How to Reduce “Stay at Home” Irritability

Too much familiarity may not breed contempt, but it can sure make you irritable

When it comes to following the “stay at home” orders in many states because of the Coronavirus crisis, familiarity may not breed contempt (as a famous quote once proclaimed), but having to be so confined can bring out impatience, irritability and snapping at each other. I’ve even heard there has been an uptick in domestic violence because the close and closed quarters is really getting to people.

What lies beneath the irritability is fear, anxiety and uncertainty.  When those run continuously and people feel trapped, it can lead to feeling brittle which immediately translates to being on edge.

What can be done about it?

When we were in kindergarten we were instructed to “use our words.” By that our teachers meant for us to use “I” statements (which get stuff off our chests before we impulsively act on feeling upset) instead of “you” (blaming) statements which seem to make things worse.

There is a process that I have discovered that helps turn me from irritable to calm and then even to grateful and it might work for you.

I refer to it as: Dead mentor + eight words + what made you smile today?

Sounds pretty weird, huh?

I have been blessed to have had seven mentors. Sadly all have died, but all are still close to my heart. What they all had in common is that they believed in me, often when I didn’t, saw value in me, when I didn’t, and had confidence that I could and would make it through and past nearly any adversity I faced.

For you to utilize what comes next, think of someone or some people from your life, living or dead who looked at you the same way as my mentors looked at me.

Next I imagine them telling me eight words and asking me which of them I feel most intensely.

Those words are: anxious, depressed, afraid, angry, ashamed, alone, lonely, tired.

In the video below I imagined my last mentor, leadership guru, Warren Bennis, saying that to me and asking me which word(s) I felt. 

In my mind’s eye I responded that I was feeling anxious and afraid and went on to explain that many people look to me to reassure them or help them see a way through this, when I’m not certain what lays ahead.

In my imagined conversation, Warren lovingly reminded me that I had made it through many tough situations, in fact through all of them and just as I made it through them, he knew I would make it through this.

In essence he talked me down from afraid to confident.

In the video I then spoke of a global movement that I was in the process of building before the Coronavirus hit.

It’s called, “What made you smile today?” and its mission is making the world happier, one smile at a time. I gave a TEDx talk on it:

I then imagined Warren asking me: “What made you smile today Mark?”

This then crossed over into how grateful I am to Warren, how much I missed him and feel blessed that he was in my life. In the video it completely changed how I was feeling. I may not look happy outwardly, but that is because I was having all those feeling towards Warren and smiling inside for having known him and having been known by him.

After you help the people you love express their feelings, feel relieved, calmer, closer to you, more optimistic… and less irritable, you might even ask them: “What made you smile today?”

Not long before the Coronavirus pandemic took off and especially hit NYC hard, “What made you smile today?” was beginning to take hold there where this video on Facebook picked up 30,000+ views in a matter of days.

Even though we’re going through a rough time, we will all make it through this and before you know it, NYC will be back to smiling again.

Whoever you, wherever you, and whoever is “staying at home” with you, take good care and keep in mind, underneath all the irritability at home is just fear that once expressed will help everyone calm down… and feel closer.

Hey Warren… I miss you.

Warren Bennis speaking about how CEOs Define Reality

BTW the more you can also do online activities together, the more that helps. Here’s a start:

Virtual Tours/Livestreams:

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden 
Take a walk through the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and enjoy the tropical flowers and plans on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Philly Zoo at 2
Get an insider’s look at the Zoo during Philly Zoo at 2 Facebook Live series and virtually meet and interact with our amazing animals and dedicated staff every weekday at 11:00 am.

Smithsonian’s National Zoo
Visit to watch the Zoo’s giant pandas, elephants, lions and more!

The Franklin Institute
EarthCam and The Franklin Institute have teamed up to deliver live streaming webcam views from the heart of Philadelphia, PA.

National Aquarium
Check out the Nation Aquarium’s exhibit livestreams. Families can still experience the Aquarium from home!
Blacktip Reef Sharks | Blue Blubber Jellies | Pacific Coral Reef

San Diego Zoo
Let the zoo come to you! Check out live video streams featuring pandas, koalas, elephants, tigers and other animals for your at home entertainment.

Stay on the Move:

Family Friendly Disney-Inspired Workouts
We’re all about getting our kids together for some Disney-fueled fun. Disney’s exciting series Get Moving With Disney Family features creative Disney workouts and is the perfect way to break a sweat without leaving the comfort of your own home! Get the workouts.

Arts and Crafts:
Disney DIYs for Toddlers
We may be stuck inside, but luckily, we have oodles of Disney DIYs to keep the whole family busy all day long!

Frozen 2 Snow Globe Craft
Create memories with your family with this easy Frozen 2-inspired snow globe craft.

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs Easter Eggs
These eggs only require a few basic materials and you can enjoy them for years to come! Learn how here.

Stop Motion Kids Camp 
Designer Trisha Zemp has made her stop-motion kids camp free to those that share and tag her IG post announcing the free service.

Draw everyday with JJK
Children’s book author & illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka offers daily, 20-minute drawing episodes on his YouTube channel.

Family Fun Craft Camp
6 weeks of creative projects guaranteed to keep the kids busy, happy, and off-screen! Download the e-book which has all the instructions for 18 projects.

Toy Story 4 Coloring Pages
Toy Story-themed printable activities, coloring pages, and recipes too. Grab them here.

Printable Workbook
This guide will guarantee a magical school break!


Audible Stories  Releasing hundreds of books for children and teens to listen to for free via or app.

Read Alongs:

Story Time with Adam Joseph
Join Adam Joseph and his kiddos LIVE, weekdays at 7:30am on his Facebook for a different story book picked by either Jacob or Hannah each day. Missed it? No worries, you can still watch a replay.

Storytime with Oliver Jeffers 
Oliver Jeffers will be reading his one of his popular books every day on Instagram Live at 11am.

Mac Barnett’s Book Club
Children’s book author Mac Barnett is reading one of his books everyday at 7am on his Instagram story.

Food and Snacks:

Snacks kids can make from the FoodNetwork.

Online Printables:
Kids Activities from Adventure Aquarium
Everyday, Adventure Aquarium is offering a new activity for kids! You’ll find word searches, coloring pages and more!

Printable worksheets for kids.

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