Communication During The Pandemic: Q&A with Karen Brandell

Communication During The Pandemic: Q&A with Karen Brandell

May 19, 2020

"We are all in this together" has been a phrase that every one of us has heard and seen repeatedly this year. That phrase applies to so many areas of our current lives, including changes in communication with our family and friends, coping with stress, and staying patient. Today we are featuring a dear member of our Art in Voyage family, Karen Brandell. Karen has been developing and performing training sessions, workshops and retreats for over 30 years. A huge thank you to Karen for sharing these strategies and tools that we can all use to guide communication during the pandemic.

How do I keep my family members from verbally shutting down during this stressful pandemic?

It is not uncommon for certain personalities to internalize their thoughts and feelings by not verbalizing them with family members. Their rationale may be that they don’t want to appear weak or stressed to the rest of the family.

A good way to open up the lines of communication may be for you to share how the current situation, whether it’s worry over finances, concern for health, or fear of job furlough is affecting your stress levels. Then ask them if they, too, are feeling anxiety and how are they’re coping.

Encourage them to trust you as a sounding board when they have concerns and you’ll provide that support unconditionally.

I have noticed that I have become more anxious and short tempered as this pandemic continues. Sometimes I just want to yell and be rude to people, even when I know they are not personally responsible. What can I do to bring back my normal self?

Self-care often takes the back burner when it comes to prioritizing the many tasks you are juggling in your new normal of working from home and perhaps homeschooling your children. The best actions you can take for everyone is make time for yourself by eating a healthy diet and exercise. There is nothing like a good workout or brisk walk to get the endorphins elevated into your bloodstream.

Even if you have never experienced that natural high from exercise, you should feel refreshed and ready to handle what the day has in store with more vigor and patience. Give it a try—I think your family and co-workers will appreciate the new you.

I’ve always had a quick wit and appreciate the same in others. However, lately I’ve noticed that sarcastic remarks are hurting my feelings. Any ideas on how I can address this without it becoming a fight?

Sarcasm is a form of passive-aggressive behavior and should never be used when trying to communicate a serious concern. After a few times of hearing a hurtful, sarcastic remark, simply ignore the comment and, if possible, remove yourself from that setting. Later that day or the next, tell that person that you feel like there may be something the two of you should clear up in an open and honest conversation.

If their response is “aw, come on, I was just kidding” then you should say that you find the remarks hurtful and ask to please stop. Body language and tone makes up for 93% of communication and your goal is to share your feelings in a non-confrontational manner to get the results you desire.

There is a great possibility the other person is not aware they have hurt your feelings, so give them an opportunity to apologize.

I’m so over the negativity! Every conversation with friends or family seems to begin with discussing how tired we are with this quarantined lifestyle. I’ve started to dread the phone and Zoom calls, but realize that may not be healthy either. Suggestions?

I realize everyone does not have an optimistic outlook, even in the best of circumstances. But being a Debby or David Downer wears on the nerves of your family and friends and your calls will start to be avoided and not returned.

I try to listen for a few minutes and even share some of my concerns, but then say “Okay, let’s switch the mood here and talk about all the good things that we have to be thankful for right now.” Things like family, friends, health, home, etc.

This method is called Reframing the Picture and definitely will lighten everyone’s mood!

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I remember as a child I was told to count to 10 when I was angry. Is that a false remedy because I’ve tried counting and it doesn’t work. Am I counting too fast?

I was taught the same method so you’re not alone. However, there is a better counting technique that actually does work to de-escalate your anger. Anger is the result of adrenaline rushing into the bloodstream. When this happens, the heart rate jumps from the normal resting bpm to an escalated mid-range level. The mid-level is often identified as the Optimal Zone to push you to take action. Athletics want to get into The Zone to have peak performance, and it can also work in your favor for work performance.

Adrenaline is a natural hormone that motivates us to take action. However, when too much enters our bloodstream too quickly, it can have a negative affect and we enter the Crisis Zone, where our heart rate jumps to over 175 bpm. That is a very scary thing to experience because clear thinking stops and we’ll do and say things that are totally out of character. We call this the Fight or Flight Zone and it never ends well. When the heart rate returns to normal, there is plenty of damage control needed.

Cycle Breathing is an easy technique to learn and can be mastered by all age levels. It is breathing in through your nose while slowly counting to 4, holding your breath for 2 counts, and then slowly exhaling through your mouth to the count of 4. Repeat this 4-2-4 Cycle Breathing for 1 – 2 minutes. Your adrenaline will remain at a normal level and you will be able to handle the stressful situation.

Caution: It’s never too early to start Cycle Breathing, but if you wait too late to begin, your diaphragm will be too constricted to permit a deep breath.

Even though my family is spending more time together, so much of that time is spent on phones and computers that I feel we are growing apart. What can we do to stay connected?

  I suggest making dinner the time when no technology of any kind is allowed. One of the coolest things I heard lately is to have everyone share a POW and WOW from the day.

A POW is something that they feel sad about; for example, not being to meet their friends for burgers or playtime. A WOW might be that they are going to Zoom with their best friends later that evening or have a virtual game of Pictionary.

As the family starts to share these, it will stimulate conversation and they will look forward to the communication.

Who knows, it may even become a family tradition!

Thank you for reading today’s Q&A with Karen Brandell focusing on Communication During The Pandemic.