Strategies for Couples to Cope While Working at Home during Quarantine

In a previous post I discussed Rick Hanson’s ideas about the intrapersonal and interpersonal challenges facing couples working from home during the quarantine conditions brought on by the Coronavirus.  In his podcast, Coping with Quarantine, Rick also explored strategies for couples to cope with these challenges.  His suggested strategies focused strongly on connection, contribution, control (inner and outer) and compassion.

Strategies for couples to cope with the challenges of working together at home during social isolation

  • Connection with others: the fundamental principle underpinning physical distancing is avoidance rather than contact and connection.  However, this does not prevent us from connecting with each other as a couple, with our family and friends or with colleagues.  All of the remote communication strategies are available to us – online video calls, telephone, social media and email.  There can be a tendency to let the physical distancing principles impact the rest of our behaviour.  However, now is the time to reconnect with others who are also feeling socially isolated.  As a couple, connection can take the form of increased hugs, considerateness, words of love and appreciation and thoughtful touch – all of which builds the relationship. It also involves avoiding the temptation to escalate an argument or conflict to prove you are right or to assuage your pride.  Fundamental to connection with your partner is listening for understanding, not interrupting but being open and vulnerable to the thoughts and feelings of your partner.  As Rick points out, listening provides you with the time to deeply connect with the other person and enables them to experience calm and clarity.  He reiterates Dan Siegel’s view that deep listening enables the communicator to “feel felt by the other person”.
  • Connection to nature:  we are connected to nature on multiple levels and it is possible through mindfulness practices, including mantra meditation, to experience this connection at a deep level.  When we experience our deep connection to nature, we can feel inspired, energised, positive and calm.  The very act of breathing and walking in nature regenerates our physical systems, clears our mind and helps us to reduce the power of our negative emotions.  Nature has its own healing capacity which we can tap into in multiple ways – if only we would stop long enough to let it happen.  
  • Contribution: there are so many people in need as a result of the pandemic.  There are also endless ways to contribute and help others, to draw on our creativity and resourcefulness.  For example, despite the lockdown in the Northern Territory in Australia, Arnhem Land artists are offering a series of free online concerts to lift people’s spirits and reinforce their connection to the land and the resilience of nature.  Thirty of Australia’s top singing stars have also collaborated to provide an online concert from their homes, Music From The Home Front, that is dedicated to people who are in the frontline of the fight against the Coronavirus.  Another exemplar of contribution in adversity is Nkosi Johnson who was born with HIV in South Africa and died at the age of 12.  In his short life, he dedicated himself to fighting, locally and globally, for the rights of HIV affected people in South Africa and beyond.  Nkosi is quoted as saying, “Do all you can with what you have in the time you have in the place you are”.
  • Controlling yourself and your environment: in times of crisis it is important to develop a sense of control over our difficult emotions and our immediate environment.  There is a growing pool of advice on managing anxiety and achieving mental and emotional balance during these times of uncertainty and social isolation.  In times of uncertainty we can achieve a sense of agency by controlling aspects of our immediate environment – whether that be tidying or renewing our garden, removing clutter from our workspace, developing new skills or getting our finances and accounts in order.
  • Compassionate thoughts and action: in the section above on contribution, I stressed the importance of finding ways to help and to take compassionate action.  However, action is not always possible because of our personal circumstances, including being confined to home as a high-risk person.  This is particularly where loving kindness meditation can be used to experience compassion towards others who are suffering and/or experiencing grief.  Everyday there are stories of individuals and families experiencing heart-breaking situations brought on by the Coronavirus.  We can keep these people in our thoughts and prayers and feel with them.

Reflection

Creating connection, making a contribution, achieving self-control and control over our immediate environment and offering compassion and loving kindness are ways forward for individuals and couples restricted to working from home.  Meditation, reflection and mindfulness practices will help us to grow in mindfulness and to develop the necessary self-awareness, awareness of others, self-regulation and presence of mind and body to bring these positive aspects into our lives as individuals and couples.

Chris James captures the essence of connection to nature in the songlet Tall Trees on his Enchant album:

Tall trees

Warm fire

Strong wind

Deep water

I feel it in my body

I feel it in my soul

Image by Andreas Danang Aprillianto from Pixabay

By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)

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Singing: A Pathway to Mindfulness

Chris James, internationally acclaimed singer, musician and voice teacher, believes that we all have a natural, beautiful voice.  Having been a Buddhist monk, he is also very aware of the power of mindfulness and is firmly convinced that singing is a pathway to mindfulness.  He teaches singing around the world at events large and small, as well as provides one-on-one coaching.

Chris reminds us that our bodies are a natural resonator and all we have to do is to relax and breathe naturally and we can learn to find our natural voice.  Expression is so much a part of our daily lives – we talk to our family and friends, attend meetings, present information and interact with our colleagues at work.

Through singing we can learn to express ourselves truthfully – to get in touch with our real selves, our natural expression.  In this way, we “find our voice” and open our hearts to beauty, nature and connectedness.

Unfortunately, we all have to manage the “chatter” in our heads – the negative thoughts that we tell ourselves about our ability to sing. Some of these originate within ourselves, others from our pareants, siblings or our friends who remind us that we cannot sing.  We have to let go of this chatter and the “narrative” that constrains our thinking, our lives and our true potential.

Chris James believes, like Jon Kabat-Zinn, that we have to learn to get out of our heads, our endless cycle of thoughts, and learn to “inhabit our bodies”.  When we become grounded in our bodies through voice, we are able to realise more of our potential and experience calm, clarity and creativity.

Over the past fifteen years, I have attended many singing workshops conducted by Chris James – ranging from half-day workshops to a two week residential in Lismore.  I am continually amazed at what happens when people learn to be still, to “let go of what they are not” and to relax into their voice – what happens to the quality of their voice and the way they express themselves with new confidence and excitement is truly amazing.

You can see from the following YouTube video of Chris James leading a “Big Sing” in Byron Bay, that people start off singing very tentatively and as they relax, they begin to open their mouths and sing freely.  The result is a beautiful natural choir of people, many of whom had never met each other before this event.

Chris James has developed a community choir in Lismore that anyone can join, singers and non-singers alike.  There are no auditions and no set vocal parts.  Choir members are encouraged to harmonise spontaneously at different times.  The opportunity is there to find your own beautiful voice, to become grounded in your voice and grow in mindfulness in your expression.

Image source: www.chrisjames.net