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How to Handle Conflict Well During Quarantine

The first week of Quarantine is over. You’ve probably appreciated more quality time with your family. You might also notice that extra time can also create more conflict and stress if you and your partner aren’t on the same page. Discussing expectations for who is responsible for what, and when is crucial in a time period like this. Couples are being placed in entirely new scenarios, where they have to figure out childcare, financial plans, and monitor everyone’s needs. These fast-paced, heavy-weighted decisions that are falling on people’s laps are very stress-inducing. This can lead to conversations that start normally but head south in a hurry.

When people are operating with elevated stress levels, cortisol floods your body and can trigger you into fight, flight, or freeze mode. When triggered, this survival response focuses your brain on obtaining safety. Flight, fight, or freeze mode can look different in every person. Some people like to storm out of arguments and escape, some will not drop the conversation until there’s a final solution, and others completely shut down. All of these options make sense to certain people because it is their way of obtaining safety. It’s important that you and your partner know your argument styles so that they can be easier to spot when the time comes. 

When a person is triggered, it is NOT helpful to continue that conversation. Until that person takes a break and calms down, they won’t be able to hear the other person or be able to make reasonable decisions. When triggered, your brain is not able to comprehend all the information that is getting thrown at it. The average person needs about a 30-minute break. If you and your partner can adopt breaks during stressful conversations, you’ll spend less time arguing and more time-solving problems. Here are some other tips you and your partner can utilize to set yourselves up for success.

6 Tips for Reducing Stress in Conversations

  1. Practice soft-startups
    • The art of starting a conversation in a soft way is very underappreciated. There is a big difference between starting a conversation with “Did you do the dishes like you said you would? You never follow through” compared with “Hey, we agreed that you’d do the dishes today. Can you please get to this when you have a chance?” It’s important to remember that conversations typically end the way that you start them.
  2. Practice Self-Care
    • This might seem silly, but with all the changes that have occurred, please check in with yourself to make sure that you have eaten regular healthy meals, drank plenty of water, obtaining a good night’s rest, and regular exercise. These are often the first things to be forgotten about when things get chaotic but are so important for your mental health.
  3. Establish and maintain a new routine
    • People are creatures of habit. COVID-19 has thrown off everyone’s routines. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if you felt like you were losing your mind. Talk with your partner about setting up a new temporary routine that prioritizes the important things while also fulfilling each person’s needs.
  4. It takes two people to have an argument
    • When a conversation becomes unproductive, take a break from it. It is VERY important that you ask to take a break. If you notice that your partner is triggered, say something like “Hey it seems like this conversation isn’t going anywhere and emotions are beginning to run high. Maybe it would be a good idea to table this topic for 30 minutes and come back to it?” If someone walks away from a conversation without explaining that they plan to re-engage after a break, it could send the message, “I don’t care what you think or how you feel about this topic.”
  5. Check in with each other throughout the day
    • Regularly touching base with one another throughout the day communicates to each other that “You matter and I care about you.” Ask each other if there’s anything that you can do for them to make their day better.
  6. Be flexible with each other
    • While checking in with each other, ask if there are any ways that you can switch up the agreed upon routine to accommodate for a new task or need. Try your best to avoid rigidity and know that you both want to make this difficult season as easy as possible for each other as you balance all of life’s responsibilities.

The impact of entering a conversation softly, taking a break when needed, and checking in with each other on a regular basis can go a long way towards increasing trust and effective communication. Sometimes it can be helpful to be reminded that you are not alone in experiencing added stress during the course of recent events. Assume that your partner is trying their best every day and tackle obstacles together instead of by yourselves. We are still open in person and through telehealth. Don’t hesitate to reach out if we can help! 

 

 

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