Oct. 20, 2020
Target Audience: Families, housemates
Ages: All ages
Estimated Time: 30 minutes - 1 hour
Difficulty Level: Easy
The past seven months have been challenging for all types of households. Schedules have been upended. Homes have become makeshift offices. Classrooms have gone remote or hybrid. Child care centers are closed. Households have added masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer to the list of household to-do’s. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress and anxiety for everyone.
And many people feel like they’ve fallen into a pandemic rut. Some days, the stress and work that the pandemic has piled on seem never ending. Other days, work and life blur and time feels like it’s flowing backward. Some activities that used to break up the routine aren’t available to us. And as relationship coach Kyle Benson notes, we’ve lost access to community spaces like coffee shops, playgrounds, and friends’ homes where we could restore and connect more fully with our whole selves beyond work and home. Benson notes that when we feel stressed or stuck in a rut, it’s common to tune out with social media, binging T.V. shows, or other habits that can actually drain our energy and make a rut feel deeper. When this happens, it’s harder to see how our fellow household members are doing or connect with them amid all the upheaval caused by COVID-19.
To get out of these ruts, coach Benson encourages households to establish a new pattern that allows household members to be present, playful, and de-stress. Kyle recommends creating a daily ritual of connection for the entire household or family. To paraphrase Benson, a ritual is “repeated, planned, and most importantly, designed to be meaningful” to everyone in the household. “The goal,” says Kyle, “is to add playfulness and intentionality into the chaos of all of this.”
The ritual of connection can be anything that creates space for household members to be present with and for one another. Once household members are better tuned in to one another, they will be able to better notice the household tasks that may have fallen disproportionately on some household members. Consider the ritual of connection a first step toward creating the awareness, connection, goodwill and communication skills that will lead to sharing the household load fairly during the pandemic.
- Plan a family check-in. Gather at a time that works for everyone. It could be at mealtime, an evening or weekend. Have an open conversation to acknowledge the pandemic ruts you’ve all been feeling as individuals or as a group. (If the conversation becomes heavy, because, hey, this is a difficult time, check out coach Benson’s suggestions for an effective, stress-reducing conversation.) But rather than turn this into a grudge session, try to focus instead on a positive vision, and how nice it would be to connect, break out of the rut, and be more present with each other in this difficult time.
- Brainstorm what kinds of activities would help everyone de-stress and connect. Remember, it’s important that the ritual feels meaningful to everyone in the home. A daily family walk? A weekly family game night? A morning or evening family dance party? Oprah and her family have a nightly ritual of eating popsicles out on the front porch. Benson highly recommends that the connection ritual serve as an opportunity to put technology away. Rather than zoning out with devices, the ritual is an opportunity to tune in to the people in your home.
- Plan and try out your new ritual of connection. Set up a nudge to make sure your ritual of connection happens! Put it on a public calendar. Talk about how you’re looking forward to it–anticipation of a positive event can actually lead to a positive mood and make us happier! We recommend setting a reminder, designating one household member to be “the boss” - on a rotating basis - and make sure everyone shows up or setting up a small reward for completing the ritual.
- Reflect as a family. Are you feeling more in tune with your household members? Are you more aware of what they’re struggling with day-to-day as we all live through this pandemic? Have you also fallen into ruts about who does what when it comes to care and household labor? What could shift?
- Mix it up when the ritual starts to feel stale. The ritual of connection should not become your next rut! Decide as a family what other rituals could make your household feel less stressed and more connected– amid the pandemic and beyond.
Research shows that time is often more important than money for our happiness. In an experiment, people who spent a little money to buy themselves more free time reported feeling happier than those who bought stuff.
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