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Understand Yourself | We’re –s-t-u-c-k- safe at home. For some of us, as we continue to transition into this new lifestyle this means more stress and even busier schedules. Living almost minute by minute, taking care of young kids who are home (all the time), while still striving to meet the slow-to-change expectations of employers.
But if that isn’t you and you find yourself with more time and fewer outlets than you’re used to, you’re probably feeling bored, listless, and maybe even a little lazy. Counting myself among this group, I’m struggling to feel motivated even as I write this! All this time at home can lead to an odd combination of frustration with not having enough to do and a lack of drive to do what you can or even need to do. Maybe even questioning yourself and wondering, Who am I?
I’m sure you’ve also seen the two social media messages floating around about this experience:
Both of these approaches are valid and helpful. Pick what works for you – and change your mind as needed. But here’s what these messages don’t talk about: How boredom and space can help you understand yourself.
Boredom has always gotten a bad rap. Now more then ever, our internet tribe is talking about the big, bad boredom-monster. We’re taught to avoid boredom at almost any cost, by staying busy, distracting ourselves with tune-out technology, and being “productive.” Maybe this is because slowing down to get to know yourself better can actually be pretty uncomfortable and scary. Because understanding yourself better can lead to confronting some things you’ve been avoiding with all that business and distraction.
As an online therapist and life coach, some of my clients too are struggling with some long-term issues that have recently been “brought to the light.” I want to encourage you to allow yourself to sit with these feelings. With a little bit of boredom and space, here are a few not-so-comfortable (but important) things you might uncover:
You may know your relationship isn’t perfect (I mean, who’s is?). When focused on the hustle of life, we can put off dealing with relationship concerns and the difficult conversations they demand. Now, alone with each other, it gets harder to ignore what isn’t working. This is a good opportunity to notice what’s coming up for you, to understand yourself in the context of your relationship and get curious about what your relationship might need, and consider if you’re ready to start making some gentle repairs.
Anxiety is up with the Coronavirus epidemic. But for some of those who experience it under ordinary circumstances, anxiety has actually gone down during quarantine! With boredom and more time on your hands comes less pressure and obligation. Suddenly, many are finding themselves relieved of the unspoken but ever-present expectation to be busy and constantly moving toward worthy goals. What arises from this new space is the question, “If I’m less anxious now, did I actually want these goals for myself or did I just think I should have them?” Boredom and space can help you separate what you really want, enjoy, and value from what others think or want.
Having more time with yourself, you might pay a little more attention to your thoughts. Following those thoughts can lead you to your core beliefs. We tend to assume, for example, that our value comes from things like productivity, social engagement, or helping others. Right now, our ability to do each of these has been limited, which can lead to new, healthier beliefs about intrinsic value from being, rather than doing. Boredom and space means we can sit with beliefs and consider them with curious objectivity. We can question them and change them, if we wish. Opening your mind to these personal growth moments will help you in your journey to understand yourself.
As we slow down and get back to basics under quarantine, we create room for more things to grab our attention. You may notice more synchronicities, remember more dreams, or be inspirationally struck with new, creative ideas. These are just some of the ways that deeper, unaddressed feelings work their way to the forefront. Slowing down to embrace a little boredom, what feelings come up and what are they trying to tell you?
Challenges create opportunity for solution-finding. Obstacles illicit creative thinking. Under self-quarantine, we are called to find new ways to connect, help one another, practice self-care, and maintain our hobbies, responsibilities, and goals. Leaning into boredom and space gives you a chance to surprise yourself, to truly understand yourself.
Is it uncomfortable? Definitely. Scary? Yes. But what if this boredom thing is also an opportunity to slow down and sit with an old friend…yourself? Who knows what you might discover?
Wishing you the best,
Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed., LPC
Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed, LPC, helps you build your self-esteem and create strong, meaningful relationships in a non-judgmental, productive space where you will feel safe, comfortable and understood.
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EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS OPEN THE DOOR TO GROWTH: 2020 has really given us a run for our money, and if nothing else, has led many of us to take a good hard look at our lifestyles, relationships, and our country as a whole.
