Well this is my first time blogging, so here goes. I tend to be someone who overshares on the first meeting- but given this form of writing, I feel like this is as good a place as any to walk in my truth. My hope is that despite the rambling, you’ll take something away from this piece. Here goes! FULL DISCLOSURE: This piece will include grammatical errors. It’s not perfect, but it’s from the heart.
When the pandemic started, I was determined to get started on a list of projects that i’d let slide to the wayside because I had too much on my plate. As time went on, I felt myself wavering in my initial excitement about being at home and struggling to articulate how I was feeling and communicate those feelings to my loved ones. Now over a year in, I’ve learned some things about communication.
It’s ok to say you need someone
When I transitioned to working from home, my day was dominated by having video calls. I was in constant contact with my colleagues, so by the end of the day I was mentally and emotionally drained. I would often take a moment to turn off my devices and just sit in the quiet or take a solo walk around my block. As I tried to figure out a routine, I found missing hanging out with my friends but lacking the energy to sustain a video call. I got to a point where I had to message my friends and we decided to hash out alternatives for when we were feeling lonely – how would we communicate this to each other? This took the form of a Netflix Party, signing on to a video-call to follow a workout video, having an audio call on while we worked throughout the day – and this would often tangent into impromptu conversations if we needed to share. Other times it didn’t and that was and is ok. Over time, this reduced the guilt we felt about our mental/emotional state and made us feel safe to still connect with each other, even when we were feeling vulnerable.
Alternative option – put in your earbuds, call your friend and “walk and talk” from your respective neighbourhoods!
Embrace a 24hr rule
If Covid has taught us anything – it’s that we all reach a saturation point for responding to messages. You see a message, maybe you respond to it in your head, but the thought of responding is equivalent to doing a workout (in the moment haha). So you put your phone down and may end up forgetting you never responded. I’m here to tell you that feeling is OK. What’s important to remember though, is that if you were on the other end – you may worry about the other person. My advice? Be upfront with your loved ones and say – “hey, sometimes I can’t respond to you in-the-moment, but if I don’t respond in 24hrs after a text – send me another one!” This benefits you (it gives you time to relax and recharge) but also assures the other person that you’re not off-the-grid. Given the worldwide pandemic we’re all living through – anxiety for the wellbeing of loved ones is at an all time high.
Are you looking for a listener or a problem solver?
I’m going to wager that we have all felt stress, varying in intensity, the longer the pandemic goes on. Feeling that weight on our minds, hearts and manifesting in the way we take care of ourselves – this impacts our ability to communicate. They say that you never know what people are fighting privately and that is very true. What I am learning to implement in my conversations is to be upfront with my friends and ask them how I can best support them – whether it be by just listening or helping them problem solve. This has helped to keep potentially intense discussions, calm and encourages empathy on both sides. It’s important to be receptive to someone’s needs, but they also need to meet you halfway. We’re not mind readers!
How could this relate to VAW?
It’s well known that domestic violence has steadily increased during the pandemic, compounded with multiple lockdowns – many are feeling isolated from their usual support systems. Feeling helpless? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
If someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, check in with them regularly. Let them know about the #SignalForHelp, and look out for it when you video call.
The Canadian’s Women’s Foundation has recommended the following tips for checking in safely:
Call them and ask questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no”. This may reduce risk if someone is listening. For example:
“Would you like me to call 911?”
“Would you like me to call a shelter on your behalf?” (Find a shelter in your community by visiting ShelterSafe)
“Should I look for some services that might help you and call you back?” (Find some services you can reach out to.)
Use another form of communication such as text, social media, WhatsApp, or email and ask general questions. This may reduce risk if someone is watching the person’s device or accounts. For example, you can ask:
“How are you doing?”
“How can I help you out?”
“Get in touch with me when you can.”
Other questions you can ask:
“Do you want me to reach out to you regularly?”
“How else can I support you?”
Moral of the story? Communication is an ongoing lesson. It’s not easy, but if we keep working at it – we can foster a safe space for not just us, but for those around us to feel comfortable and thrive. Embracing the easy, the difficult, the complicated and the memorable lessons life throws at us. Keep reaching out everyone, there’s always someone there to hear you.