Domestic issues during pandemic: Tips to reduce tension, cope with stress
by Rebecca Oeffinger, MSW, LISW-CP
Times are tough. Many of us have never experienced anything like the current COVID-19 pandemic which remains in full force and affects us all. Almost every aspect of life has been impacted in some way.
People are experiencing multiple stressors and conflicts such as being quarantined due to possible exposure, becoming ill from the virus, working and educating children from home, and even running low on household supplies and groceries.
Stress can affect people in various ways, both physically and mentally. Physically, stress can cause headaches, stomach problems, high blood pressure, and more. Mentally, stress can create anxiety, depression, or aggression.
Aggression, anger, and rage are secondary responses to stress causing people to act aggressively towards their loved ones and, possibly even, themselves. Recent reports from law enforcement confirm that there is an increase in incidents of domestic disputes and domestic violence due to the stressors people are experiencing because of COVID-19. Anger is considered a secondary emotion because it is often preceded by fear, powerlessness, or hurt.
The following acronyms can help you remember these tips on how to reduce tension, cope with stress, and co-exist peacefully and happily with others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Short for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, this acronym helps determine if you or your loved one is behaving out of character due to stress. It helps to evaluate behavior and identify the cause, so you can act accordingly by offering a snack, support, comfort, or suggesting a nap.
AIM stands for Anticipate, Identify, and Manage.
- Anticipate stressful times and how you will react based on your normal responses to stress. Know that it is normal to feel stress in daily life (especially in these times) and it can be a healthy way to alert yourself to your needs as well as the needs of those around you.
- Identify the feelings you’re experiencing and the accompanying thoughts. Help your spouse or children name their feelings and use this as a time to teach healthy ways to cope such as talking it out, listening to music, or coloring a picture. Challenge irrational thoughts by asking yourself, “Is this helpful?”; “Is this true?”; “Do I have evidence that supports my thinking?”
- Manage your feelings and thoughts by practicing healthy coping skills and thinking positive thoughts such as, “I can do this,” and “Take a deep breath”. You may find it helpful to maintain a schedule or routine. Have established work and school hours, take breaks, play together. Another great way to cope is to stay connected. In this digital age, we are able to see our friends and family on video chat and other social media apps. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need help!
Some people find it more difficult to cope and/or manage their emotions and mental health without the help of a therapist. There are resources available. HopeHealth continues to provide counseling services in person, as well as via telehealth and telephone. There are other counseling providers in the Pee Dee area as well.
Additionally, there are many useful hotlines and websites, including:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline – thehotline.org, 1-800-799-7233
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – samhsa.gov
- Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault – peedeecoalition.org, 1-800-273-1820
Remember, we are all going through the same trials, experiencing the same stresses and frustrations, anxieties, and fears. You are human and you will make mistakes, get annoyed, feel tense, complain a little, etc. Give yourself permission to practice self-care, relax when you need to, practice mindfulness, and/or start a gratitude journal. We are bonded together under COVID-19 – you are not alone.
Rebecca Oeffinger joined the HopeHealth as a behavioral health counselor in January 2020. From Elloree, SC, Oeffinger enjoys working with many different populations, and has special interest in helping children and teens.