Keep calm and stay indoors

Updated: Apr 27, 2020, 09:32 IST | Anindita Paul | Mumbai

Domestic disputes have been taking an ugly turn during the ongoing lockdown. Experts advise on how to de-escalate arguments and deflate tension before they get out of hand

In stressful situations
In stressful situations

One of the most disheartening by-products of the ongoing lockdown is the massive spurt in incidences of domestic violence — the number of complaints of gender-based violence recorded by the National Commission for Women has grown more than twofold in the lockdown period. In fact, acknowledging the severity of the problem, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray urged afflicted women to register complaints and seek counselling. Dr Ambrish Dharmadhikari, a psychiatrist at MPower, confirms that a substantial number of calls received on the toll-free helpline that the organisation has launched in conjunction with the Maharashtra government and the BMC, have had to do with domestic disputes."

Engaging in art
Engaging in art

He explains, "Many families are yet to come to terms with the new normal that the lockdown has imposed — the division of roles and responsibilities is unclear. There is also a lot of anxiety about the future, financial losses and the couples' anticipation about being able to survive the lockdown. These fears and frustrations are often displaced on one partner or on children, in the form of physical and verbal violence." Anindita Kundu, a practising trauma-informed psychotherapist, adds that in the absence of other engagements and distractions, the entire focus of the couple is back on the relationship. "Very often, domestic abuse or violence comes from a place of power and seeking attention. With no physical space between partners, their individuality in the relationship is lost. The space each person has from the other is drastically reduced," she says. Kundu, and other mental health experts, share ways in which you can de-escalate arguments and prevent flare-ups during the lockdown.

Yoga can help
Yoga can help

Stay sane
Self-soothe: Psychologist Priyanka Bajaria says that while you can't control the other person during a conflict, you can control your response to them. It may be tempting (and reasonable) to shout back during a violent verbal/physical attack on you, but it will escalate the situation ­— the aggressor may feel as though they cannot successfully exercise their power and control over you. To de-escalate the situation, take a deep breath before responding. Maintain a non-threatening posture and a neutral tone. Neuro-biologically, your body will want to mirror the other person's body language and facial expressions. However, this will give them another reason to pick a fight.

Dr Ambrish Dharmadhikari
Dr Ambrish Dharmadhikari

Assess: Dr Sagar Mundada, a psychiatrist at Health Spring, suggests identifying trigger points and avoiding those, especially if the other individual is prone to violent fits of anger. "This could be anything from the pitch of your voice when you address them, to specific areas of your relationship that they are touchy about. Avoid these trigger points as far as possible to prevent flare-ups," he advises.

Anindita Kundu
Anindita Kundu

Nourish your self-esteem: Constantly being on the receiving end of verbal or physical lashings can take a heavy toll on your self-esteem and self-confidence, says Dr Mundada. "Over time, you may actually begin to believe that you deserve poor treatment. Make sure to dedicate some time during the day — at least one hour — to yourself. Use this time to listen to positive self-affirmation, either on YouTube or other self-help channels," he adds.

Priyanka Bajaria
Priyanka Bajaria

Empathise: Although it might be difficult to keep yourself from reacting emotionally, Dr Mundada suggests taking a step back and viewing the situation from the other person's point of view. This, he says, can temper your response to an angry outburst. You could also seek empathy from a friend or a family member, when the going gets tough. This acts as a healing touch in times of distress. "There are several portals, such as blahtherapy.com, where you can anonymously vent your emotions. Simply having someone who listens to you can take away some of the anxiety," he says.

Dr Sagar Mundada
Dr Sagar Mundada

While domestic disputes with family members during the ongoing lockdown may be a tremendous cause for stress, they could also bring with them an unexpected silver lining. "Bracing yourself to deal with angry outbursts can, in fact, improve resilience and teach you empathy. Teaching yourself to cope with such flare-ups enhances your emotional intelligence," Dr Mundada says.

Moderation is key
Becoming aware about the source of your anxiety and frustrations and the fact that you are displacing these on helpless members of your family is the first and most important step towards preventing these episodes, experts say. Additionally, you can: Further displace your anger: Find a find a pillow or an inanimate object that you can physically punch; this will help to take the edge off your temper, says Dr Mundada.

Practice mindfulness: An easy way to keep yourself in the present is to concentrate on your breathing. Acknowledge the thoughts that cross your mind, without acting on them. You could also use free guided mindfulness apps. These can help you build a higher frustration threshold in just ten days, says Dr Mundada. "Your impulsiveness will reduce and your ability to think things through before acting out will improve. Instead of reacting, you can strategise your response. The chances of you lashing out at a partner or your child will be much lower," he says.

Visualise your response: Imagine stressful scenarios that may arise in future and frame a response that you would want rather than what comes impulsively to you. Doing so can change your reaction patterns.

Activate your vagus nerve: In stressful situations, the human body tends to automatically goes into the survival mode, says Kundu. Activating the vagus nerve, which balances the nervous system and helps your body calm down and relax, can help. One of the easiest ways to activate this nerve is to take a cold shower. Alternately, you could rub an ice cube on your lips or face, which contain the highest concentration of nerve endings. Chanting of any form, singing and humming can also stimulate the vagus nerve, which is closely related to your vocal chords. Other activities that might help include physical exercises such as stretching, yoga or pilates, and grounding activities such as cooking, gardening or creating art, that involve working with
your hands.

Call 1800120820050, 18001024040 (helpline by CM); 07217735372 (helpline by NCW)

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