There really is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
While most of us initially dreaded the COVID-19 lockdown, we also quickly found some upsides to the experience. Among other things, it allowed us to spend more time with our families at home — more time to be meaningfully shared with our spouses and kids, more time to enjoy each others’ company. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy the prospect of being able to always be there for your loved ones?
But as the days wore on, many started to feel uneasy about the whole thing. Somehow, there seemed to be less enjoyment to be had from loved ones’ presence. After a while, it felt like spending time with family was a burden, almost like an obligation. This can lead to irritability and even resentment for having them always around. That, in turn, easily leads to feelings of uneasiness and guilt: Shouldn’t I be happy to have so much time for family?
While all this family time is a blessing that we should be thankful for, it’s also perfectly valid to sometimes feel like it’s just too much. You can, indeed, have too much “we” time. And you, like everyone else, do need and deserve time for yourself too. We all need room to breathe.
Here are some tips that can help you cultivate healthy spaces for yourself and your loved ones:
Acknowledgement. One of the first things you can do to get out of this cycle of resentment and guilt is to acknowledge that it’s there. First and foremost of all, you should forgive yourself for feeling this way. It’s only natural, and you’re allowed to feel that way.
Mindfulness. The next thing you can do is to be more mindful of how you use your time, especially while in quarantine. Specifically, keep an eye out for when you’re starting to feel pressured about spending time with family. When that wave of unease hits you, then you know you’ve had enough.
Openness. Then, instead of bottling up how you feel, try to be more open about it. Talk about your feelings with your family. Communication is always important, so be upfront with your needs. Be sure to talk about how you can all help each other to have time yourselves individually as well as with each other and altogether as a family: me time, we time, us time.
Kindness. Always remember to be kind with yourself. Give yourself permission to just not be interested. Your kids will be fine; you don’t need to be hovering over them at all times.
Space. Allow yourself and each of your family a measure of personal space. Teach your kids to define their personal space as well as to respect the personal space of others. Help them understand these limits by giving them the freedom to experiment and explore. They may invariably make mistakes, but be patient with correcting them. Avoid the urge to nag, and admonish them gently. Your home is a safe space that allows them to expand their life experiences in a safe environment.
Cultivation. Use your personal time and space to develop your own interests. Pursue a hobby or read up on a topic that really interests you. Treat yourself, because you deserve it. Take that little spark and nurture it into a flame.
Routines. Regularity is important, especially since you and your family are in this for the long run. While you don’t always have to stick to a rigid schedule or task list, putting things down on paper helps ease anxiety by helping everyone know what to expect. It also gives everyone something to look forward to. And as you go through this routine, make sure that everyone stays mindful and respectful of everyone else’s personal space and time.
Breathe. Most importantly, whenever you or anyone around you feels stressed, it’s perfectly okay to step aside and take a breather. The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly put a strain on us all, so some time out to chill and relax is not only expected but also absolutely warranted.
The pandemic will certainly continue to affect the way we interact and socialize for a long time to come. Whether we like it or not, we are now all collectively in the process of reevaluating how we interact with other people. This means that we need to reassess and redefine our concepts of personal space too. We can do this, starting with ourselves and our family at home.