We have heard from many people that working and studying from home has actually been a welcome break from the usual rapid pace of life in Hong Kong. However, over time, they have also told us how the experience has affected them negatively, in particular their emotions and relationships.
We rely on the small things in daily life to lift ourselves up, adjust our mood, or maintain motivation. We chat with classmates or colleagues, have lunch with friends, or step outside for a breath of fresh air. These actions are a big part finding balance and refreshment in our work days, be it in an office or at school.
Because these options have been unavailable to us for so long, our mental heath has suffered.
For working parents, the situation can be doubly difficult. On the one hand, they have to deal with the boss’s remote command without leaving the mobile or computer, and on the other, they have to act as teacher to children who are getting more and more disenchanted with online learning. Add to this the daily tidings from the media news cycle predicting dire consequences for economies and jobs, and it can feel like negative energy is accumulating.
We have heard more than once that the situation feels like “prison”, and that there is no foreseeable escape. It is at this time, when faced with a disobedient or emotional child, or a disagreement within the family, that emotions can truly flare, ranging from inadvertently speaking hurtful speech to serious physical violence.
There are ways to avoid doing harm to the ones we are closest to – our fellow family members who are also stuck at home:
Although we may not always be able to meet friends and relatives in person in this special situation, this does not mean that we cannot continue to maintain contact and communication with them. Take the initiative to talk to friends or family on social media or via instant message to help you feel better. Not only will this not spread the virus, it will also make you feel a little support in this breathless atmosphere, alleviating the feelings of loneliness, unhappiness and anxiety.
With all precautions in place, you can still walk outside to get some much needed space. Even if you don’t go far, it is good to remove yourself from indoors and stroll around the neighbourhood. Children will especially benefit from getting out, and will be less likely to explode at home making matters worse for everyone. Of course, avoid crowded places and take other recommended steps to stay physically healthy, but don’t hesitate to head outside to uncrowded parks and streets to stay mentally healthy.
Perform different relaxation exercises at home, such as mindfulness breathing exercises or muscle relaxation exercises. In addition, you can also encourage children or adults in the family to practice together, and play some natural sounds to create a more relaxing atmosphere at home.
Be aware of your feelings and watch for even slight changes in your mood. When you feel your emotions heating up, take a break and walk away. Don’t discuss or argue with anyone, or even parent your children. Those actions could possibly worsen your emotions.
Instead, try to slow down your breathing slowly and focus all your attention on your breath, until you feel yourself cooling off, and then continue with your previous task. The outcome of any situation is dramatically different if handled in a state of relative calmness, instead of a state of anger and frustration.
Speak honestly with your partner about your feelings. It is an effective way to make your spouse your emotional partner, rather than another source of stress. Talk about your feelings and emotions as separate from your relationship — do not vent as if the situation is their fault. We all need a way to have our emotions heard and accepted, especially under these unusual conditions.
If you feel the situation at home is harmful or may become harmful, professional help is available. There are online or in-person options that cater to individuals, families, and couples. Contact the BFDC if you need help managing home life at this time.