The Human Connection: Adapting without SnappingJan 11, 2021
What do you do when you feel like you might snap? Snapping could mean losing your cool, feeling angry, frustrated, or simply just acting out of character. For many it includes a conflict with someone else, possibly ending in a screaming match and/or the silent treatment (just me?). Either way, it is uncomfortable and usually leads to more stress. It definitely does not help to move you forward in your home or work life. So what can you do? Especially when it feels like life is just, well, life. It doesn’t stop. There’s always something to be done and something unexpected coming our way. So how do we ADAPT without SNAPPING….
For the past 10 months, I’ve been home pretty much 24/7. Thank you Covid. My husband and I live with our two boys, ages 3 and 1, as well as my 65yo mother-in-law who is in ill health. We are both fortunate to work from home, but are also trying to work from home with two toddlers, which is a layered situation. We love each other, but no marriage is prepared for 24/7 togetherness for this long. Throw in virtual preschool with a speech-delayed child, cooking, laundry, conflict over the “right” way to handle a pandemic, missing friends and family, politics, and you have a recipe for a big ol’ giant SNAP.
But these are the obvious factors contributing to stress and tension. What is the difference between yesterday when I felt like supermom and today when it feels like I can’t handle anything?
I know that after a night of racing thoughts and little sleep, I automatically have fewer resources to handle any stressor that comes my way. Then as I prepare for work, the TV feels like it is on volume 100. I can barely hear my own thoughts much less the crying of my youngest. Then to add one more layer to my already stressful state, my 3yo needs every.single.light on because he is suddenly afraid of the dark at 1 pm. Yes, welcome to my world as a working mother.
You may not be sleep deprived or have a TV on for the entire world to hear and a needy toddler, but I bet there is something that can take you from calm to overwhelmed real quick. These three (seemingly innocuous) changes in my environment are what tipped me over the edge. I felt underappreciated and resentful. My head was pounding. I wanted to snap. Scream. Complete with my toddler to see who can definitely throw a bigger fit. But instead, I realized what was happening. I turned the TV down a few notches, stepped outside for some natural light and a sanity reset, and kindly asked my husband for 15 minutes later in the afternoon to just sit down. I saved myself and my family from making a tough situation even more difficult - and you know what, I was proud of this!
I share my real-life story with the hope of keeping it HOT (humble, open, and transparent). As someone with years of experience and degrees and certifications in psych work, you would think this stuff comes naturally to me. But it doesn’t. I have to work at it. I am human. Just like you.
This is also a prime example of how and why we often reach our breaking point at what appears to be a random moment. In reality, our body is taking everything in from our environment and it is not always obvious what causes us to lose our cool. Anything can own us if we allow it to so own yourself before your environment does it for you. The first step in doing this is awareness.
Here are some quick reflection questions you can ask yourself to gain awareness:
- When was the last time you felt like snapping (or did snap)?
- What is the first thing that comes to mind: the reason why you snapped or the feelings you experienced?
- What was happening around you?
- What were you thinking about?
- Were you running late, hungry, tired?
Once you identify potential triggers, consider some changes that can be made both in the moment and for the long-term.
My example of leaving the house for a few minutes is a great way to hit pause and reset in the moment. A possible longer-term solution would be to limit the amount of TV time in the house so that background noise and distraction are also limited.
What could YOU do? Are there environmental changes that could be made or are the needed changes more internal (ex. addressing your ANT’s: automatic negative thoughts - more on this next time)? Write down the changes that come to mind first.
Finally, knowledge isn’t always power. You need action for that. So let the reflection questions now move you from what could you do to what you will do. You’ve identified potential triggers, it is now time to select one and put a realistic plan into place on how you might be able to minimize this trigger. Remember, this could be a change to your external or internal environment. It could also be a tool to use in the moment or for the long term as a way to prevent feeling like you may snap (or preferably both!).
No matter what, the best strategy is the one you will do. So get to work. Find someone to hold you accountable. Tell others about your goal. Set up weekly check-ins with them so that you KNOW they’ll be asking about how it’s going. If you don’t have that person, reach out, and join one of our accountability pods. Either way, by focusing on yourself and what makes you snap, you can take back control and bring your life to the next level.
Adapting Without Snapping Infographic by Support