What are we fighting for?

Arguments.

Whether you are mentally fit, mentally unwell or mentally drained, it makes life infinitely worse, and leaves you squinting through a grey sheen throughout the day.

But I think (deep down) that everyone loves a conflict from time-to-time, especially when they think they’re right. If I look back I remember cross words that felt good, and some that were genuinely awful.

Any fighting, however big or small, is adding to our stress pile. Whether we got any enjoyment out of it or not, the increase in our tension is automatic…that’s just a fact.

So what compels us to fight? Why do the fights come so easy at times? Why do they happen without warning? Why are they so hard to handle? Why are they so hard to forget?

What are we fighting for?

It may surprise you that, even when you live in the isolated way I do, somehow conflict still seems to be part of my life. Regularly.

And I’m honestly so tired of it.

I find myself in battle with my 5 year old every single day. Whether it’s getting dressed, finishing dinner or just asking questions about school…I am the enemy.

Ebay is another excellent example. A place where buying something can turn into all out war because it doesn’t arrive on time and they can’t provide proof of postage. Hours are lost having to prove my side of the story and sending it all in a message in the most polite and honest way.

Conflict with the big organisations over bills that have been calculated incorrectly and money that’s been taken when it shouldn’t have, is a never-ending nightmare. Begging for the money you need to be given back, but being told it’ll just come off the next bill. Trying, but failing, to explain that the money is needed for groceries and escalating bills. Fighting your corner, but ending up battered and bruised and without the heavyweight title you deserve. Big organisations need a big slap on the arse.

Neighbours being arseholes. I’ll just leave that comment as it is.

Fighting with my partner, a man I adore to his bones, because it’s stressful living the way we do. Because there is a lack of support for him as a carer and us as parents. We struggle privately, and that gets heated at times. I’m grateful to him for his enormous efforts every day, but sometimes we lose our patience, and it comes out as frustration with each other. We don’t mean it, but it’s tearfully upsetting and stupendously tiring.

At the end of all these conflicts, when the dust has settled and I have a moment to review what happened and why, all I’m left with is tears of frustration. I’ll cry for the anger that transpired, the upsetting comments that were made and the infuriating and incorrect accusations that came out. I’ll cry for my own anger and the harsh words I thought (and sometimes said). I’ll sob about the pain I’m left with, both in my confused, tired head and my aching, sore muscles.

It’s not all bad. I’ve painted a picture of a miserable life when I know all too well that many people have it worse than I do. Far worse. Yes, there are battles, mostly daily, but there’s also a lot of love in our home. In a weird way I’m lucky not to have to deal with the family feuds that are commonplace in houses around the world. I don’t have the gossip and stress caused by large friendship groups and the politics that comes with them either.

I’m lucky my real-life circle is so small.

None the less, I wish the fighting could end. My days could be brighter without the bad news on the TV and the upsetting comments from my child. It would be less stressful if the people who owed me money would just pay it back. It would be kinder if people spent more time caring than accusing, loving rather than hating, hugging rather than punching.

Sometimes the fighting is so consuming that I wish a dark pit would swallow me and let me sit within for an hour or two. Silence.

I wish for us all to get some silence.

What are we fighting for? Fuck knows.

So, what can we do?

Lets be honest for a minute. There are bigger-world problems, fights and conflicts that cause the stress that we just CAN’T change, then there are the arguments closer to home that we CAN.

Despite this we can MANAGE both better and in ways that could reduce the onslaught of stress for you and those around you.

Planet fighting

Lets start with the BIG world problems. The war, the rising cost of living, the worry of evil that seems to be everywhere.

No, we can’t escape it, but we don’t have to allow it in all day either. Take back some control.

Stop watching the TV in the morning…Or at least switch to something more gentle like kids cartoons or music.

Music is our preference now, and it’s had a good-quality effect on all of us. I used to wake up and switch on the news as a habit. So we were all starting our day with negativity. I’m not saying you should ignore what’s going on in the world, but we are lucky to be able to choose when we let it in, and that’s something we can take advantage of.

