6 tips to get ahead of 'cabin fever'​ if you're locked down for an extended period with family or folks.

How can we stick together when we're forced together?

Right now. Not somewhere else. Not some abstract undefined future time. Right now, wherever we are, there is a triple-whammy facing us at work and at home.

Obviously, firstly, there are the health issues directly relating to COVID19. They're well covered by experts (ie not me) and we should stick together in following evidence-based health and public policy as this passes. And, maybe, we keep doing these preventative things moving forward because they're a really good idea COVID19 or no COVID19.

Then, secondly, there are the economic effects - some genuine flow-ons from the actual health impact and many from the fears of its potential. Share prices, lay-offs, cancellations, cashflow disruption, etc. They are inarguably real, even if the virus threat wasn't, which it is. Plus, there are the less direct but equally real economic impacts of disruptions from having to swiftly pivot people away from business as usual into the untested waters of contingency plan implementations (or more likely - contingency plan creation on-the fly).

Then, thirdly, there is our individual and collective anxiety around fear, uncertainty, and rapid change we did not opt into. Hello physiological stress response on a global scale.

I'm not solving global problems and neither are you. You and I both though are interested in solving this problem for ourselves. (Always put your own oxygen mask on first). And, in parallel, solving them, or contributing to the solution, for those we lead and love. There's a word 'propinquity'. It means, "the state of being close to someone or something". Research indicates our lifelong friendships and even intimate relationships are less about blood and soulmates and more about who was nearby at a particular time. Let's just focus on one thing right now - how to handle being locked down with loved ones - compulsory propinquity...

Self-isolation and social distancing are phrases entering everyone's vocab right now as liquefaction did after the Christchurch earthquakes in New Zealand. If you're lucky enough to have a home to go to, and lucky enough to have people with whom to share it, how do you foresee that goes if you're all there all the time for fourteen days? No one can pop out to the mall or Stacy's house for a parent-free breather. Working from home, learning from home, or killing time.

When my kids were maybe six and eight, we went on a family ski trip and got snowed in for four days. This was pre-internet and pre-smartphones. It did not go well and is my baseline for comparison. My kids are adults now and I am as adult as I am going to get. What people engagement tips can I share with you if you're locked down for an extended period with family or folks? Here are six to get you started and I'll add as time allows.

  1. Talk calmly together about the situation ASAP. Everyone talks and lays out their questions and concerns. If there are grey areas or unknowns from your shared current knowledge, assign everyone a research project to report back on to the group. A sense of purpose and contribution is necessary in life generally and under pressure more so.
  2. From this, collectively agree on some goals for the time and do pre-mark some milestone dates, such as celebrating 'halfway day' or such. have a daily check-in, perhaps over the shared main meal that is prepared together. If someone has a business-as-usual event like a birthday, do not let that get forgotten. If someone's always talked about learning to knit or building a medieval catapult or starting that autobiographical screenplay, now's your chance to opt into a purposeful, creative, positive distraction. Ensure you have the resources at home or accessible to do these things.
  3. Agree 'the rules'. Are you rationing the chocolate? If everyone is responsible for something then no one is. Delegate responsibilities. Maybe, hide the chocolate?
  4. Review, test and fix your connectivity to the outside world. How is your battery supply? Charge your devices and powerpacks in case of a power outage. Plot out regular check-ins with friends and extended family. Be of service to neighbours, or at least take an interest.
  5. Talk in positive terms. Words affect our perception of what we are describing with them. Rather than say, "Don't panic", say, "Stay calm". Focus on the things you can impact; acknowledge but de-focus on the things you cannot.
  6. People are different. The familial grating and grinding that you may have put down to generation gaps or such may be actual personality differences that can be assessed, learned about, and worked around. Plenty of resources are online to do this on a DIY basis and even I'm working on an online resource to give non-business people, perhaps in relationship or family conflicts, to self-work through stuff when maybe you didn't have the time or need to do so before. And, different people will react to today's COVID19 whammies differently. A real basic sweeping and generalised example is that some people are extroverts and some are introverts. Extroverts will feel social-distancing a lot more and your plans should account for this to remove one more potential contributor to your own 'cabin fever'.

Best of luck. Stay tuned.


16 March 2020