Keeping Your Sense of Humor During Quarantine

It might have been the afternoon I was distractedly pumping gas, heard another customer’s pump beep in completion, and yanked my own gas pump out of the car halfway through filling my tank –spraying my car and my shoes and everything in the vicinity with gasoline like the epic Zoolander scene– that I realized something strange was happening to my brain.  Or maybe it was the night I was at a friend’s house and Door Dashed an order from a restaurant that is literally 30 feet from her front door.  Yup, not only did I pay delivery fees and wait an extra thirty minutes for this “convenience”, the delivery guy couldn’t find parking and ended up calling me to grab the order from his car!  I actually walked PAST the restaurant to collect my food from the driver, barely able to speak through my embarrassed laughter.

If quarantine, Covid fears, and insecurity about what the future holds has you losing your mind…and your keys…and your phone…and your temper…You’re not alone.  Stress puts a ton of pressure on the brain, and our thinking can get extremely fuzzy in this state of cognitive overload.  Not only does this type of stress adversely affect our sense of peace and ability to focus, it negatively impacts our immune system.

Here’s where humor comes in. It’s no coincidence that the popularity of funny memes has skyrocketed during this unique time in human history.  Jokes about parents becoming homeschool teachers, nonstop mask wearing, and the tiger king have been providing real comfort during crisis, and there’s science to back it up.  Just as stress negatively impacts the immune system, humor provides some benefits.  One minute of laughter can boost your immune system for over 24 hours, according to one study.

It can be difficult to find or even feel inclined to look for humor when stress is running high, but it’s the most important and impactful time to do so.  Replace an hour of news with an episode of Schitt’s Creek.  Call your funniest friend or fall down a silly pet video rabbit hole on TikTok. Or my personal favorite, practice laughing at yourself more.  Try not to wait to find the humor in life’s idiosyncrasies or in your own screw-ups.  Be your own source of laughter and you’ll never be at a loss for some much-needed stress relief.

Family Systems Theory

family systems therapy

What is Family Systems Theory?

Family systems theory is a theory of human behavior and was developed to better understand individuals and the complex relationships and dynamics within families. In the 1950’s an American psychiatrist, Murray Bowen came up with the Family Systems Theory. After a long time of observing and analyzing patterns and relationships within families, Bowen noticed that individuals are best understood in the context of their families and families are best understood when they are viewed as a whole unit. Furthermore, individuals within a family are interdependent on one another; their thoughts, emotions and behaviors are heavily influenced by each other. This interdependence between members creates cohesiveness and an equilibrium. This is not to be mistaken for a “healthy” family. All families have a homeostasis or a norm to function consistently. Each individual’s role in a family feed off of each other to make a cycle that can be both detrimental and beneficial.

Family Systems Theory is built off the idea that individual’s personalities, behaviors, and emotions are a result of birth order and the role that they play within the family. It is important to note that families are not just solely based on shared genetics and instead can comprise of anyone who is considered to be part of that unit. For instance, a household may consist of parents, children, grandparents and a non-related member such as a friend. Each family is defined by its own unique members.

Finishing Strong at the End of the Year

Why is this theory important?

Family systems theory is used often in therapy especially when addressing an individual with depression or anxiety. When one family member gets anxious, let’s say for example a mother, the anxiety can spread like an infection and eventually another member feels overwhelmed and tries to defuse the anxiety/tension and often times it is one of the children. This can be accomplished in a number of ways such as through humor or taking on the role as the fixer. The individual that does most of the accommodating becomes absorbed with the family’s anxiety. And these are the individuals that are most vulnerable to depression, anxiety, substance abuse disorder, and more ailments. Thus family systems therapy can be useful for anyone and extremely helpful for those struggling with issues like depression or substance abuse.

There are multiple approaches to family systems therapy. Structural family therapy looks at the patterns and dynamics as they are played out during therapy. Strategic family therapy involves problem solving within the family unit outside of the therapy session. Multigenerational family therapy acknowledges the intergenerational influences on current family dynamics.

Family Systems Theory and Substance Abuse

When using a family systems lens, mental health professionals view substance abuse as a symptom of dysfunction within the family. Additionally, professionals recognize that the whole family is affected by someone’s substance abuse. Oftentimes individuals in treatment for substance abuse recover independently and are solely focused on as an individual. While this is important, it is also imperative to understand how the individual’s family influences the substance use. If the family members are open, bringing about positive change within a family can have positive effects on those in recovery. For example, oftentimes family members can be enabling to those struggling with substance abuse. A therapist can help members recognize those enabling behaviors and replace them with more helpful ones while gaining insight. Many treatment programs like Thrive, focus on both the individual and the family systems involved to assure that recovery not only occurs for individuals but also the family members.