Practical Tips for Reducing Tension When You’re ‘Safer At Home’

by Emma Grace Brown

If someone had told you in January that you would spend your entire spring and summer breaks at home, you probably would have laughed. After all, warm weather was supposed to wash away the woes of winter and give us a chance to see friends and family near and far. And then, out of nowhere, COVID-19. While Safer At Home recommendations have given us lots of time to connect with the members of our own households, it’s also given rise to an abundance of domestic tension. If you’re feeling the strain, keep reading for advice on how to loosen the proverbial belt so that you can breathe and enjoy your family once again.
 
Go outside and play
 
It’s the same advice you’ve been giving to your children all summer: go outside. As parents, we know that getting outdoors means expending pent up energy. Our hope is that this tires the little ones out so that they can take a nap and wake up refreshed and, ideally, not cranky. Take your own advice. Spend some time outside doing things like riding bicycles. Even if your local park is still closed, you may be able to sneak in a few miles in other areas, like on some back-country roads or college campuses.
 
This will also put you in the mindset to pay closer attention to your general wellness. When you spend more time active, you’ll want to eat better, and that will lead to changes that affect you in a positive way.
 
Update the inside.
 
While going outside is one of the best things you can do for yourself, mother nature sometimes has different plans. Days when it’s just too hot or stormy can make you feel a little cooped up. This might lead to arguments, constant complaining, or an overall bad mood. Together, these things can leave your home full of negative energy. Redfin notes that you can cleanse negative energy from your home using natural methods, much like the Native American art of smudging.
 
Once your home feels refreshed, spend some time making sure it stays that way. A fresh coat of paint on the wall, rearranged furniture, and even fewer electronics will go a long way toward increasing positivity throughout.
 
Learn to communicate
 
Sometimes, stress and tension come simply from a lack of communication. Even when you are stuck in the house with your entire family all day long, communication – real communication – may go to the wayside. Instead of doing things like leaving the laundry out and hoping your teenager gets the picture, talk to them. Remind them that they have chores to do, and that everyone is expected to do their part. Similarly, if your spouse is being short-tempered, let them know you recognize that they are stressed  but remind them that their words and actions are causing even more pressure on the entire household. When you learn to state what you need and say what you mean, you can avoid a great deal of stress caused by miscommunication.
 
Codependency and self-isolation
 
Even if you spend more time outside, communicate like a champion, and make your home a cozy zone, if you are codependent or live with someone who is, your stress levels may be through the roof. Medium’s Madison Epting asserts that steps such as setting boundaries, doing things on your own, and engaging in self-care are great ways to keep you from falling back into codependent patterns. If you find that your codependency doesn’t get any better via self-help, MinnCoDA can help you find a program of recovery to support you through this difficult time.
 
While no one knows for certain when the pandemic will actually end, we can put a stop to its negative effects inside of our homes. So when stress has you down, look for ways to lift yourself up. Communication, physical fitness, and purging all of the negative energy is a great place to start.

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

the four horsemen of control

Man have I been backsliding into my old friend Control. It’s okay though as most of the world seems to be joining me. I’m watching people doing all kinds of things to try to “stay safe”, protect others…and even police the behavior of people around them.

Control patterns are often the first place someone notices their codependent behaviors.  The first four are grouped neatly together and pose a challenge for me in relationships across the board.  I often think they should be bracketed together on the list as I rarely do one without the others.

They are: Codependents often

  • Believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
  • Attempt to convince others what to think, do or feel.
  • Freely offer advice and direction without being asked.
  • Become resentful when others decline their help or reject their advice.

When I’m controlling, I’m NOT trusting.

I’m not trusting…that the other person can take care of themselves.

I just hate it when people offer ME unsolicited advice.  Why then do I think others should appreciate it from me?  It makes me feel undermined…like they don’t think I can figure it out or the way I’m doing it is wrong. Yet, I think my advice is so helpful that they’d be crazy not to do things my way.

I’m not trusting…that learning comes through experience.

When I prevent someone from experiencing consequences, I’m robbing them of the chance to learn for themselves.  They can’t get the practice it takes to handle disappointments or failures and know how to move on.  I cheat them out of that terrific feeling you get from knowing you can figure things out on your own. As someone in the program told me once, they won’t ever hit bottom as long as I keep throwing a mattress under them.

I’m not trusting…that they have a Higher Power who loves them…and it’s not me.

Their Higher Power’s will is for them alone and because I’m not God, I can’t know what that is for another person. If I act as their Higher Power by attempting to get them to think, do or feel…I can get in the way of that greater will for their life.  Turns out, I don’t always know what’s best.  Even if I think I do. 

