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The “Bathroom Break”

Start small when it comes to reducing verbal attacks against you or not contributing to an escalating emotional crisis.


The bathroom break is often an effective way to step away. Some family members have raved at how useful this practice is and how often they use it.


"Listen, I really have to go to the bathroom. Give me two minutes. What you are saying is important. I will be right back."


It is hard for your loved one to argue with that and say 'no,' even they are already annoyed. In the bathroom, splash your face with cold water while holding your breath, then take a few breaths, exhaling slowly. Look in the mirror and relax your jaw, neck, and shoulders. Give them a squeeze or a brief massage. Stretch your neck and arms.


Upon leaving the bathroom, (don't forget to flush the toilet) say to the other:


"Hey, I am thirsty and need to grab some water, do you want any?"


Bring two glasses of water (preferably ice water) even if the other says no, just in case they change their mind.


Your loved one has just had to practice tolerating their distress alone for a few minutes. Reward them with your attention, a glass of water, and communicate your gratitude.


"Thanks for your patience, I really appreciate it."


If your loved one dives back into the argument, try to kick the discussion forward:


"Can we talk more about this after dinner?"


Even better, if you can successfully change the subject:


"I was wondering how your work has been going?"



PRACTICE IT:

Try it at home and in restaurants. This is a great way to try removing a positive reinforcement of the verbal attacks (your attention) and also reducing your distress. Afterwards, journal about your experience or answer the following:


Describe the situation. What exactly did you say, what gestures did you use, what was your tone of voice when you said you had to go to the bathroom?


In the bathroom:

__ I applied cold water to my face, holding my breath.

__ I breathed with a few long and slow exhales

__ I let go of tension in my jaw, neck, and shoulders with massage or stretching

Other: ______________________________


After leaving the bathroom:

__ I got myself a glass of ice water afterwards

__ I brought my loved one a glass of ice water

__ I was able to postpone further discussion of the subject

__ I was able to change the subject.

Other: ______________________________


How effective was the practice on a scale of 1-5 (1=not effective to 5=very effective)?

What might you do differently next time?




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