If you are in isolation with family, a partner, or friends you may have noticed an increased strain on your relationship. There is an unprecedented level of stress on everyone right now during the direct and indirect consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if you normally live with the people you are isolating with, it is a big adjustment to suddenly be completely in each other’s company 24/7 without the reprieve of work, personal or social activities. If you are all working from home, it is likely that you are used to different working patterns that the other person is not necessarily compatible with your working situation. You may have extra pressures placed upon you such as home-schooling the kids and keeping them entertained. Or you may simply want some time alone to watch a programme without everyone else claiming the television. A strain on your romantic or platonic relationships is not abnormal and doesn’t necessarily signify that something is wrong. Instead, notice the immense pressure and change you are all under, understand that this is a temporary and irregular situation and look to ease these strains by making some amendments to your daily lives.
Daily life has changed exponentially, uncertainty and stress deriving from these sizable changes can have a profound impact on our moods. We are all learning to adapt and familiarize ourselves with new parameters and routines. It is not usual, even for the closest of households to begin to feel the pressure and for that to have a negative impact on interactions.
Typically, a root factor in relationship strain can be an individual’s own well-being. So, ensure you consider and look after your own well-being and encourage other members of your household to do the same. This may mean taking time out to exercise, meditate or doing an activity that you enjoy regularly – even if it is just watching a favorite movie. Often it may be beneficial to take some alone time for yourself, whether this is taking a bath or retreating into a corner to read a book. However, looking after yourself doesn’t always need to be done alone, activities with others can also be rewarding and a boost to everyone’s morale. Taking the time to address your own mental well-being will have a knock-on effect to the rest of the household. Practicing calming techniques such as meditation will enable you to approach your interactions more effectively as it is known to increase empathy and clarity.
If you are finding that isolation becomes taxing and you are slipping into depression or bouts of anxiety and stress, communicate with a trusted member of your household or reach out to another friend. As mentioned already, take the beneficial steps needed to look after yourself. You may find that constructing positive interactions with your loved ones, will positively transform the stressful hum-drum of isolation life and creating enjoyable moments away from digital screens and the stress of the pandemic may forge better relationships overall. This could be anything from having a meal outside and chatting, playing a game or working on a fun project together.
Remember that members of your household may be struggling with their well-being too. Life in a pandemic is a frightening and upsetting time. Be kind to each other, communicate and if you can do little things to cheer the other person up, try it. It is well known that doing something for another person will be beneficial to you both as it releases all sorts of happy hormones for both parties.
If you feel like setting a routine could be beneficial do so, but beware of sticking to it too rigidly. If you are living with family or looking after your children, a routine could limit the chaos and give everyone something to do, thus reducing stress. But ensure to introduce variety and integrate fun. Some psychologists even recommend setting up ‘corners’ of your household that are dedicated to certain activities. Such as working areas and relaxing areas. Don’t be hard on yourself or your household if you or they aren’t being productive. Psychologist Lynn Bufka said to The Washington Post: “Nobody’s really flying at the top of their game at the moment… Maybe we’re not going to be as productive. Accept that maybe some things will never get done. Maybe something will get done later. Doing what’s important right now matters most.”
Have some strategies in place to communicate effectively and positively with loved ones. Step away from the stress and instead focus on fun topics, such as the places you would like to go after isolation has lifted or the restaurants you want to visit. Also, encourage a comfortable environment for people to discuss their concerns and stresses. When conflicts occur try to take time out to calm down before coming back and listening to each other. Talking to Harpers Bazaar, Susan Quilliam said ‘studies show that it takes 20 to 30 minutes for our nervous systems to calm down and our heart rates to slow to a normal rate after an argument… Ultimately, remember that this epidemic will pass and the stresses placed on your relationship will lift. Hang on in there, and life will come back into balance once more.’