Pressure Cooker Relationships

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My mother puts the phone down on me in exasperation. My friend messages to tell me about the fight she had with her husband. My sister sharply reminds me of the dangers of the coronavirus and how I am not being cautious enough. My cousin makes a snide comment to the family at the dinner table. All in one day.

It feels like everyone is on edge.

This is hardly surprising when you think that we are spending 24/7 in small spaces either alone or with family. For those of us thrown together, familiarity is breeding contempt at an alarming rate and it seems like there is no escape. Paranoia and overthinking are becoming the norm.

For those people in countries with a lockdown it must be so much worse. But even here in Kenya, where many people have gone into self-imposed lockdown and everyone has to adhere to a strict nightly curfew, it feels like the tension is building – slowly and steadily – like a pressure cooker. One that is going to malfunction and explode!

The sense that this pandemic is creating imminent danger in all our lives is adding to the stress. Our moods seem to oscillate wildly from panicky to sombre to irritable to full blown anxiety.

And so, as we snipe at each other and make hurtful comments, resentment begins to build up. Suddenly that small tiff becomes the argument of the century until you can’t remember what you were arguing about in the first place. And in this pressurised situation we hold on tightly to our anger and hurt as a way to show that we are in the right.

So, how do you avoid a blow-up happening in your relationships? How do you avoid the pressure cooker from exploding?

Well, it’s time to change your mindset and press the reset button. By doing this you will find equilibrium in the midst of the madness.

Firstly, start by taking each day as it comes. The thought of days or even weeks confined in a space is just too overwhelming to contemplate. That feeling that every day is Groundhog Day will leave you depleted and demotivated. By taking one day at a time, quite literally, you will find that life is so much easier to navigate.

Greet each day afresh, the chance to meet your life anew, using your waking hours as a time when you can live, learn, laugh and grow with your loved ones.

This approach means that your life will feel more manageable, allowing you to show up for your life today with a sense of calmness, openness and positivity, as well as renewed confidence in your ability to get through this.

Secondly, value the people around you. It is important to understand that loving people is about making a daily commitment to act lovingly towards them. It is a choice you make and a behaviour that you practice. It’s easy to take the people we are close to for granted. We forget the simple things like saying “thank you” or “I love you”. But what about the words “I am sorry” or “I forgive you”? Suddenly, all these words take on significant meaning and when they are said with sincerity, this is a true gift of the heart sent directly to the heart of the receiver.

So, when you find the urge to say something in anger or fear, call time out. Stop and walk away. Take a few minutes to focus on your breathing. Then, be aware of your thoughts and emotions and write these down. This helps you make sense of what is going on in your mind. Next, write down why you are grateful for having that person in your life. Finally, write down why you are willing to let go of the anger and the hurt to bring peace to the situation. Once you have done this, and centred yourself, you will find that your next words to them will come from a place of love and compassion.

Finally, take heart in knowing that you are not alone in how you feel. Life is hard at the moment. There is no doubt about it. But look around at the people you are with and you will see beauty in them, and a lot to be grateful for.


A version of this article was first published in The Star News in Kenya