From the COVID-19 pandemic to the focus on socio-political issues such as systemic racism and police brutality, we are all confronted daily with images and content that may make uncomfortable feelings arise. Many of us are feeling upset, and feeling emotionally triggered. You are then presented with a choice: to sit with and examine those feelings, or to avoid them and turn away.
I’d like to challenge you not to turn away. Embrace feeling triggered. Use it, to facilitate your personal growth.
Why is it important to understand and sit with our feelings? Because feelings are the top layer of our belief system. When we have big feelings about something, it provides a clue as to the underlying values and core beliefs that just got challenged. By understanding where this emotional response is coming from, you get clarity about the values, belief systems, and attitudes you hold.
This can happen in many aspects of life, often in your relationships or interactions with others. But lately, you may also have been confronted with new ideas or information (or even more conversations) related to equality, systemic racism, and social justice. As you think critically about socio-political issues, you may notice anger, pain, or even defensiveness arising within you or others around you — especially if you are feeling personally attacked, or that your core beliefs about the world are being attacked.
All of these feelings can be hard to sit with, but it is extremely important to be able to explore and entertain a wide range of ideas. If you’re feeling attacked, offended, or triggered, it’s an opportunity to ask yourself, “why am I feeling this way?” It also gives you an opportunity to try to understand the perspective of the person or situation that feels triggering to you. This doesn’t mean you agree with them but is a valuable skill to master if you want your thoughts, values, and behaviors to align.
The first step in using your emotional triggers as a growth opportunity is figuring out what you are reluctant to consider or even entertain as an idea in your mind, and why it feels so painful for you. Taking a moment to examine our emotions around specific issues doesn’t mean you have to or should change them, it is about getting to the root of what you believe and what is important to you.
You may find that you have deeply held beliefs about why things are the way they are and that those may not be compatible with the new information you’re being confronted with. For example, if you believe that the arc of people’s lives are determined exclusively by “how hard they work,” or whether they “make good choices” it may feel very threatening to be confronted with the realities of systemic racism, implicit racial bias, and white privilege. Any information about how difficult it can be for people of color to get ahead — regardless of their work ethic or lifestyle choices — can elicit feelings of anger and defensiveness, and voila, you’re feeling triggered.
It is exactly this uncomfortable feeling that we all need to pay attention to.
If you notice yourself feeling triggered, here are some skills that can help you begin to better understand your values and beliefs that are triggering your big emotions.
These skills are also useful when having conversations with other people, as well as ourselves.
Explicitly identifying your values and what you hold as important to you will be critical in knowing what to do with those thoughts and emotions. There are multiple ways to do this, you can make a list and rank values based on how important they are to you or you can use a more structured activity using value sort cards. I like to use a value card sorting activity in my work with clients, and when you do this think about what each value means to you, and if it is important, not important, or very important to you.
From there, do your values and your thoughts/beliefs/attitudes match up? For example, if you believe kindness is important when you engage with someone who holds different beliefs than you, do you treat them with kindness? To take it a step further, if you believe in helping others – are there times you turn a blind eye to injustice? This is where alignment in your values, thoughts, and actions is important.
You first need to be able to recognize where you have gaps in self-knowledge, and this is a clue of where personal growth is needed. If you don’t know where to start, implicit biases tests can help identify where your biases lie (and I say where on purpose, as all humans have biases). You can also purposefully and intentionally engage with various media sources or invite loved ones to share their views with you. This is also a great way to strengthen and deepen your interpersonal relationships!
This kind of inner exploration and challenge isn’t easy work, but it is worthwhile to tolerate the discomfort as it allows you to feel more confident in your values and sense of self. If your values, thoughts, and actions do not align you may begin to feel the effects of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is when someone has inconsistent or contradictory beliefs, attitudes, or thoughts, especially as it relates to behavior. Cognitive dissonance may present as feeling uncomfortable, avoiding conflict, a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude, feeling irritable, or experiencing guilt or shame but not knowing why.
One thing I really want to emphasize is that examining our emotions and beliefs is something everyone does or needs to do. This is just part of being human and living in an ever-changing world. Please be kind, patient, and compassionate with yourself as you do this work. It is not helpful to beat yourself up if there is some dissonance present, and the good news is these things are within your control and have the potential to change. It is okay to grow and change, even if that means changing your opinion or standpoint. It is okay to make changes and begin to cut out people, ideologies, and activities that do not support your new growth.
