Coping with Housemates During Quarantine
At the moment, you might be working from home or raising children at home, all day long.
Does it seem like every five minutes someone is asking for something? Do you find yourself sometimes feeling irritated at those in your home or even those on your screen?
You probably have discovered that criticizing or trying to control the behavior of other people in your house does not work. So, what can you do to control your emotions?
First, set aside a personal space and a time of no interruptions for each person in your home. It is the constant demands for attention that get on your nerves. Even in a small home, find a corner where you can set up a table and a chair, or if you have particularly pesky people around, you might even have to close a door or cut your space off with rope and hang a sign on it that says “shhh.” Some private space and a quiet moment can help you decompress.
But, do not forget to also set aside a mutually agreed upon time to interact. After all, you do not want to seem like you are unapproachable.
Perhaps you cannot avoid those taxing people (and you may even be trying to homeschool them), but if you find yourself starting to snap at others, use this phrase instead of the snippy one to state your concern. Fill in the blanks: “When you….I feel….and I want/need to…..” For example, “When you interrupt my work, I feel harassed and I need to focus on what I’m doing for the next half hour.”
A statement like this does not criticize nor try to control the other person, because there is no “you” in this statement. It simply states what you are feeling and what you need.
Another way to respond to triggering behavior is to monitor your rising tension or anger so you can do something to reduce it before giving a curt response. Stand up, stretch, and then take three slow, deep breaths. Periodically do this even if you are not tense or angry because it can head off those feelings. The deep breaths create a relaxation response as well as giving you a moment to re-group and re-focus.
If all of this fails and you catch yourself starting to yell, take a walk outdoors, but do tell the people in your house when you will be back.
Sometimes writing your complaint down on paper instead of saying it can be helpful. The irritation is then on the paper instead of on your mind and you can even toss that irritation in the trash. Or you can stash it away for a time when you can voice the complaint more calmly.
A great way to break the cycle of irritation and keep the peace is to say something positive. Psychologists have found that it is not the number of negative statements that dooms a relationship but the ratio of negative to positive statements. For a harmonious relationship, there must be five positive communications for every one negative communication.
If a complaint or criticism does slip out, follow it by telling the other person what you appreciate about them. It will keep them from feeling attacked and defensive and may remind you why you choose to live with them in the first place.