When I am working with kiddos on boundaries, I sometimes use Twizzlers to explain the boundaries. I tell them it is important to respect other’s space and be two Twizzlers away from people (I sometimes wish I could have this on the back of a shirt to wear when I’m in the grocery story line!). This pandemic has got everyone more than Twizzlers away physically, but emotionally is another story.
Being in tight quarters does not only result in us needing our own space physically, but also emotionally. I was working with a client who used the term “emotional crowding” when referring to being stuck at home with everyone AND their emotions. With permission from the client, I’m stealing this term! I love it! It is what a lot of us are experiencing. So, how do we emotionally create a two-Twizzlers-away boundary?
First, identify what your emotions are and what the emotions of those around you are. In my counseling courses, I was taught to separate myself from my clients so that I could effectively help him or her. If I were to fall into the emotions of my client, I would be unable to identify clearly his or her hurt, and I would sustain the bruises he or she might be experiencing. This might be considered compassion fatigue or transference; you may be experiencing this as well. Moods are contagious. For example, when your child is irritable or depressed, you may become irritable or sad. However, if you can recognize what your emotional responses are and that you don’t have to own the responses of others, you can offer yourself an opportunity to lessen the emotional crowding.
Next, take responsibility for your own mood. Your own emotional reaction to your children, spouse, friends, if released, may make a bad situation worse. When you escalate, the other person is going to escalate. I often tell clients that our behavior doesn’t need to waiver on another’s behavior. When you let that “emotional crowding” get the best of you, you can create greater conflict between you and those in your proximity. Remember that you are ONLY responsible for YOU! It is not your responsibility to make others happy; when you take on that as a responsibility, you allow yourself to be emotionally crowded. Be sure to recognize what is yours to own, and what is another’s to own.
Another task is to be aware of your own triggers. When others are emotionally crowding you, you may feel overwhelmed, controlled, suffocated and this may rise up in you feelings or experiences you’ve had previously. This may be nothing the other person is doing purposefully, but your brain is receiving it as a possible threat. This can lead to a variety of responses: shutting down, yelling, codependency, etc. How do you divert this? Pay attention to your mind, body, and heart. What is your body experiencing? What is your heart feeling? What is your brain thinking? When you are aware of yourself, you have more opportunity to halt those triggers before they become out of control or have a chance divert them altogether.
Lastly, in the midst of the chaos you may have happening such as doing school work with kiddos, doing your own business work, trying to keep the peace in the household ,etc. taking care of yourself may fall to the bottom of the list or off the list completely! But you have to make sure it stays near the top of the list! Take some time to do mediation, a devotional, yoga, exercise, etc. If you don’t put your oxygen mask on, you will find your emotionally crowded and unable to control that rowdy crowd. You matter just as much as others around you. Treat yourself with kindness and care.
While we are all out of control of this current pandemic, we don’t have to feel out of control of ourselves. You can control the crowding by supplying your own Twizzlers: knowing your own emotions, regulating those emotions, and understanding what you’re responsible for as well as what you’re not responsible for. If you need help managing all this, reach out! We are still seeing current and new clients via telehealth. You can contact our office any time: 38-562-6903.
Written by: Peri Gilbert-Reed, LPC, RPT