Not just for toddlers: Instigate time outs for roommates

Guest post by Bree Lark
Time out chairs by Etsy seller woodenwhimsie.
Time out chairs by Etsy seller woodenwhimsie.

Maybe it’s your super conservative grandmother who comes and visits your family every summer, and her old fashioned beliefs turn to insults that make you bite your tongue while you silently fume inside. Or maybe it’s your roommate who criticizes you for leaving a shirt on the ground when they barely even bring their own dirty dishes to the sink, let alone wash them. We all, at one point in our lives, have lived with someone who we sometimes can not stand.

You know who that person is for you; but no matter what, you’re stuck because of your living arrangement. It’s very rare that one can just pack up and leave in a night.

Living arrangements can be quite difficult. Chores, curfews, cooking, bathroom space, they all come with challenges. Challenges and disagreements that can lead to arguments, which can lead to anger. Anger itself, is a secondary emotion and is built on other feelings. Maybe the anger came from frustration, sadness, guilt or maybe a combination of more than one emotion, depending on the circumstance.

Everyone responds to anger differently. I tend to not rationalize my thoughts well when I am angry. I can also get quite self-destructive when my anger is built off of guilt and shame, so I take out the anger on myself. Guilt-anger can be quite unhealthy, and at times dangerous for me, so I’ve found it is best to escape from the situation as soon as possible.

The simplest and most effective solution I have found is something that is commonly believed to be only for young children: the concept of “time outs.”

Time-outs in this situation would mean leaving the heated argument or situation, for a set amount of time, for the purpose of cooling yourself down. The time length could vary from ten minutes to an hour. You can give yourself a time-out in several different ways:

  • exercise
  • listening to music
  • cleaning
  • writing in a journal
  • watching a funny movie
  • praying
  • going for a walk outside
  • or maybe just taking a nap

The least effective way to solve any issue with someone is when you are all high strung and upset. Simply stating that you “want to take a time out” and will be back in half an hour or so should be enough of an explanation when you’re in a heated discussion or argument.

Getting along with others you cohabit with can be very challenging at times, but finding coping mechanisms can help tremendously.

So what are some of your emotional coping strategies you have found work well for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Comments on Not just for toddlers: Instigate time outs for roommates

  1. I have to confess to being slightly intrigued at how you were going to get your annoying grandmother to go and sit on the naughty step! However now I’ve read the whole thing through it seems like a great strategy for dealing with situations that you can’t resolve and can’t prevent.

    I’ve also realised that I do this already to some extent. If I’m with a group of people and the conversation turns (yet again) to subjects I recognise get heated or stagnate, I might get up and go to the toilet. If I come back and the discussion hasn’t moved on, I’ll usually be able to come back in with a new topic that moves the conversation on. Otherwise we’d only ever talk about idiots that we work with or depressing politics!

  2. Ah, roommates. I have 5, with varying levels of natural cleaning tendencies. Time outs are a great idea. You have cleaning up there, but more specifically I spend time cleaning my own space. I get very frustrated when the common areas are a mess, and while I’m careful to clean up all my mess in the kitchen, I let it build up in my room. If I spend a little of the frustrated energy cleaning my room, I know it’s only me (or my boyfriend) who will mess it up again, which happens a lot more slowly.

    If I don’t feel like doing my room, it’s also good to do some of those constant little chores that everyone is responsible for and that help with the main cleaning–emptying the dish rack and dishwasher, or taking out the garbage. Once those are done it’s easier to clean the dishes in the sink and clear out all the stuff on the counter, so everyone tends to leave less mess around.

    When I just can’t clean, I go knit in front of a show, do a yoga video, veg on the internet, or take a walk while phoning a friend.

  3. This is great marriage advice, too! Both of us have had to get into the habit of doing this and it has been really helpful. I go to bed and read my book or sleep, he takes his boat out or puts his headphones on and listens to music. Praying is also a big one – the Serenity Prayer sums it up for me:
    ‘God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage the change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.’
    So much power in one small sentence!

    Sometimes for me, even a 10 second timeout of just focussing on my breathing clears my head enough to deal with a stressful situation. Especially at work, where I can’t run away or get my book out, the act of taking a ‘one minute holiday’ (the poem called ‘Slow me down, Lord’ is pinned up on my office wall) can make such a difference to how I react to a difficult situation.

    Lastly, I found this while googling ‘One minute holidays’!

Join the Conversation