FLEX Psychology Presents:
Hundreds of millions of people all around the world are currently in either legally-enforced lockdown or self-managed seclusion. For the first time ever, every neighbourhood, city, state/province, country, and continent are dealing with a common stressor. We could point to the world wars as a comparison, but, for many, that reality was only experienced through radio broadcasts and news reels. Now, a common stressor is at each of our doorsteps, and, at this moment, we are all at home to greet that visitor.
Over the next few weeks, I hope to continue to share with readers a glimpse into my home and how we are managing seclusion. It has certainly not always been rosy, but I think we are doing a pretty good job. Those who follow me on social media have seen some of our more exciting adventures. We do not tend to take photos when we get in an argument or voices are raised, but those moments certainly do exist. My goal has to been to use those moments to recognize how we got there and to be on the lookout for the next time that particular hook arises and, instead of biting it, we try a different action and see if the outcome has changed.
Bringing Adventures Home
It was only a month into winter when my 5-year old began asking when we would be able to go to the beach again. He loves water and sand, and has only slight patience for cold and snow. I was certainly feeling the same way, so we agreed that a Caribbean vacation was needed. We were supposed to go next week. It seems pretty clear that it is going to be a while before we are seaside again.
So I came up with the idea of bringing the beach home. It was a brisk day outside, so we set up our beach at the patio windows and enjoyed the sun. Our beachside picnic was complete with sunwear, beach towels, seaside tunes, and a picnic lunch. We had to leave our sand digging to a game of Minecraft later in the day, but we have plans to venture out to the sandbox as soon as we get a warmer day.
The great thing about having a five-year-old is that they can do marvelous things with their imagination. We sometimes forget that this potential for fun is still in each of us; we just need to set an intention to foster that creativity. As a self-described man-child, this was not a particularly hard leap for me, but I am confident that each of us can use our minds to foster a little fun wherever, and with whomever, you are experiencing seclusion.
Leaning Towards Seclusion
Likely because I am chronically busy (or potentially naive), I occasionally fantasize about a few months of seclusion in a space station or at an Antarctica research outpost. While seclusion may be new to many of us, there is certainly many people who experience this on a fairly regular basis and actually seek out these environments on purpose.
So, our beach adventure day was followed by a deep dive into the lives of the astronauts on the International Space Station. We began with child friendly videos on YouTube and then proceeded to depart the security of our station for rope tethered spacewalks in the back yard. While the neighbors may perceive that our home has fallen into the mouth of madness, these small adventures help normalize the seclusion experience and have also added a little joy and learning into our days. As a bonus, we returned inside for some space rations and Chris Hadfield’s Space Oddity.
Building New Routines
Inspired by this week’s Wellness Wednesday post by fellow therapist blogger Jessica Danilewitz, I decided today we would add a new routine to our seclusion days. Jessica discussed how our daily lives are generally full of predictable routines that essentially anchor each day and allow us some stability when unexpected daily stressors emerge. In seclusion, most routines are disrupted, which can make it easy for every day to turn into sloth-inspired lazy Sunday.
So keeping with my draw to educational and unusual approaches to managing stress and disrupt seclusion, I decided we would teach my son about the English tradition of High Tea. We had our first tea (chocolate milk for him) this morning, enjoyed some cookies, and talked about our day so far and what we hoped to accomplish in the hours ahead. Cucumber sandwiches are on the menu for tomorrow.
Thinking Outside the Box While Inside the Box
By introducing a combination of predictable routines and unpredictable endeavours into our day, we are creating an opportunity to grow and flourish during our time together. It requires a little creativity and ingenuity, but I have to admit that I have thoroughly enjoyed much of our time together over the last two weeks. I do not know what the weeks ahead will bring, but I do know that we will aim to be mindful of how our home needs to adapt and shift to these challenges. Join me again next week for a deeper discussion on how we have managed some of the more substantial stressors and conflicts that have arisen in the home.
Michael Decaire is an Ontario-based psychologist and psychotherapist. He writes on topics of wellness, mental health advocacy, and professional practice.
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