In CoDA, I am practicing using tools to counter these destructive patterns. In meetings, I can share about how my control behaviors come out when I’m afraid. I listen to others share about their struggles with control and what works for them. I get support as I practice being uncomfortable with the choices others make for themselves. In service, I get to practice letting go of my need to control and force my will. I get to build my capacity to trust others and see how people can take care of their own problems. I can practice communicating and allowing people to work through their disagreements. I don’t have to be a “right fighter” anymore.

In recovery, I can learn to trust…
That other adults are capable of managing their own lives.

In recovery, I can learn to accept…
the thoughts, choices and feelings of others, even though I may not be comfortable with them.

In recovery, I can learn to give….
my advice only when asked.

In recovery, I can learn to be…
content to see others take care of themselves.

Finding Guidance in Troubled Times

Once again, we can look to our Traditions to guide us as we navigate through difficult and uncharted ground.  When faced with difficult life circumstances and relationship issues, the 12 Traditions can be the principles of our meetings as well as our interactions with others.  Who hasn’t benefitted from Tradition 12’s reminder to place “principles before personalities”? 

What more controversial topic is there right now than how and when to reopen our world after the last months of lockdown?  There are so many stories and opinions as well as triggers for codependent behaviors.  CoDA wisely lays out the guidance in Tradition 10 offering us no opinion on outside issues, which helps us keep the focus where it needs to be, our personal program of recovery. 

As we keep the focus on our primary purpose, to carry our message of recovery to those who still suffer, we are opening up our local recovery community to even more options where people can discover the gifts of the program of Co-Dependents Anonymous.  Fortunately for us, we live in a time of advancement which allows us to have choices.  As face to face meetings resume, some local zoom meetings will also continue to be available on an ongoing basis.  This allows each individual to make the choices that are right for themselves.  MinnCoDA’s “Staying Connected” page will become our “Local Online Meetings” page and links to join zoom meetings will be able to be accessed there.

Of course, each group is autonomous and can discuss and work out the details of how that particular meeting will move forward using the group conscience process.  When we gather in our meetings either face to face or online, it is wonderful to know we have a safe place to express our feelings about what is happening in our lives.  I invite you to find your voice in light of the 12 Traditions of Co-Dependents Anonymous, CoDA’s Guide to Sharing and the Recovery Patterns of Codependence. In order to ensure the emotional safety of those present, we refrain from advice giving, controlling or debating, etc.  We recognize that other people are capable of managing their own lives and that we can accept the thoughts, choices and feelings of others even if we are not comfortable with them.

Ultimately, the tools of the program which include the Serenity Prayer, 12 Steps and Traditions and many more are here to help each of us find our recovery from our codependence.  They remind us where we are powerless and where we have choices.  We grow in our trust of a Higher Power of our own understanding.  They guide us to learn to take care of ourselves and allow others to do the same.   

what you are feeling is probably grief

Someone sent me this article the other day and then a different person sent me an amazing podcast by Brene Brown where she is talking with the same author, David Kessler.

He is the world’s foremost expert on grief and co-wrote with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss. His new book adds another stage to the process, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. So I thought I must share this insight with you here because it resonated with me…

Kessler explains…
“We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”

Personally, I agree and there are a lot of losses to grieve. Grief is not just about the death of a loved one. For me, any change can be a loss and any loss can trigger grief. Here we all are with the loss of how things used to be. Loss of our jobs. Loss of physical touch. Loss of gathering to celebrate together. Loss of our routines. Loss of the way the world was before all this happened.

And…”Your loss is not a blessing or a test, it’s not about finding gratitude…loss just happens in this world.”

So what can we do with all this grief?

The stages of grief are not really linear but rather act as a guide. Understanding them helps us navigate…

Kessler says, “There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.

If we can name it, perhaps we can manage it. We have to name it in order to feel it and feel it to heal it.

I found a lot of wisdom and validation in this work on grieving and who doesn’t love to hear Brene Brown? so here are the links to the full article and the podcast.




the power of connection

Excerpt from an article by Sarah Kaplan, Reporter for Speaking of Science
see full article with links to the research here.

Six feet has never felt farther away.

Psychologists are worried about the long-term effects of our new, socially distant reality. Decades of research have shown that loneliness and isolation are associated with high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, weakened immune systems and a host of other health issues.

But there is also hope in the data. Studies have revealed that human connection — something as simple as getting an offer of help from a stranger or looking at a picture of someone you love — can ease pain and reduce physical symptoms of stress. People who feel supported by their social networks are more likely to live longer. One experiment even found that people with many social ties are less susceptible to the common cold.

A supportive phone call, an empathetic ear, an expression of love — these things can bolster the immune system on a molecular level.

