Family - how to preserving what you value the most at the time of crisis
I know how much you love your family. I do too… in fact, taking care of them takes 95% of my time nowadays. Boy, I didn’t expect it. Now I do realize, that being separated from the life we are used to, even with the people I love the most, can turn out as a dubious blessing.
Yes, there is so much gratitude for having the family together… healthy... under one roof... yet, it is also a challenge in a million of ways that we never expected. Even without the professional estimates, it is clear that quarantine will turn out the ultimate test for so many relationships: at the end of it, we will face a great number of brand new marriages, babies, and… divorces. As Esther Perel pointed out in her recent interview with Tim Ferris (The Tim Ferriss Show #418- Tactics for Relationships in Quarantine), “What destruction and impending disaster does, it accelerates everything...It’s either “Life is short! What are we waiting for? Let’s make a baby!” or “Life is short! I’ve waited long enough! Let’s leave”.
This amazing interview could not be ever more timely. A real godsend in terms of the wonderful advice at the moment when we need it the most.
Tim Ferris - one of my favorite authors, motivators, inspirations. In addition to that - a brilliant investor, world winning marshal arts hacker (yes, no other way to call that 3-months-of-training-to-world-title-victory!), chef, researcher, seeker for most efficient and fascinating… I deeply admire him for deconstructing, analyzing and finetuning the most efficient practices, bits of wisdom from the world’s greatest, painstakingly testing them and, in the end, sharing the most efficient and helpful tips for achieving success - with all of us!
Esther Perel - this lady captured my heart. A uniquely wise and empathetic, one of the top professionals in a world in a field of human relationships. A Belgian psychotherapist of Polish-Jewish descent, Esther is recognized as “one of today’s most insightful and original voices on modern relationships”. Esther is a bestselling author, an organizational consultant for Fortune 500 companies around the world, and the host of the podcast Where Should We Begin?, taking place inside her therapist's office with anonymous couples. The recent miniseries “Couples Under Lockdown”, features real couples, facing the daily challenges of preserving their relationships under the stress of current quarantine.
Tim and Esther’s conversation explored the effect that the current crisis has on different relationships - married, single, dating, divorcing, sharing custody and even advice for single, lonely people dealing with frustration and isolation… Both Tim and Esther offered absolutely incredible tips, coming both from personal and professional experience, on how to help families manage it better, help each other, pass through these difficult times as painlessness, as humanely possible.
What were my favorite points that families could adopt to help them manage the difficulties arising from this disaster? Every part of that conversation was pure gold. Here I collected some of the most striking and helpful tips for families...
9 Favorite takeaways from Esther and Tim:
- The Role of Cooking
”Cooking plays such a big role”, - Esther points out.
I couldn’t agree more - everything and everybody seem to be revolving around the kitchen. I’ve spent an entire day restricting all my creativity and concentration to the stove. And it was devoured so quickly, I’ll be back for more before my back could stop aching…
What Esther emphasized, was that far more important not to lose the personal connection element amidst the culinary necessities: she gave an example of a husband who offered his wife to take some of the cooking onto his own shoulders so that afterward they could spend at least 15 minutes to connect in person, as opposed to heading back to eat it alone at each computer…
Main Takeaway: Find a few points throughout the day to reconnect as a family, sharing a meal - lunch, dinner, snack… or just a few moments together. These moments of “breaking the bread”, just undivided (and non-electronic!) connection and bonding may turn out the best, or the most impactful for each of you, from youngest to oldest, both now and down the road.
- The importance of Humor: “There is laughter in hell!”
Humor helps relieve tension, keep the spirits up, even extends your lifespan. Smile. Or, better, - find a reason for a good wholehearted laugh!
Main Takeaway: Whether a silly joke, show, story, situation or a game - find even the smallest reason to get some laugh therapy ;)
- Conversations with kids: critical conversations about mortality
I find it hard to discuss this with the kids right now. Esther insists, that as uncomfortable as we may be with this topic, it is the one that shouldn’t be avoided. Especially in this situation…yes, with children. Especially with children. It is on their minds already. Helping relieve their tensions on the subject is as crucial.
Main Takeaway: As hard as it is, do not avoid the tough topics. Do not wait for the kids to voice it. Do bring it up, do help their minds find peace with it.
- Use creative outlets: Paint, draw, write music, sing songs or… dance
Esther reminded, how humanity was using art to express their feelings for years! Find the one that suits you best and… dive in!
Dancing is a particularly wonderful way for dealing with stress. You just can’t dance and cry! It brings the best possible relief...
No judgment, whatever you chose… whatever could help to stay sane.
