Denise talks with Lucy about the strategies she is using to avoid losing the plot with the people in her bubble. Not Killing Nigel also comes as a downloadable PDF so you can make a plan for the people in your bubble. We’ve also included a download of Alex Fulton’s Door Hang ‘I’m just isolating from isolating’ for you to print and decorate.

DOWNLOAD OUR WORKSHEET HERE: Not Killing [insert name]: Staying Sane and Kind with the People in Your Bubble

Whether you call it self-isolation at home or in our bubble, sheltering in place, lockdown, or in retreat, tempers still get frayed. When you put a group of humans together in a stressful situation, they will each deal with their stress in their own way. And that won’t always be pretty.

First of all, it helps to recognise these are stressful, unique and challenging times. We are coping with a new situation with uncertainty about the future whether it’s your job, health, family members who aren’t with you, or your finances.

It’s also exhausting. All of this uncertainty, the rush to create new structures and routines, to buy groceries, to feel prepared, to deal with the massive influx of news – it left most of us fairly frazzled after a few days.

If you expressed that exhaustion by placing a hand on your brow and saying “Oh dear, I am coming to the end of my reserves. I must go and rest now”, then you deserve a mindfulness medal. And a kindness medal. And a self-regulation medal. If on the other hand, you lost it with your co-bubbler over the bench not being wiped down, dirty dishes, poor music choices, or someone asking you yet ANOTHER question, then join the rest of the human race.

So how can we deal with this?

  1. Let’s lower the bar. We can lower our expectations of ourselves and others. Let’s accept way less than perfect over the coming weeks. If someone’s coffee cups bother me, I can move them. They are busy moving the coats I have let pile up.  Lowering our expectations is an act of kindness – it’s not the paved road to hell.
  2. What are your early warning signs? Pay attention and notice when you are getting wound up. What are the signs? What do you tend to say to yourself? I realised at the weekend I was taking inventory on things in ‘the wrong places’ – coffee cups, plates… that should have been put away. My ‘critical judge’ was kicking into gear. That’s my early warning signal – when I start judging everyone around me harshly in my head, it’s time to take a break. Other common signs include sense of humour failure, catastrophising, or black and white thinking like ‘they’re all useless… no one ever helps me…I will never get this sorted… When you spot the signs, STOP and do something that helps you…
  3. What calms and restores you? Sleep, a walk on your own, baking, sewing, listening to music, jigsaw, phoning a friend outside your ‘bubble’… Pay as much attention to learning what really works for you right now as what winds you up. These activities will be vital to managing your mental health and wellbeing over the coming weeks. Make a list of what works for you. Post it in your ‘quiet space’ ….
  4. Give each person in your bubble a quiet space they can retreat into and not be disturbed. If there are lots of you sharing the space that might be sitting a chair facing away from everyone with headphones on. Having somewhere you can go when you’re feeling frazzled AND not be disturbed is really helpful. It’s how we can avert lots of meltdowns. Take your semi-melted self away – and breathe.
  5. What’s the best of the person who’s winding you up? To recover more quickly and get over my ‘grudge hangover’ I ask: ‘What’s the kindest thing this person has ever done for me?’, ‘What am I most proud of about this person?’, and ‘What’s my favourite memory of this person?’. Reminding myself of why I actually love this co-bubbler of mine makes me smile. I feel kinder afterwards.
    If you are a parent of small children, this is a great practice to role model. It shows children that everyone gets frazzled and we all need to take a little time to breathe. Remind them that the quiet space is a treat, not a punishment. Make it comfortable. Talk to young people about what winds them up and what calms them back down so that they learn to recognise their own signs. Make an “if…. happens, then I will ….” plan. Share your examples and help them make their own list of things that work for them.
    These are interesting times – one of the silver linings that come out of this period might be greater acceptance and understanding of the different ways people need to feel good and function well. I found myself planting vegetables in the rain at 8 am on a Monday morning – loving the mud, the sense of achievement, the possibility of growth, the hope for the future. Luckily for me, my partner Nigel has clearly lowered his expectations and is practising kindness. He just gave me an ‘East coast salute’ as I arrived dripping wet and muddy in the back door and said, “coffee?”.