If your thoughts, values, and actions do align, that doesn’t mean you’re done! Everyone is continually growing, changing, and learning. We are all lifelong students, and personal growth is not linear. It is not a destination we arrive at, but rather a journey where we challenge ourselves with love, kindness, and respect.
Wishing you the best,
Josephine Marin, M.S., MFTC
Josephine Marin, M.S., MFTC is a warm, kind, and direct therapist and couples counselor who specializes in communication, compassion and connection. She can help you reach your goals and create positive change in yourself and your relationships.
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This word captures the magnitude of the impact of the COVID19 health crisis has had on every area of our lives. The impact is both intensely personal and at the same time being experienced by our entire global human community.
For many of us, worries about the immediate and long-term future have reached a tipping point, with fear of the unknown threatening to overwhelm our ability to manage it. For those who have previously struggled with anxiety and depression, the sense of overwhelm is compounded.
Having unlimited amounts of time socially isolated, without our usual routines has been unsettling. Economic uncertainty is a threat to our livelihood. Our instinctive response to a threat is to become hyper-vigilant; a stress-based state of readiness. Many of us have taken heed of the safety precautions necessary to stay safe while out in the world, such as wearing face masks, social distancing, and washing our hands.
However, this constant physiological state of stress is counterproductive to maintaining a strong immune system. Studies have shown that stress impacts our immune system negatively, due to the release of stress hormones which take a toll on our bodies.
In order to truly maintain our health, we are encouraged to look within; to learn more about how to create wellness in our inner world—our true selves.
As uncomfortable and disrupting as it is, this crisis has presented us with an unprecedented opportunity to slow down, and to connect with our selves in a way that may not have been possible while we were engaged in our busy daily lives. We have an opportunity to become mindful – to consider where we are, how we got here—and if desired— make adjustments or start over.
Research over the past several decades validates both the short and long term benefits of mindfulness in shoring up our immune system. As you learn to regulate your emotions and develop mindfulness, you will also be providing a boost to your immune system.
Radical Acceptance and Mindfulness are two practices that can be cultivated to reduce stress to our immune systems and ground our selves in a more beneficial psychological mindset—offering an unparalleled opportunity for development of personal stability.
Simply understood, radical acceptance means we acknowledge that things are “as they are.” This is a first step, not the end game. It is simply an acknowledgment of the reality of what has happened or what is currently happening, both outside and inside of us.
Let me emphasize: Radical acceptance is not the same as “agreeing with” or passively allowing unacceptable situations or behaviors from others. It simply means you fully face reality “as it is” so you can see clearly without distortions and take appropriate action as necessary.
Once we accept reality as it is, we can then consider if and how we’d like to change it. Rather than judging what is happening, and spending energy on objecting and telling stories about it; we acknowledge “OK, this is happening.” Then we ask, “Now, how do I want to handle it?”
How does this help us? Objecting to reality actually intensifies our emotional reaction and clouds our ability to think clearly and make the best decisions. Caveat: Developing Radical Acceptance is not necessarily easy. Change rarely is. Adapting our patterns of behavior requires focused attention and effort, but it is within our control and the benefits are immediately realized.
Consider the following scenario, which demonstrates two approaches to a circumstance:
Let’s imagine a typical situation befalls two women; I’ll call them Maggie and Sarah. They get into a traffic accident while driving on the highway.
After the initial shock, Maggie becomes angry because she believes the accident was caused by Sarah’s error. This causes her to get out of her car and confront Sarah, putting herself in danger. She then calls her husband and spends time and energy retelling what happened and defending herself – forgetting that she needs to call the insurance company to report the accident.
Maggie is stuck in a mental loop. Maggie is adding suffering to what is an unfortunate circumstance. She also misses the opportunity to feel gratitude for the fact that she was not harmed. She is making a bad situation worse by objecting to the reality of the situation.
