Words of Encouragement (4.2):
*When home doesn’t feel like home* (or when the people you live with are driving you crazy! 😉 ).
With reference to my earlier post about finding order in the midst of chaos, I provided the image of your home being like a lighthouse in the midst of a global storm. We considered the idea of things that are within our realm of control in contrast to those things going on in the outside world that we can’t do a great deal about in the grand scheme of things. But what if your home is actually like waves crashing upon the rocks? Could *you* still be like a lighthouse in the midst of not only what is happening right now in our communities and in the world, but also more specifically in your own home?
This is worth exploring because we’re all going to be at home in this hiatus for an unknown length of time. Who knows how this is all going to pan out?
If you find that you are struggling with the daily stresses of home or family life, whether or not the people you are living with at the moment are your family, then it is important for your wellbeing and for theirs that you all consider strategies that could help.
1. Routine: This is a stressful time for everyone. People have various concerns from the obvious life and death reality of Coronavirus, fears for family and friends, worries about jobs and work and managing childcare, food supplies and finances. Regardless of your situation, it is important that you have at least some kind of basic structure that will help you to manage and juggle these various cares and responsibilities, and to keep things from becoming overwhelming. Be flexible with these, but try to establish some kind of new household ‘norms’ in these challenging times.
2. Physical boundaries and psychological space: No one said this is going to be easy. Perhaps you are blessed to live in a happy family where for the most part you all get on well and are loving and caring towards each other. This is wonderful if you do, and take time to appreciate your blessings, the people in your life, but also remember that this is sometimes far from the case for everyone around you, and think about how you can be a source of support to friends or family who may be struggling at home. We need to all be thinking of each other, especially in such challenging times.
If you are in a stressful situation at home, it is important that you create some kind of physical and psychological space for yourself, and allow the same for those you live with. Maybe you feel like you’re not getting a moment to yourself if children are competing for your attention, or maybe tensions are running high with your partner or housemate, and you are beginning to lose perspective.
Even if you feel trapped, you *do* have options. It might mean getting up earlier than everyone else or taking some time after others have gone to bed to decompress and think and process.
If you can, try to create a space at home that is just for you where you can get away to. Even if it is just a small area, if you need boundaries, try to establish them and listen to the needs of the other people you’re living with too – this is a challenge for everyone.
3. Be understanding: Communication is really important, and sometimes we all do it quite badly, but this is a time to learn. The people you live with may be stressing you out, but try to remember that this is a new and stressful situation for everyone, and they may be struggling too. Find ways of being mutually supportive, and give extra grace to those who may not be doing things the way you think they should. You can’t stop the waves crashing, their attitudes and responses may be out of the realm of your control, but yours aren’t. So be that light in the midst of the storm, in the world, and in your own household. Be gracious, be kind, be forgiving, and supportive, and take time to work on your own character rather than getting annoyed about the things you can’t change in someone else – I know it’s not easy but it is important. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Help, love and support each other.
4. Take responsibility: It can be easy to fall into negative patterns of blame rather than working together when things get stressful. You need to take responsibility and be concerned about what you can change in yourself and your own attitude rather than trying to ‘fix’ someone else. They are imperfect, but so are you. They need compassion, support and understanding, and so do you. Look for solutions, together if you can, so that you aren’t weighted down by the problems.
5. Create a new family / household ‘tradition’ for this time: Maybe it could be a new activity you do regularly at home with your children so that the Coronavirus pandemic seems a little less scary to them, and isn’t always the focus of attention or conversation. Maybe with the adults you live with you can create an activity to accomplish during this time inside, something after you’ve done your ‘working from home’ bit, and something that has nothing to do with watching the news or TV or tidying the house, etc. Read a play or a novel aloud to each other each evening even for a few minutes, do a puzzle, a jigsaw or something else that will activate the parts of your brain that help you to focus, to concentrate and to relax, rather than just constantly absorbing information from external sources. A few minutes of time in your daily routine that you can look forwards to together, and even if you have to stay isolated in a separate room, you can also pick up the phone for a chat 🙂
6. Set goals: When things feel like they are getting a bit crazy around you, it helps to have some small and manageable goals each day. You might have bigger things you want to use your time to work on while you have a bit of extra time away from the outside world, but also be realistic and set small goals too, as during times of stress and change it can be hard to concentrate. Some of these goals can be working alongside your family members to establish a sense of teamwork to overcome conflict. If this seems like it can’t be done then do what you are able to do on your own. Set short time limits, and break down tasks into tiny ‘bitesized’ chunks that you can do for a while and come back to if you are getting overwhelmed. Try to keep your space tidy and clean as this will help you to have a calmer state of mind. If this is difficult, then have one small area that is ordered and that you can go to to rest, even if it is the corner of a sofa!
7. Be *intentionally* grateful everyday: gratitude doesn’t just happen. It takes a choice on your part to recognise and appreciate the specific things in your life that you can be grateful for, even if those things are challenges. Be intentionally grateful at the start and the end of each day, and allow this to change you. You can put pen to paper or just take time to think on these things. If you are feeling stressed out or annoyed with your living situation and the people around you, take time to be intentionally grateful for them everyday. It might not be easy for you, but when you think of the sobering reality that so many people are losing loved ones, and how many frontline workers would wish to be at home with their people even if it is stressful, then it will definitely change your attitude, your perspective, and hopefully the atmosphere in your home for the better.
Take care, love, stay safe, be kind.