While social distancing is helping us limit our contact with the outside world, it is also bringing our immediate family members in much closer contact than we are used to. No longer going to work and school we find ourselves in 24/7 community with one another. While this can be initially fun and novel, it can also leave us crying for a bit of personal space! Suddenly we are stripped of all that time we had away from one another, interacting with friends, and even just being alone. Let’s face it, as much as we love our partners, spouses, and children – they can get on our nerves.
What is personal space anyway? Personal space is literally the amount of inches needed between you and another person to keep you both feeling safe and unthreatened. But spiritually we are talking about appropriate alone time for time with God, in prayer, or just taking a few deep breaths without having to interact or attend to another. Without it we become emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. It’s the old “put your mask on yourself before assisting another” metaphor.
So what are we to do?
First realize that this is normal. You are not a “bad” spouse, partner, or parent because this 24/7 closeness is causing you stress. Believe it or not, it may be causing them stress as well.
Secondly, remember that we are designed by God to need some alone time. Even Jesus frequently sought alone time as we hear in Mark 1:35 “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Have a family meeting, or simple discussion over a meal to identify the need for everyone to have some private time. Be ready for a huge sigh of relief as you lovingly name the elephant in the room.
Thirdly, keep in mind that we are all created as unique human beings and the amount of time needed for personal time can vary widely by person, their age, and their anxiety level. Ask each person to reflect on what they feel they might need to feel at peace, centered, and able to give their best to the people they love. Try not to judge initial answers as they may just be said for effect.
Then get creative! Perhaps, finding a cozy spot in the house, a few extra minutes in the bathtub, or even a daily solo walk can do the trick. If space does not permit “getting away” earphones may allow you to virtually “escape.” There are many meditation and relaxation sources available.
Finally, remember that we are not striving for perfection but wholeness. Practice makes progress and the needs and methods we employ are at their most successful when they are flexible. If possible make note of all the positive changes you feel after 5 mins., or 10 mins. Several times a day for a short period might work better than a longer stretch once a day. But no matter how or when you practice alone time, you can rest assured that God is with you in love and grace.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love” Zephaniah 3:17