There are horror flicks about “cabin fever.” (If you can’t think of one, try “The Shining,” a cult classic with Jack Nicholson). This idea seemed like a clever movie theme with not much application to real life, until recently. It sure seems relevant to our world today. My cabin fever experience is characterized by a serious lack of a routine. I have to put so much more effort into my day because I'm not on autopilot anymore. It may not seem so, but this is actually mentally taxing. I know I am not the only one who is affected by the major disturbance to my daily routine. So I invited someone whose expertise I trust. NJ therapist Jennifer Hilligus and I had a Facebook Live discussion on our NJ Divorce Solutions Facebook page to give us her take on this subject as a mental health professional. If you want to watch the interview, you can watch it here on our YouTube channel. If you are more of a reader, here are some excerpts of the biggest takeaways from our discussion:
Insight #1: Establish a routine.
The first thing we should be doing is establishing some sort of routine because the way humans thrive is by knowing what to expect. Normally, you know at what time you'll be going into the office. You know what time you'll be on a phone call. Now, that's not exactly possible now, but you could structure your day into groupings of time. For instance, if you have to go to work, you have to log in for an amount of time. If you have kids, they have to home school for a period of time. But also, you still need the chores and responsibility. The dishes don't do themselves. And you make more of them now. Then you also need the social and connection time. And the biggest issue for people is that their entire routine is changed. I went from knowing exactly what to expect every single day with a color-coded calendar. What does the new normal look like? So try to stay grounded by looking to the next thing that you have to do whether you're running a business, doing work for an employer, or home schooling. That's actually going to feel more normal because you were used to that.
Insight #2: Give yourself a break. We have to give everybody a break. Everybody is stressed. When stress happens, we tend to be aggressive. That’s what happens whether we're passive aggressive or we're yelling or irritable. I want you to all think of somebody when there's an animal in the corner. That animal is scared or hurt. If you approach it, what happens? It will bite you. Humans are not that different. And just because they're showing aggression, many people are scared. They have fear for their family members and for other people in their lives. There are people that they can't protect, they are worried about using new technology for work, they are worried about getting fired. And you might not see this outwardly, but that doesn't mean that they're not struggling. What they're presenting to you is usually a mask and a coping skill.
Insight #3: We have to accept that we have no control. And that is so hard for people. So what people might be doing is they're researching.? They want to see: How many cases are today? How many people recovered? They're trying to find some kind of barometer of where we are. Maybe we're halfway through now? Maybe not. The truth is that we don't know. Nobody has a blueprint for this. We can’t know how much time is left so we can’t do a countdown. So at this point, it is going to be day by day. What you can do is set goals for yourself. You can say, “Let's check in on April 30th and see where we are.
Insight #4: Don’t watch the news every day. Get your information from a website or something you can read that's not delivered to you in your living room and essentially bombarding you. Be careful with kids around because often it's another death or another tragedy. They are listening even if they're not in the room. They will have questions and they will be scared because this is a very scary time for everybody, (including kids) not just us.
Insight #5: Engage in social interaction outside your internal environment. (Please note this is not advice to physically go visit someone outside the home). It's challenging to be around people chronically the way that we are now, even though we may love them very much. We're not getting any breaks. We do need a break. We're not used to that. We're used to going to work and then coming back. Also, not everyone needs the same level of interaction. One person may need a ton of social interaction, while another is just fine with a phone call. You cannot be your family's only social interaction because then you're going to suffocate the ones that are not as extroverted. So you have to get creative about that if you need a break. Go to a different room, even if you live in a very small place. You can at least move to a different area for a little while. Go to your bedroom or to the basement. The shower is also a great place to just be alone for a while. Or you could go for a walk. And take advantage of using the phone while you’re on walks or spending time alone elsewhere in the house. Everyone is having “Zoom Happy Hour” calls now and other creative social events using video chats. This is a great way to stay connected to people outside the home.
These insights can greatly affect the way you experience staying at home right now. Give them a try and let us know what you think. If you have other creative methods working for you, let us know by emailing us at email@example.com.
If you haven’t already, check out the Divorce Happy Hour podcast at www.DivorceHappyHour.com and our YouTube page here for other discussions with professionals and experts about topics that are important to you.