The COVID-19 situation sure has thrust the world into uncharted territory. Every time I think the situation can’t get anymore surreal, it somehow does.
Like many of you, my family is doing our best to navigate the challenges of social distancing and home quarantine. I regrettably acknowledge that the memes about home schooling that I laughed at last week aren’t nearly as funny this week. Trying to work from home while overseeing my daughters’ schoolwork has not been easy!
During times of uncertainly, it’s natural to draw upon our past experiences for guidance in handling our present predicament. While the COVID-19 situation is new to me, I have experienced the challenges of isolation and dealing with cabin fever before.
When I was a student-athlete, our college would shut down during the semester break. Because our season overlapped both semesters, my teammates and I were usually the only students on campus. If that weren’t enough of a challenge, our campus was in the northeastern United States. Winter snowstorms and freezing temperatures usually prevented us from leaving the dormitory.
Being around the same people in such limited quarters for that length of time made me appreciate the truth in the expression familiarity breeds contempt.
Certain players on our team were better at handling the confinement than others. Some players were overtaken with cabin fever and seemed to be constantly entangled in conflict with somebody else on the team. But the “good teammates” never were.
I witnessed the same phenomenon when I coached teams that were confined to the dorms over the semester break. I spent a lot of my coaching career resolving the cabin fever conflicts that occurred during the course of those weeks.
I felt the good teammates in both situations adhered to three simple practices that made their confinement much more tolerable:
1. They all had a “safe place” where they retreated to escape the monotony. When someone was getting on their nerves, they found refuge in their solitude. Sometimes their safe place was the bathroom. Other times is was putting their headphones on and lying quietly on their bed.
They always found a particular spot to escape from what was annoying them. They also respected when their teammates sought seclusion. The good teammates refused to bother team members who retreated to places of solitude. Safe places were sacred to good teammates.
2. They never projected their pleasures on another teammate. So many of the conflicts I dealt with as a coach revolved around one player not liking another player’s loud music, or one player not liking the smell of the food another player was heating up in the microwave. If not managed, those trivial conflicts would quickly escalate. When people are confined to tight quarters, annoying habits become amplified.
The good teammates listened to their music on their headphones so they wouldn’t disturb anyone else. They avoided eating smelly foods and were otherwise considerate of those around them. They sacrificed the pleasures of “me” for the benefit of “we.”
3. They adopted a routine. Quite often, the good teammates steered clear of conflicts by just sticking to a routine. They got up at a consistent time. They ate at a consistent time. They showered at a consistent time. And they went to bed a consistent time.
When people get bored, they become irritable. The same is true when people get hungry or tired. An unhealthy diet—like snacking on junk food—can make you more susceptible to mood swings and so can disrupted sleep patterns. By sticking to a routine, the good teammates limited their moodiness and made themselves more pleasant to be around.
For many of us, the phrase “March Madness” has taken on an entirely different meaning. I hope sharing these three tips will help make the madness of your home confinement more tolerable.
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.
*Family struggling with home confinement? Watch this video we recently released: 5 Ways for Families to be Good Teammates