However, Sarah is more mindful. Rather than objecting to reality, Sarah moves more quickly from shock to accepting what is — which is that she has been in an accident. She doesn’t focus on whose fault it was; she knows insurance will handle that. Instead, she focuses on the here and now, and is grateful that both she and the other driver appear to be unharmed. Because she is less emotional, Sarah can see things from a wider perspective. She was shaken from the accident but remains in control of her emotions, she is not rejecting or judging reality. When Maggie approaches her, she remains in her car and keeps her cool. She avoids a potentially heated exchange. She has the where-with-all to call her insurance company and the police from the safety of her car.
This example illustrates in a simple way how radical acceptance allows us to face reality as it is, and make the best decisions we can. Neither woman was able to change the reality of the situation. They were both in a car accident. However, the event was much more draining for Maggie, and impacted her well being more negatively. This is an example of how radical acceptance can help us to reduce our suffering.
Radical acceptance is well expressed in this well-known excerpt from The Serenity Prayer (Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971)
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
If there is one thing this global pandemic has made abundantly clear, it is that no matter how well we plan (and yes we should plan) there are many things out of our immediate control. In light of this fact, we can use radical acceptance to discern what it is we do have control over within our circumstances, and how to make best use of our energy toward the well being of others and our selves.
Ground yourself in the present moment. – Often, much of our anxiety is based on fear of the future. When anxiety threatens to overwhelm you, try focusing your attention on what is coming through your 5 senses: What do you see, what do you hear, what are you feeling in your body, do you have a taste in your mouth, can you smell anything. Breathe into these sensations. Doing this for one or two minutes will significantly reduce your anxiety and allow you to solve problems with more clarity.
Move your body – Check in with how your body feels; do you feel tightness in your chest? Is your breathing rapid, or shallow? Do you feel tension in your neck? Once you have determined that these bodily sensations are not related to sickness, try stretching, going for a walk nearby, or put on some music and dance around the living room, joy in movement is a great stress reliever!
Limit media exposure of the news – While it is important to stay aware of the most recent updates, try to limit your intake to that which is actionable, and will actually make a difference to your day-to-day functioning. Once you have the information you need, turn off the news, and seek other forms of relaxation and entertainment. Perhaps finally binge-watching that TV show you have never had time for, or maybe find a good comedy special. Laughter is the best medicine!
Develop mindfulness – Mindfulness means paying attention to what is happening inside of you and outside of you, in the present moment, without judgment. Mindfulness is not necessarily quieting your mind, although that may happen as you cultivate this practice. Rather, mindfulness lets us widen our view of any given moment, so that we see ourselves within what is happening. This small shift in perception can help us avoid getting absorbed in thought and anxiety. It’s like putting a wedge between you and your thoughts and emotions, which allows you to realize that you are NOT your thoughts or emotions. With practice, you come to see that your awareness is constant, it is the thoughts and emotions that come and go. This space is where the magic happens and where freedom from the grip of anxiety may be possible.
The ground we gain by tending to our internal experience will serve us both now and all the days of our lives. In a life full of uncertainty and the inevitability of change, the ability to ground and regulate ourselves in our Self is an opportunity to become familiar with a truly constant and stable place.
Developing these mindfulness practices requires practice. Working with a life coach or individual therapist can help facilitate the development of these skills. The best part is, when we are better able to cope our selves, we help others we are in contact with to become more grounded as well.
Roseann Pascale, M.S., LMFT
Roseann Pascale, M.A., LMFT is an empathetic and intuitive couples counselor, therapist and coach. Through authentic connection and a down to earth demeanor, Roseann can guide you in developing clarity and cultivating well-being. Using the practices of mindfulness and values-driven action, she helps individuals and couples overcome their challenges and create fulfillment in all aspects of life.
Whether you are in a committed relationship and you’re coming up on your 1 year anniversary or your 20 year anniversary, it can be easy to lose sight of your own personal identity through the process of growing with your partner. Here are 5 ways that you can continue to develop your personal growth and self-identity even in a long-term, committed relationship.
Ready to cultivate relationships with true-blue friends who have your back? In this episode of the podcast: How to build a supportive community of people you can count on through thick and thin.
If you are finding yourself struggling through boredom, Online Therapist and Life Coach, Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed, LPC has some advice for you around sitting with your feelings and discovering more out about yourself. Read now…
Having close, healthy friendships can feel like a luxury, but they’re actually vital to your mental, emotional, and even physical wellness. Author and science journalist Lydia Denworth shares what she’s uncovered about why it’s so important to prioritize your friendships, on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.
