It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has turned everyone’s world upside down and disrupted our lives far greater than we could have imagined.
Over the past few months, we’ve been spending more time at home because of social distancing measures and quarantine guidelines.
Being stuck at home for this long and spending this much time alone or together with loved ones is an incredibly new experience for most people. And unfortunately, this can take a toll on our relationships.
If you’re spending extended time isolating at home or in quarantine, it’s important to take the extra effort to care for your relationships.
Here are some of our best tips:
Extended isolation alone can stress any relationship, pandemic or not.
But with a little planning and effort, not only can you maintain your relationship with your partner or loved ones, but you can also make it stronger.
The key is communication and consistency.
- Schedule time to talk.
One of the best ways to maintain relationships during self-isolation is to schedule times to talk with your partner or loved ones every day. Thanks to the Internet, this is incredibly easy to do these. Making time for daily calls or video chats with your loved ones will help you stay connected even if you’re apart geographically. Make this daily call a priority, and give your loved ones your full attention during this time (i.e. don’t multi-task). Regular and meaningful communication will go a long way in maintaining your relationship during this stressful and uncertain time.
- Find ways to build your relationship.
Finding different ways to connect with your loved one can strengthen it and help it move forward instead of stalling during isolation. Celebrate milestones (big and small). Send each other things by post (if possible). Write them a handwritten letter. Get creative and do things that you know your loved one will appreciate. Small things like these can make a big impact on your relationship.
- Don’t forget about yourself.
Being alone for a long time can be incredibly lonely, but it can also provide an opportunity to grow and improve yourself. Use this time alone to explore new hobbies or develop your skills. Not only will this help you grow in different areas of your life, but it will also help minimise stress and anxiety. This, in turn, will help you manage and maintain your relationships better.
Isolating with Your Partner or Family
For many couples and families isolating at home, spending this much time together every day can be jarring. And it often doesn’t take long to get extremely stressed and anxious about being this close with them 24/7.
To maintain healthy relationships with your partner and/or family at home, it’s important to set some personal and emotional boundaries.
- Carve out alone time every day.
It’s easy to feel like you’re losing yourself when you’re always together with someone else. This is why it’s important to dedicate some time for yourself every day, even if you’re at home with your partner and family the whole day. Discuss with them how important having “alone time” is (they’ll likely feel the same way), and work out a schedule to do this – even if it’s just a few minutes each day. Use this alone time to take a breather and pursue your own interests. The goal is to have distinct or defined times throughout the day for “alone time” and time together.
- Avoid negative bias/the negativity effect.
Negative bias (or the negative effect) is a mental behaviour where we focus or place more importance on negative things rather than positive things. In highly stressful and uncertain times, this can be disastrous for any relationship. So instead of lingering on your partner or loved ones’ mistakes and shortcomings, make the extra effort to appreciate and focus on the good things they have done or are doing.
- Avoid triggers that cause issues.
Prevention is much better than a cure in relationship issues, and even more so when you’re spending all this time together at home. During extended home isolation, it’s often best to avoid issues, topics, or activities that can cause additional tension between you and your partner. We’re not saying that you should avoid discussing or working out important matters in your life during this time. But it’s important to know what’s worth fighting over and what you can let go of.
We’re All in This Together
Whether you’re isolating at home by yourself or with your partner and family, remember that you are not alone in all this.
We – the whole world – are in this together. It is a stressful time for everyone, and it will take a while before things get back to normal. These times may be challenging, but they’re not insurmountable.
Remember that in these incredibly stressful times, a little extra kindness and compassion – for others and yourself – will go a long way in keeping your relationships strong and healthy.
Lisa Kunde has ten years experience working as a psychologist with adults in both private and public hospital settings (oncology, palliative care, chronic pain, cardio-pulmonary, psychiatric and alcohol and other drugs units).