I’ve been a self-help junkie most of my life. I thought I had moved beyond that period of exploring my mental health, until recently. Lately, I’m finding myself revisiting books and podcasts from old favorite sages and adding new ones to my Spotify playlist. Earbuds in place and volume turned up, my daily runs have become my own self-therapy sessions.
It seems whether we’re sheltered at home, on the front lines, or supporting someone on the front lines, we’ve all hit the “weary” button in living with how this virus is dominating our lives. With two young adults and two not-so-young adults sharing close quarters during this shelter at home time, I’m finding my bandwidth running low on many levels.
Enter my new favorite mental health guru, Dr. Brené Brown. Recently featured on 60 minutes, Dr. Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston and the author of five #1 New York Times bestselling books. Dr. Brown is also a mother with teenagers at home during the quaran-“teen.”
One strategy that Dr. Brown suggests for coping with a multi-generational household, is to create a family “gap plan.” Beside taking everyone’s temporal temperature daily, check-in to see how each person’s mental temperature is doing.
We can’t always be 100% available to others, 100% of the time. If you’ve had a tough day and are juggling impending deadlines, you can let others in the family know that maybe you only have 20% of your bandwidth available to navigate other people’s issues on that given day. Naming and communicating that gap can be an important bridge in keeping lines of communication open as a family.
Every family will have different gaps in different members at different times, but she suggests that when you determine there is going to be something significant, make sure that some rules are in place to help navigate the gaps. Rules at her house include:
- No harsh words
- No nice words with harsh faces
- Say you’re sorry
- Accept apologies with thank-yous
- Knock-knock jokes and puns
I submitted this idea to my crew, receiving a few eye rolls and a comment that it sounded too much like the highs and lows at the dinner table when they were six. But, they also confirmed that the gap might be dropping to dangerously low levels in weeks to come with impending school deadlines and finals. I’ll be reminding them of Brown’s daily plan when we see the gap approaching:
- Move your body
- Eat well
- Limit the news
That brings us to week four of our own stay-at-home adventure. Dr. Brown talks about a rhythm that happens in working through a crisis. First there is a period when we are introduced to the crisis that results in a massive change and an accompanying adrenaline surge. But once the waters recede, we are left dealing with the loss of normal which can feel even more overwhelming.
If you or a relative are feeling the weight of this shift, you can reach out to mental health crisis emergency help or one of the mental health services available in Gallatin County. Staying connected, being kind and giving ourselves permission to not always be at 100%, might help us all shoulder the burden of social distancing creating our sudden togetherness.
Maury Wiegand has been a personal trainer and wellness educator in Bozeman for the past 25 years.