Are you struggling through emotional triggers? Do you find yourself feeling sad, confused, or even angry when you don’t feel heard or when trying to work through difficult conversations with friends and family? Online therapist and life coach, Josephine Marin, M.S., MFTC discusses why you feel the way you do and how to start growing through these experiences. Read now on the blog!
Is there a culture-clash in your relationship? Marriage counseling experts weigh in on how to deal with cultural differences in a relationship, in order to create understanding, respect and unity.
Mindfulness, Self-Awareness, RADICAL Acceptance – These are all ingredients to a happier, healthier, more successful you! Today on the blog, Online Life Coach and Therapist Roseann Pascale, M.A., LMFT shares how you can start your journey towards Radical Acceptance even in uncertain and difficult times.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby dives into Helm’s White racial identity development model and has an honest conversation about what the stages are really like. She shares what the work involves, the obstacles and opportunities in each stage of growth, and resources to support you in your antiracist development on this episode of The Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.
Many people are connecting with strong emotions as they actively confront pervasive problems in our culture. Some are sitting with sadness, some are giving a voice to long-unspoken anger, and others are feeling hopeful — even exhilarated — that racism is being acknowledged and addressed openly. Today on the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is speaking with online therapists Teresa Thomas, M.A., A.P, and Zachary Gaiter, M.S., LPCC about Hope, Healing and Empowerment.
Many people are connecting with strong emotions as they actively confront pervasive problems in our culture. Some are sitting with sadness, some are giving a voice to long-unspoken anger, and others are feeling hopeful — even exhilarated — that racism is being acknowledged and addressed openly.
While this is a time of hope and possibility, it is also a time of reckoning and recognition for the hurt, pain, and damage that has long been suffered by Black Americans in the United States. As old wounds are re-opened, and the horrors of systematic terrorism against Black people are dragged out into the light, it’s vital that we are also talking about the mental health and emotional wellness of people of color in our country.
Being the target of oppression, and the victim of unjust racist policies takes a toll. This reality brings up questions that need to be answered:
Growing Self therapists Teresa Thomas, M.A., AP, and Zachary Gaiter, M.S., LPCC tackle these questions and more, on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.
Teresa Thomas, M.A., AP is a positive, strengths-based therapist, marriage counselor, and life coach with a knack for helping people get to the root of their issues so that they can establish strong foundations for long-term change. She helps couples, families and individuals heal, grow, and feel good again.
Creating a Thriving Relationship
We are no strangers to change here at Growing Self. In fact, personal growth is our specialty, and with personal growth comes A LOT of change from time to time. However, these past couple of months have introduced a completely new level of change. This change has been rapid, unwarranted, and left many heartbroken, confused, and scared.
With the ever-changing climate of our economy, health, and lifestyles this “new normal” settling in has many of my couples clients facing new and uncharted stress and anxiety around work, household obligations, family responsibilities, and the health of their relationship.
As an online marriage counselor, couples therapist, husband, and father – I’ve witnessed this stress firsthand. In the midst of this uncertainty, however, we still are all responsible for making our relationships work the best they can, despite the stress and upheaval we are all enduring.
To help make your situation feel a bit more manageable, I wanted to share with you the same advice I share with my couples clients in sessions. Here are my top six strategies to a thriving relationship during chaos that will help your relationship stay strong, healthy, and thrive during this challenging time.
Before I jump right into my six strategies to a thriving relationship during chaos, I want to first encourage you to take a couple of minutes to quiet your thoughts, to focus on your breathing, and to center yourself. I’m not saying that you need to go into full meditation mode, but take a couple of minutes to just slow down. Slow down your thoughts, center your feelings, and find gratitude in where you are at.
When we start to feel stressed, overwhelmed, and uneasy in our current situation we can start to scramble and lose sight of what is truly important. I want to encourage you in where you are at and I want you to know that there is support for you here.
If you are facing challenges in your relationship that feel too big, unfamiliar, or distressing – you’re not alone in this. Many couples right now are struggling to balance this “new normal” with their household, children, work, finances, and each other.
My hope for you is that these strategies can help implement new routines and support systems between you and your partner. Now, let’s get started!
