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I'm Stuck at Home and Going Crazy

Dear CMR: 

Because of some recent circumstances I am stuck at home all day, and while I love my family, I am starting to feel like my boundaries are being pushed—or like I am becoming trapped. What can I do before I go crazy?

Such a good question. Feeling stuck at home, interacting with only a select few, all the while dealing with normal stress and daily hassles, is a recipe for feelings of craziness.  Here are three tips to help you maintain your sanity, and even strengthen your relationships.

First, there are different spaces for different faces. Your personal space needs are based on personal preferences, usually shaped by your family upbringing. We allow a few friends and family into our intimate space—to embrace, touch, whisper or dance; a few more into our personal space—close talking and interacting; and a few more into our social space—the 6 feet or more now widely known as social distancing. It can be uncomfortable if any of the above spaces are violated by others we do not want to let in, and the amygdala (the fear processing part of our brain) can go into overdrive. What to do? Be aware and sensitive to your preferences and to those around you. Then, use this new insight to set up more life-giving interactions and connections with each other. And don’t expect them to do it only your way.

Second, learn to see new situations as opportunities to grow closer based on each other’s preferences. For example, one child of ours likes to come out of her room and seek connection with a hug, but sometimes she just likes to sit next to us on the couch. She needs more time in her room than we want, but we realize now she has a higher need for alone time. Instead of assuming she didn’t like being with us, after talking we understood it was more about her feeling the need to recharge. 

Finally, change the simple phrase “have to” to “get to.” A simple attitudinal or perspective change can make a profound difference. Author James Clear writes: 

“You have to wake up early for work…You have to work out today…You have to make dinner for your family. You have to play your son’s game. Now, imagine changing just one word…You don’t “have” to. You “get” to. You get to wake up early for work...You get to cook dinner for your family. By simply changing one word, you shift the way you view each event. You transition from seeing these behaviors as burdens and turn them into opportunities.” 

Cool how a simple shift can lead to some transformative perspective changes. And this attitudinal change can be contagious, starting a whole new way if interacting with each other. I hope these three tips help you move from feeling trapped at home to feeling free.