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Learning to Manage Triggers While Living with Family

You can love your family members to death, but a lot of us look forward to the independence of being on our own.

For a lot of people, moving out of their parents’ homes, whether it’s a coming of age decision or for transitions such as college, is a welcome change.

Living with family during the COVID-19 pandemic

Those who live away for work or college or any reason for that matter are now being forced to grapple with a change in their lives. COVID-19 has caused major disruption and left businesses, colleges, and schools closed for weeks by now, and a few more weeks at least left to go.

For a lot of people, this has meant moving back home to their families because income is tight, and saving is important, and there’s no place else to go. Dorms and apartments are emptying out, and cities are shutting down completely.

For others, who still live with family but have work and other commitments outside the home, it’s equally frustrating to lose that for the time being too.

Dynamics are different now that everyone is sharing a space or living in close quarters. There’s nowhere to go or much else to do, and while it’s an excellent time to bond and come together as a family, it can be very triggering in certain ways.

couple talking on couch

From anxiety and depression to stress and anger, you’re likely to feel a range of emotions during this time. Here’s how you can cope:

Recognize and acknowledge how you feel

Identifying emotional reactions is crucial to progress. Start with your immediate reaction, in its most bodily sense.

Where do you feel it set in? Your stomach? Your jaw? Your fists?

Are your shoulders tensing up, or are you getting a headache?

Do you feel a rush of emotion, or has your breath sped up? Is your pulse racing?

Whatever this might be, practice mindfulness and take a moment to pause your emotional response.

Identify your triggers

When you reflect instead of reacting, you’ll be able to identify your triggers better.

Do you feel this way when you’re asked to do something you don’t want? Do you feel threatened by someone’s presence or demands? Are you running on their schedule? Is the lack of privacy affecting your emotional state?

woman kissing cheek of girl

This tends to happen when you’re with older family members, and the shift in dynamic hasn’t quite set in. Or if you’re housebound and can’t find an outlet for escape.

It might not be your family feeling entitled to your time or person—at least deliberately—so that pause might help avoid conflict and confrontation.

Point out external and internal causes

Sometimes situations and conditions that are outside your control can become triggering; other times, it’s your own thoughts and emotions that affect you.

Differentiating between what’s internal and external can help you decide your next step.

Can you remove yourself from the situation? Or can you recognize that the trigger is not really protecting you at this moment?

If so, decisive action comes next.

Work through your emotions

Taking a breather to pause and reflect helps significantly, but requires intense work. Introspection, self-honesty, openness, and acceptance of your own role are a part of it. You need to be realistic about the situation and shift your emotions at that moment—and your perspective in the long-run.

adult air beautiful

It takes a lot to own up to your responsibility, not to anyone else, but to yourself. To see yourself as an empowered individual, responsible for their own well-being and progress, especially when put in an uncomfortable situation.

You can always seek online counseling and anxiety therapy with me, given the rules of social distancing. I also offer family mediation services in Palo Alto.

Reach out to me for more information about my work or schedule a free 20 minute session!

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