But when we are on our own, or even when we just feel friendless, our bodies gear up for danger. Our nervous systems produce norepinephrine, a hormone associated with the “fight or flight” response. Inflammation — the way the immune system heals wounds and fights off bacterial infections — goes into overdrive. (Ironically, our anti-viral response is suppressed when we’re lonely.) Many of the hormones involved in stress, like cortisol, hinder immune cells’ ability to function.

One of the most important things kindness can do is ease our reaction to stress.

“There are powerful protective effects that we shouldn’t ignore,” said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University. “And the extent to which we cannot only be open to receiving support from others … but be a source of support to them, can potentially help us all get through this.”

We shouldn’t even think of what we’re doing as social distancing, Holt-Lunstad said. She prefers the term “physical distancing.” It’s a reminder that the virus may have forced us apart, she said, but it doesn’t have to make us alone.

life is teaching us

Staying calm in the midst of chaos and uncertainty has not been easy for me in my life.
I feel triggered by the circumstances relating to this COVID 19 pandemic.
The craziness of it.
The isolation.
The paranoia.
The feeling of scarcity.
The confusing and ever-changing information.
It reminds me of my childhood.
Of my mom’s mental illness.
I know logically that this isn’t that.
My inner parts don’t know it though.

What’s good is that I’m getting a chance to grow in my awareness that the parts are there. The defenders and the exiles.
I can see myself clearer and I know when this is over I will be changed for the better because of it.
This self-induced suffering is changing us all in some way.
I am awakening to Self and that is where the calm is found.

Meditation practice in difficult days…

Thanks to Tara Brach for providing this beautiful resource.

www.tarabrach.com/create-home-retreat/

As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh explains:

When the crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive.

Let us practice together in these difficult days so we can be that person.

boost your immunity with kindness and self-compassion

As the news reports on this outbreak of the coronavirus, feelings of fear, stress, and worry often emerge. These feelings are normal. Lives may be impacted in large and small ways. Social distancing is happening as a way to decrease the risks especially for those with health issues and the elderly. For some people with codependency, this can increase feelings of isolation and separation.

Grounding ourselves with good information on what is happening, keeping things in proper perspective and focusing on what we can reasonably do to keep ourselves physically and emotionally healthy are important ways we can hang onto our serenity in stressful times.

illustration by Terrie C

Kindness

written by Terrie C

As we face a pandemic many people will be unable to stay home from work and public places.  One of the best things we can do is to practice kindness to all we come across. 

The practice of kindness can reduce the stress of those we meet as well as helping our own stress level.  Decreased stress increases immune response. 


SElf-compassion and Covid-19

Excerpt from a letter By Drs Chris Germer and Kristin Neff,
Co-founders, Center for Mindful Self-Compassion

Self-compassion boosts the immune system, it reduces anxiety, and it’s the easiest way to keep our hearts open to others. Some measure of fear is a healthy response to a contagious virus, of course. We want to respond to the contagion in a wise manner – with preventive measures that benefit ourselves and others.

Self-compassion can help if the virus is causing you unnecessary anxiety, limiting your ability to work or travel, reducing your income, or if you or someone you know has already contracted the virus. A self-compassionate response to the COVID-19 epidemic may look something like this, modeled on the Self-compassion Break:

  • Mindfulness – Become aware of how you feel about the virus. Are you feeling anxious, disheartened, confused? Can you feel it in your body? If so, where? Is your mind preoccupied with the virus? If so, what are your thoughts? Can you validate for yourself how you think or feel in a kind and understanding manner? For example, “Yes, this is hard.” “This is difficult.” “This is really stressful.” Can you offer yourself a little space around your feelings, knowing that it’s part of the current situation we’re all in?
  • Common humanity – When you hear news of people struggling with the virus, can you allow this to enhance your sense of being part of a global family rather than feeling separate? Can you imagine yourself in their situation and say, “Just like me.” Or when you reflect on your own distress, can you remind yourself, “Others feel as I do—I am not alone.” “Sickness is part of living.” “This is how it feels to be a human being right now.” 
  • Self-Kindness – Try putting your hand on heart or some other soothing place, helping to calm some of your anxiety through touch. What words do you need to hear to comfort or reassure yourself about the virus right now? Are they realistic? Can you talk to yourself in a warm, compassionate voice? What actions do you need to take to protect yourself, or to provide for yourself? Can you encourage yourself to take these steps, in a supportive manner?

Notice if this practice makes you feel more relaxed and compassionate or encourages you to take positive action. Feel free to find your own way to be compassionate with yourself, perhaps by engaging in everyday self-care behaviors such as enjoying a cup of tea or taking a warm bath.

Read full letter…