Main Takeaway: “Find an artistic or whatever-it-takes medium to express your feelings… The arts helped us throughout history to deal with crises, to stay connected to loved ones far away… and close. Share life-affirming experiences with the ones you love!”
- Enjoy the power of reading!
And artistic outlet does not have to involve a paintbrush or a concert piano if you feel no attraction to either of those. You are, surely, welcomed, but… how about reading? Together? Aloud? Sharing things you find fascinating?
I’ve got to say, that reading to my children - all three of them, even to my teens! - is my favorite part of the day. It is one-on-one moment, reliving the best childhood memories as we reach for my old-time favorite titles, laughing, worrying, getting excited - together. It helps weave many of the values and tough topics that I wouldn’t have the strength to raise up otherwise - casually and easily into our conversations and discussions. It is just bonding… and most wonderful ever!!!
While I do know quite a few couples who enjoy reading out loud to each other, when it comes to my own husband - we prefer sharing favorite books and articles as stories during our evening walks, over a cup of tea, or just passing kindle uploads. As well as podcasts, TedTalks, anything we found fascinating…
For me - tonight - it is going to be this amazing interview…
Main Takeaway: Sharing stories helped humanity to manage through the crisis at every generation. Tap into its healing powers!
- Acknowledge and Understand
Turbulent times like these get everyone on edge. And, yes, snapping happens a lot more then we wish it did. Everyone is giving into irritations more readily, tempers go hot to a point of a burn, patience wearing thin from the silliest annoyances… It is important to realize this about your close ones, acknowledge their frustrations and help them deal with it. Yes, being confined can be excruciating. It is important to realize and offer each other some compassion and empathy.
Main Takeaway: “While dealing with the same data, the other person can be reacting in their own way.” Trying your best to be more tolerant, patient; to accept and understand the differences in your reactions - would be the kindest gift you could offer…
- Avoid drinking
What?! Well, while I do believe, that if a glass of wine (or even a few more) help you calm down at the end of the night - as long as you keep it reasonable, no harm done... yet I do understand why Esther could insist on it: I am making my way through another one of my recent favorites by Malcolm Gladwell, “Talking to Strangers”. It devotes a whole chapter to the way alcohol affects our memories, decisions, behavior. Apparently, it depends on the surrounding culture… and the current mood. It removes judgment, constraints and limits. It exaggerates whatever feeling is currently in the air. In a happy-go-merry company - it would be accompanied by a relaxing laughter. In a wild atmosphere of sexy frat party on campus - it would be accompanied by dancing on the table. Try to releave tears with it - and don’t be surprised if you end with the waterfall…
Main Takeaway: Esther cautions to stick to obstinance from alcohol, especially if under its influence “you tend to become a lion rather than a donkey”.
- Get medical help
If you were considering medication and were putting the final decision off… now is the time to reach out to your doctor and find the right solution help that will help you “level your reactions and emotions up”.
Main Takeaway: Get ALL the help you could get to level your emotions. If it is medical - so be it.
- Take care of yourself - not the time to be heroic
Surviving through the crisis with the relationships both intact and, possibly, strengthened - is the most heroic thing you could do at the moment. Acknowledge what you need and allow yourself to ask for it. As another great therapist puts it (in another interview with Tim Ferris, haha), kindness to the ones around you starts with kindness to yourself…
Main Takeaway: Airplane safety axiom - first put on a mask onto yourself, then you’ll have the strength to help to the ones around you. Yep, take care of yourself.
Tim and Esther discussed, how sharing a walk with a friend (over Facetime or Zoom), lighting a candle during dinner, reaching out to someone you haven’t seen in years… can be the little kind wonders that turn out beneficial for everybody. I absolutely loved their advice on how to break through the social scripts of same-old answers to the same-old questions and get on with a conversation that is actually meaningful, helpful, memorable… I feel enormous gratitude to Esther and Tim for offering, discussing, voicing these tactics. And many, many more points - were a complete revelation and reassurance… that you would need to listen to the entire interview to enjoy.
This post featured the images of one of my favorite families to work with: these guys are a great inspiration for me. Every session we do together, every interaction, I come home touched and motivated to improve as a mom, as a wife, as a human being. I find the most touching, how gently they all ready to adjust for one another, faithfully preserving an atmosphere of understanding and support. It is a blessing to meet such people, far more - to have a chance to photograph them. Inna, Alex, I could never thank you enough...
Share your opinion on this advice, or, possibly, your own main takeaways that could be helpful in dealing with the crisis we suddenly found ourselves in!
dream come true photo
preserve the moment
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