Today, I am heading into week nine of our shelter-in-place life with my wife and my 23-year old now-unemployed son in our apartment on the eerily quiet Upper West Side of New York City. Living under near-quarantine conditions in the epicenter of a global pandemic while the media screams “Catastrophe!” incessantly and the President’s daily word-salad comments on the virus completely confuse us is anxiety-provoking, to say the least. Add to that my own colorful version of an anxiety disorder and it results in the inevitable: Conflict! This is what research, and my personal experience, tell us.
In a nutshell, anxiety makes us more inclined to experience or instigate conflict, which then increases our angst, and in turn leads us to respond in more extreme and consequential ways to the dispute, which then messes with our relationships, self-esteem, and blood pressure, thus making us more anxious. A perfect vicious cycle. When your mayor and governor and neighbors are pleading with you daily to stay at home for the sake of our frontline workers and grandparents, our little homes become pinball machines of tension.
But don’t despair. Research tells us two things can help us better navigate these times: normalization of the problem and increasing our self-awareness.