Like many couples out there with children, my wife and I are dealing with conflicting schedules and raising a 22-month old daughter who is suddenly home all the time! One way we and other couples can pull together through this is to plan our work schedules around each other, as someone must watch the baby at all times.
As partners, you are both there to help and protect one another. That doesn’t mean that you walk all over each other or take advantage of the “more-chill” or “more-giving” partner. But that you work together to be successful as a unit.
Successfully navigating through working from home with children requires proactive planning and communication. The two of you will need to plan around each other’s schedules and check on them daily together to avoid any misunderstandings and added stress.
It is imperative that couples work together to make this transition as smooth as possible or to salvage what feels like an overwhelming pattern already taking place. The challenge here is that you are both dealing with the same discomfort and stress around balancing work responsibilities, home, and family care.
Schedules can change very quickly – couples who successfully work together, accept the fluidity of the situation, and work on keeping grounded and as calm as possible will come out the other side stronger.
Until this crisis ends, your day-to-day balance between work and home life will constantly change – you and your partner will need to work together to help one another succeed, and this will require good communication and strategic planning if you want a thriving relationship.
If you are like many of my couples clients though, you and your partner may struggle to effectively communicate. If you are looking for tips on building healthy communication between you and your partner, check out this podcast: Couples Communication Strategies for Stressful Times and this article: How to Improve Communication – Fast for tips you can start implementing today.
If you or your partner are temporarily out-of-work or have been laid-off, it’s likely that partner will be with their child(ren) constantly, a role many of us are not used to.
The sole childcare provider will need a break and time to decompress when their working partner comes home or ends their workday. Likewise, the working partner will need time to rest and decompress too.
How do you both respect each other’s needs while also taking care of your own?
Circling back around to the importance of healthy and effective communication, couples in a thriving relationship will need to communicate their needs clearly. With a good understanding of what you need and what your partner needs, you can strategically plan your after work hours.
This lifestyle change will require adaptability and empathy. We are all expending more energy than we are used to spending, and we will all need breaks from time-to-time.
Keep in mind that your partner (whether taking care of the children or working their regular job) is just as tired, stressed, and in desperate need of self-care as you are. If you can look out for one another, you’ll both get your needs met.
Self-care is crucial to a thriving relationship, and that does not change now. Many self-care options, especially those including gyms and socializing, are not permitted right now.
For those in need of some gym time, be open to socially distanced walking, jogging, or hiking outside. You don’t need to purchase a full in-house gym system – unless you really want to.
Instead, you can either subscribe to free workout videos on YouTube or purchase a subscription to a fitness app or virtual wellness program.
For those in need of some social time (apart from your partner), engage in calls and video chats with friends and family. You can virtually go on walks together, attend virtual in-house happy hours, just catch up, or even make a meal together (in your own kitchens of course).
It’s important to maintain friendships even when you’re required to be apart.
For those feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and emotionally drained: meditate, eat better, get some rest, and do what you can to keep yourself grounded.
This may mean spending time alone, reading your favorite book, getting some sunshine by yourself, listening to music, or simply drinking more water.
For those in need of a distraction, this may be a perfect time to start a new hobby to keep your mind occupied and not overburdened with stress.
Taking care of yourself will allow you to show up for your partner and your family when they need you most.
Helpful Tip: Don’t assume your way of self-care is right for your partner!
Do you have a great workout regiment that you can do from home? Great! That being said, your self-care options are right for YOU, and not necessarily anyone else. Allow your partner to practice their own self-care, as they know better than anyone what makes them feel better.
Work on accepting your partner’s way of self-care and try to calm any thoughts of your partner’s self-care being wrong (as long as those methods are not harmful). Remember, if you let them take care of themselves, they can show up better for you when you need them most.
It is crucial that we remain as informed as possible during these difficult times but it can be so easy to go down the proverbial wormhole of different news articles, especially on the internet, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and panic.
Stay informed, but limit your own exposure to articles that can dysregulate your emotions and stress. It may be best to stick to official sources like the World Health Organization and your own state’s official guidelines and act through them rather than reading numerous other articles that might inflame your fear and lead to disconnection from loved ones.