Our daughter likes the music channels, she even has favourite songs. She gets to dance in the morning, sing along (sort of!) and enjoy time with us. My partner and I sing along to the 80’s music we enjoy and watch her having fun.

This is a better picture than the mornings watching people in suits telling us the world might end, isn’t it?

So if there is negativity and fighting you can avoid and control, then control it. Social media, the TV, websites, news apps, tablets, phones….choose what you access and when you access it. Turn OFF notifications.

Give yourself SOME silence from the big world fighting.

Kid anger

Real world stuff is more complicated, but I’ve found there are ways to improve it if we alter the way we communicate and manage our emotions.

The conflicts with our child have been hard to manage, not least because engaging with family support when bringing-up an SEN child seems to be difficult to make happen. However, through conversations with SEN experts, teachers and good-old Google, I have found some tips you might find helpful in your home too.

In the mornings and evenings, we have a timetable and set warning alarms on our phones/alexa/alarm clocks so everyone knows that the next stage is 5 minutes away. It’s a gentle way of saying it’s time to ‘wind down’ or ‘move on’ rather than just saying ‘right, that’s over, now we’re going to school…IMMEDIATELY!’.

Using simple story boards for young children is also popular and effective. Show them the tasks they need to complete and make a big deal when you get to cross one off. Let them cross them off if they like to! Rewards don’t have to be expensive or even physically tangible. Celebrating with a round of applause, big smiles and a ‘well done’ have all been popular here.

My partner now makes tasks a bit more challenging for our daughter by ‘racing’ her to the next stage. For example, if it’s time for bed and she’s refusing to go to the bedroom, he’ll say ‘I bet you can’t beat me there?!’. As soon as it’s a challenge, her interest is sparked. Of course, she wins every time because Daddy is ‘slow’ or ‘tired’….it’s a deliberate ruse and it works most of the time.

Finally, the reward chart is another inexpensive, simple idea that works wonders. We use a ‘star jar’, stickers on a piece of paper and even a ‘princess chart’ in this way and they’ve all worked. The key is the reward at the end, and again, it doesn’t have to be a gift. We’ve offered going with Daddy on a trip to the park, to walk the dog, visiting Nana and even going with him grocery shopping. I’ve offered nail painting, craft projects, hair styling, and opening my parcels for me. These might sound like shit rewards, but to her they’re all adventures. And yes, from time to time we offer more costly prizes, but we make those gifts the ones we all benefit from or ensure they are good for her development. Books that widen her learning and knowledge, special dinners we all get to gorge on, cake baking we all eat in the end and online shoe shopping that was inevitable anyway.

Sometimes you have to bend the rules and bend reality in your favour, and this can work especially well with younger kids.

In the midst of a tantrum or difficult aggression, I think proper help is needed, and I recommend having a read of some useful websites before it happens rather than during an outburst. Try the NSPCC Tantrum Page and the NHS Temper Tantrum Page for stellar advice.

For older children the NHS has an Anger Management page that you might find helpful. The Young Minds website is home of a UK charity that also have advice and signposting for supporting your child with anger – another good starting place.

There are places you can contact and websites you can visit right now to get help and make a plan. This is preferable to having no idea what to do in those awfully trying moments.

Grown-up anger

Conflicts between adults are even more complicated, unsurprisingly, but for the less-dangerous bickering at home, we’ve found a few helpful ideas…

First, having a safe word seems to be a positive way of framing that things are about to get heated. And no, this isn’t a sexual word designed to make it clear your partner is getting to exited 😉! This is a safe word to make it clear that YOU are about to get too heated and / or frustrated. It’s a warning that before either of you say or do something you might regret, you need to walk into different spaces and have a moment to breathe.

Space and time can heal many frustrations.

Second, talking properly when you aren’t arguing, taking time to understand each other in the more mundane moments, reduces the need for full-blown war when stressful periods occur. Relationships become boring, stagnant and difficult when you don’t work on them, so I believe keeping the flames alive (flames of friendship, romance, encouragement, understanding and passion are all important 🔥) will keep much-needed respect between you, even when emotions are high.

