.
When we are in HALT mode, our brains cannot fully function, our bodies are being pumped with the stress hormone cortisol, and we are likely operating from our reptilian brain (fight, flight, or freeze). Problem solving or communicating with grace and compassion is far from realistic, as that part of our brain literally goes offline.
The tricky thing is we may be in HALT mode for most of quarantine…making it pretty tough to do relationships. Some of us may take this as a cue to avoid our people entirely during this time, but I’d like to invite you to still move towards each other whenever possible.
Here are some tips to try to connect in tough moments:
- Feed yourself and feed your people. Food really does help.
- Drink a glass of water and breathe.
- Ask yourself, “How important is it?” For example: “Is anyone in danger? No.” “Will I survive if the dishes are in the sink? Probably.”
- Be curious about your feelings and the feelings of others without judgement.
- Say you’re sorry and mean it. We are all going to blow it, it’s ok.
- Find humor whenever possible.
Remember, we are all figuring this out for the first time. It is going to be messy, awkward, and painful. We must take care of ourselves first before we can turn towards each other.