Instead of consuming hours of news, schedule a time during the day that you briefly “catch up” on what is new in your state or area of residence. Be strict and put your phone away, close your computer, and turn off the TV when your “news time” is up. Then mindfully use the rest of your day to fully show up for your partner, your family, your friends, and your job.
If you and your partner are both working from home, you may be spending quite a bit more time around one another. Remember, this does not mean that you are spending time “together” – you will still need to find time throughout your week to focus on each other.
We can get in the habit of forgetting to ask our partner “How are you doing today?” when we see them constantly. Our partner is working through difficult emotions and feelings just as we are – it’s good to recognize that for each other and if needed, schedule time together away from the hectic headlines.
I encourage you to use the uncomfortableness you may be experiencing in your relationship to highlight areas of growth for you and your partner. Instead of spending extra time in front of the TV or on your phones, engage in conversation. Use this time to rebuild “weak” areas or vulnerabilities that could ultimately breakdown your partnership.
If you find you are struggling to get the conversation started, check out this article: How to Fall Back in Love with Your Spouse for conversation starters when things start to feel a little stagnant.
Yes, these are historically difficult times – that cannot be denied. However, you can take steps to feel calmer emotionally about the situation so you can be a better partner and parent.
One of the best ways to get out of the funk of flooding emotions and disconnection from your partner is to practice gratitude. Actively practicing gratitude will look different for everyone, but finding the silver lining through this situation will strengthen your relationship and make you and your partnership more resilient to change.
Many couples with children I know are having amazing experiences with their kids right now that they were not having prior. They are now able to spend quality time with their families instead of being caught up in the hustle of shuttling from event to event, being busied by daily obligations that are currently on hold or greatly reduced, and having to stick to a strict schedule that inhibits learning together, game nights, picnics in the yard, or leaving living room forts up for days instead of just hours.
Similarly, many couples are finding that they are actually finding rest and relief in this season. Where they were previously overworked and stuck in a cycle that they didn’t even recognize as draining, they are now building better self-care and relationship-care habits that in return are making them better people, partners, and parents. Ultimately creating a thriving relationship that they didn’t realize they were previously missing.
I even have some couples clients that are working as a team for the first time in their relationships – never having known previously the impact that this type of support can have on your relationship and household productivity.
And yet others are rethinking their priorities during this time of pause. Finding out what truly matters to them individually and as a couple. Dreaming, creating, and planning for a better future that they had not had time to envision previously.
So much of what is happening right now is frightening, and it is absolutely so, but we can keep ourselves calm in the moment by accessing the positives and good that are sometimes hard to notice amidst all the change and chaos.
Daily gratitude not only calms your emotions down in the moment, but it also helps buffer against the difficult times. By practicing daily gratitude, you and your relationship can begin to thrive during difficult times.
The stress and anxiety that you may feel right now are completely understandable. These changes and uncertainties can become too much for any of us at any moment and that’s normal and okay.
The truth is, no relationship is perfect. We all handle stress differently, individually and as couples. Sometimes it can be hard to navigate these changes or challenges on our own – especially if you and your partner react to stress in drastically different ways.
It’s not abnormal that one of you may be in fix-it mode while the other is looking for a place to retreat to…alone. It’s not uncommon that you may find that your communication skills aren’t as strong as you once thought they were. It’s not out of the ordinary that you may be questioning your foundation or wondering what’s next for your relationship.
These are all valid responses and normal, especially in stressful situations.
The good news is that many couples therapists and marriage counselors, including us at Growing Self, are increasingly offering flexible online options to adapt to COVID-19. This means you can find help from the comfort of your own home.
There is never any shame for reaching out for professional help if it is needed – if you’re feeling overwhelmed and it seems like there’s no way out, please reach out and call a professional.
This situation is extremely stressful, and the timeframe for an end to this crisis is unfortunately indefinite. That being said, we are still in relationships and marriages, and those still need to be nurtured. You have the power to manage this stress and to be the most understanding partner you can be during this difficult time.
Wishing you the best,
Seth Bender, M.A., MFTC
Seth Bender, M.A., MFTC is a marriage counselor, therapist, and life coach who helps people create deeper relationships, heal from difficult life experiences and increase their confidence. His warm, non-judgmental approach makes it safe to discover new things about yourself, and take positive action to change your life.