Finally, find the things that are causing conflict and talk about them with someone level-headed, unbiased and understanding. If you can have the conversation together, so everyone hears an outside opinion, that seems to be even more beneficial.

Mediation can be provided by friends or a professional, just as long as the opinions returned are unbiased.

IMPORTANT – Dangerous fighting

For more serious fighting such as conflicts where you don’t feel safe, where you’re being hurt, where you feel abused, where it’s having an effect on your health, and/or that you know is becoming domestic abuse, you MUST obtain professional help. It can come from the NHS via your GP, a domestic abuse helpline, charitable website or other charity support.

You could start by looking at the Gov.uk domestic abuse page, which has lots of information and links to organisations that can help you.

Victim support have information too, as well as helplines and practical advice for both men and women.

Refuge are a domestic abuse charity aimed mainly at women and children, but they also have a male specific helpline. You can exit the site quickly with a link at the top of the page and helplines are available 24/7.

Breathe

In all cases, getting the opportunity to use mindful exercises, such as slow breathing techniques, can help when you’re feeling stressed. HUGELY.

The NHS website again has a page dedicated to breathing exercises for stress. Personally I’ve found it easier to find my own personalised calming breath rhythm but it took a bit of practice to get it right.

To give you an idea, I breathe in through my nose while counting to 4, hold my breath while counting to 5, and breathe out through my mouth while counting to 5 again. I do this while sitting safely and comfortably in silence. I repeat the process as many times as is needed, and on occasions I’ve felt a relaxing wash throughout my body after just a couple of turns.

A stress management page is coming to this website soon, where there will be more ideas on how to help yourself in those gritty, red-coloured, anger fuelled moments and a more in-depth look at breathing exercises.

Finally – post conflict admin

No matter what you’re fighting for, tidying up afterwards is an important part of moving on effectively.

Once that thick dust has settled and you’ve genuinely reviewed the contents and what was said by EVERYONE involved, it’s important you talk. Talk in a balanced, unheated way about what was said, what was meant, what hurt and why, and how it can be avoided in the future.

And apologise.

Don’t be afraid or stubborn about saying sorry, because even if every aspect of your side was correct, you may have behaved, said things or acted in an aggressive, angry, and/or hurtful way. Saying sorry for doing so is an important part of healing for everyone and shows that you want to move on and you’ll try not to repeat the circumstances.

Elton John was right (as always) – sorry seems to be the hardest word. Swallowing your pride is just part of healing for everyone. Apologies should be heartfelt and genuine though, so only say it if you genuinely mean it and understand it.

The picture

Why is it that all the shittest ideas, turn out to be the shittest pictures AND take the most time?

I spent hours on this, wanting to end up with a 70s-style collage, but all I got was neon madness!

Anyway, the point was to promote the peace and love we all desperately crave. If the neon allows you to smile, then I’ve partly done my job.

Have a great, quiet, argument-less day!

Published by stephc2021

Hi! I'm Steph, an amateur writer and illustrator specialising in Mental Health and being a self-confessed Spoonie. My website is home to any successful fiction I create, with stories that have won so far covering difficult subjects such as baby loss and mental health in grief as well as some funny and heart-warming tales when I get the inspiration. Every drawing and picture on my website was created by me. I spend a lot of time coming up with illustrations to accompany all of my posts and pages. I try to create original content across all of my channels, whether I'm writing about my own fiction or just generally musing on mental health or my own issues. I want to be part of the change because I believe the understanding of MH in the UK is getting better, but has a very long way to go. By being honest about my own struggles and symptoms I think others will relate and hopefully it will encourage them to talk to someone and get the help and support they need. Long term my goal is to help children too, help them understand their own mental health and how to help with the mental health of those around them. I live in the UK with my partner, daughter and dog, I swear frequently and I adore a well made, traditional, gooey, chocolatey, delicious brownie.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: