This video is for those of you who are struggling to manage your mental health struggles when you are cooped up with your family.
Now, families, we love our families, of course we do. But sometimes we don’t like them very much, and this is a normal part of family life.
The thing is, when you are cooped up with them, you are sharing a small space – the same refrigerator – needing to obey the same quite restrictive lockdown rules, and there is so much tension in the air and anxiety and uncertainty, you’re bound to like your family just a little bit less during this period, that’s normal.
So I wanted to make this video to try and help you cope with finding your own space, creating your own boundaries during this period. Because although connection and touch is so important to maintain good mental health, so is finding your own personal space. It’s essential to have some space and claim some space of your own.
So here are my thoughts about how to manage mental health when cooped up with family.
If you’re struggling with mental health difficulties, this lockdown period is really tough because your difficulties are often triggered by interpersonal encounters – encounters with other people, especially your family members right now.
Because not only are you more sensitive to these triggers than maybe other people are, but your reactions to them are often much larger and overwhelming than other people might experience them. A small wave for somebody else might feel like a tsunami to you.
What you need, what my clients need more than anything else when this happens, is time on their own to do the things that help them settle and recalibrate. Time for your body and your mind to come out of that period, out of that stage of hyperarousal – that agitated place where nothing makes sense and you just feel totally overwhelmed – into a place of calm and settledness, where you can make good decisions for yourself.
Now you’ll have tools and techniques to do this if you’ve been working with a therapist. They will have provided you with things to practice and do. And these things will be like journaling, breathing exercises, experiential exercises, guided mediations, maybe thought records.
Practice, find what works for you.
But the important thing is you need to find space on your own to do it.
Now how do you do that?
It may be hard but if you haven’t already talked to your family members, say to them,
“Hey, you know what? I need a little more time and space on my own than you might. You might not get it but I promise you I’m gonna be happier, and if I’m happier I’m gonna be an easier person to be around and I’m gonna find you a much easier person to be around. So when something triggers me I’m gonna take some time in order to figure it out and just settle myself. Please, give me that time.”
It might mean that you put a sign on the door where that indicates that you need the time so you don’t have to constantly be saying to somebody, “Hey, I’m triggered.” Because that can be really, really hard. Maybe you just put a sign on the door that says ‘do not disturb’ and then everybody in the family will know what that means.
The other thing that you can do is talk to your therapist or your mental healthcare practitioner about a special Corona Crisis Plan.
And this is especially for those of you that self-harm or have frequent suicidal ideation. Because what the government has recently released is a new guideline that says if it means that you are going to stay safe, if it means that you are in a position of danger (that means self-harming and of course making an attempt on your life), if what you need is time and space on your own and the only way that you can get that is to leave the house, then you are allowed an extra walk. You can take that if it’s part of your crisis plan.
So take a look at those guidelines and consider that because we want you stay safe and if you need that time and space to get out and do that, to bring yourself back down into your window of tolerance, into your place of settled and calm you need to take that. Okay?
Of course, if you can take that hour a day on your own you should. But the reality of the situation is you may be taking care of young children on your own. You may be taking care of somebody vulnerable. So the only time to get out is the time where you need to get out.
So if you’re struggling and you feel unsafe take that extra time, take that extra walk.
So the take home message here is fight for your own space. Take that space, it’s not selfish. It’s essential to maintaining good mental health especially during this heightened time of stress and uncertainty.
You’ll feel better. You’ll feel more in control and better able to take on the unique challenges of this period. I promise. I really promise.
So until next time please keep safe, keep well, and we will get through this together.