KEEPING YOUR SANITY WHILE WORKING FROM HOME: TOO CLOSE Or TOO DISTANT FOR COMFORT:
Many people find themselves thrust into new routines such as working from home and working online.
Some individuals may spend longer periods than usual alone and away from co-workers, while others may spend longer periods than usual with a partner, spouse, children.
To help you adjust, keep your sanity and even thrive in these new situations, I want to introduce you to a relational process of contact and withdrawal. Understanding this can directly impact the choices you make which can affect your mood and energy.
CONTACT: Is always occurring in real time and defined as where you put your attention, energy, focus and actions at any given moment. For example, you may be on a work call, worrying, daydreaming, surfing the internet, or making a meal.
Being aware of what you’re doing and catching yourself doing it gives you the option to either continue with what you’re doing or choose something different.
BENEFITS OF RIGHT AMOUNT OF CONTACT: Just the right amount of contact can result in a wide range of satisfying feelings from delicious, enriching, energizing, stimulating, supportive, calming, relaxing, interesting and so on.
WITHDRAWAL: Involves pulling your attention and energy away from something or someone to something else or someone else or to go inward to yourself.
BENEFITS OF THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF WITHDRAWAL: The right amount of withdrawing is based on individual needs and given circumstances. Withdrawing for example, to replenish, re- calibrate, feel, reflect, plan, relax, stretch, face time, or change tasks to a different type of contact, can provide much needed space for a new focus that reduces tension and stress.
DOWNSIDE OF TOO MUCH CONTACT: Too much contact with anyone or any activity can leave you bored, or feeling burdened, anxious, irritable, drained, tearful, overwhelmed (think of a 2- year-old toddler who is over tired) and a tight/stiff body. In other words, you have overstayed your interest and capacity for what or who you’ve stayed engaged with.
INSUFFICIENT CONTACT: On the other hand, insufficient contact may leave you feeling isolated, lonely, bored, empty, sad, depressed, low energy and /or unmotivated. This is a very difficult place to be. I find it helps to reach out for contact with and support from a trusted person or hotline. This is a necessary first step to getting unstuck from isolation and moving towards the kind of personal contact and activities you want and need.
INEFFECTIVE WAYS OF GETTING UNSTUCK FROM TOO MUCH CONTACT OR WITHDRAWAL:
WHEN IT’s TOO MUCH CONTACT: An ineffective and second hand method of getting unstuck from too much contact is to pick a fight, criticize, blame, give yourself a headache or backache in order to separate from unwanted or too much contact.
WHEN IT’s TOO MUCH WITHDRAWAL: A second hand method of getting out of withdrawal is seeking contact by acting helpless, needy or creating a crisis or believing you need to be “all together” first, or “acting all together” in order to bring others into contact with you.
THE RHYTHM OF CONTACTING and WITHDRAWAL, is similar to saying “hello” and “goodbye” in any interaction. It is normal to want contact in varying degrees and to need withdrawal in varying degrees. The Key is restoring the rhythm of contacting and withdrawing as needed.
RESTORING THE RHYTHM OF CONTACTING AND WITHDRAWAL:
To restore the healthy rhythm of contacting and withdrawing there has to be movement between saying “hello” to an activity and “goodbye” to an activity.
To restore a healthy rhythm, takes recognizing how you’re being impacted in the moment by what you’re doing or not doing and when you’ve had enough of either.
Many people have been taught to ignore what is happening inside themselves to not sense their body, their feelings, their wants and needs and instead taught to listen and respond to what is outside themselves, while others may pay more attention to what is going on inside themselves, and not so much what’s happening with others or between themselves and others.
The more practiced you are at noticing what’s going on for you in the contacting and withdrawal rhythm, the more skilled you will be in identifying what you need, what others need from you, asserting and maintaining your personal boundaries in order to preserve your energy and regulating your emotions.
PROMPTS TO ASK YOURSELF:
- 1) What am I feeling, what do I need, what do I want, what needs to happen for me to act in my own best interest (instead of sacrificing myself), my beliefs, my values?
- 2) What are my options?
- 3) What do I have choice about?
TIP FOR USING THE PROMPTS:
Use the prompts as a guide to discover your needs. Discovering what you need helps you distinguish what’s beneficial and what isn’t. It’s all part of learning what makes you tick.
Before going to what’s usual, say bingeing on sweet, salty foods, alcohol or drugs take a few minutes to write down what’s going on with you before you make a choice. The idea isn’t to prevent you from going to what is usual and customary but for you to be aware and in touch with your emotional state at the time, understand yourself more deeply and open up options.
Each of us vary in our need for contact and withdrawal. Tension and strain can arise when one partner is seeking contact when the other seeks to withdraw. It’s important to get in touch with how much and when time apart and time together is essential.
Sharing with your significant other about the contact and withdrawal rhythm of your needs builds an understanding of differences and similarities of who you are, who you’re with, how each person works and what works for each person.
When working from home and one partner needs time alone, be open to sharing and negotiating how to make this happen. I think it’s helpful taking turns leaving the house for a period of time with the kids or with the dog or alone or having a designated place to work or retreat to while at home.
When extreme differences in needs exist and aren’t discussed or negotiated, tension builds which can lead to explosions and or withdrawal.
Being able to talk about anything with a partner, friends, parents and co-workers establishes a sense that “we can get through anything together.” Talking about what’s going on allows for perceptions and differences to be heard, discussed, understood and negotiated. As couples work through difficulties it re-establishes understanding and connection.
I hope you find these ideas helpful, if so, feel free to share with others. I’d love to hear from you.
Sheri Rose-McCashin, M.S., LMFT 28036
12381 Wilshire Blvd., Ste., 200,
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Individuals & Couples
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