Stress can be an ultimate catalyst to chaos. An increase in stressors and limited opportunities to be away from home can be a formula for family arguments if left unchecked.
As a parent, how can you cultivate connection and harmony in a stressed-out home?
When you are under stress, you may revert to old defense mechanisms. Immaturities return, your fuses are shorter, and benign comments can cause irritability or tearfulness. This is even more true for children and teenagers growing into mature responses to difficult emotions and external stressors.
When the entire family is stressed out, it becomes amazingly easy to trigger an argument—there are psychic landmines strewn about your family’s environment. In this setting, the first thing to do is to take a moment to self-reflect and take stock of your internal state.
How are you doing in this moment? Be honest with yourself. Identify your emotions. Place your emotions into the categories of joy, anger, sadness, fear, and shame. Just notice where you are emotionally and acknowledge it.
Being aware of where you are emotionally may help you avoid interactions or conversations that could cause you to react negatively. Being aware of how centered, or not, you are feeling in any given moment can help you engage with your family members in ways that do not push you past your emotional capacity.
Here are 5 things you can do to shift your energy toward a more centered space that can take less than 5 minutes.
- Take space outside. By stepping outside, you can immediately change your environment, which can trigger a shift in mood. Nature can offer your nervous system a chance to relax and return to baseline. Outdoors can be a great place to practice mindfulness by bringing attention to your five senses. Become aware of what you can see, smell, taste, hear, and feel in the moment.
- Listen to your favorite song. Listening to music is a fine way to support a change in mindset or to make an emotional shift.
- Take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing may be one of the best in-the-moment ways to support feeling less stressed. Breathe in through your nose until your lungs reach capacity, hold for a moment, and then exhale completely through your mouth. Go at your own pace for 5-7 breaths.
- Hold hands with a loved one. Safe touch can help calm your nervous system and support you in returning to baseline.
- Move your body. Movement can take many different forms—yoga, chi gong, walking, gardening, crafting, or a few reps of an exercise. Anything that gets you up and moving around or engaged kinesthetically in an activity. Movement can help bring you into your body and release any pent-up energies you may have.
Engaging with your family from a state of emotional awareness can help you to more effectively navigate your relationships. This can also help you to be more attuned to warning signs that you may be getting closer to acting or saying something you regret later.
Managing and being aware of your internal state supports others in your family to do the same and creates movement toward more connection and harmony with the people you care about the most.