Maintaining a healthy relationship of any kind while abiding by the stay at home order can be challenging. For many people, this is a period of heightened emotional and financial strain. Most of us are experiencing stress from a number of sources. The unexpected stay at home order associated with COVID-19 has forced America to become virtual employees/employers, led to the loss of 26 million jobs nationwide, and forced children to begin online learning.
This is a truly unprecedented time. We went from being a nation that stays away from home for 8-10 hours a day to a society that only leaves home for essentials (doctors appointments and grocery runs), apart from essential workers. This temporary shift has led to changes in the way we find entertainment, earn a living and connect with friends and family. Each of these aspects usually play a major role in our attraction to and selection of a mate. Needless to say, your home relationships are under pressure. Here are a few things to help ensure your relationships thrive during quarantine and the stay at home order:
First, we recommend that you gauge your relationship satisfaction (both for yourself and your relative). Do this for all relationships in your home, remembering that each one is unique. It will also be important to get feedback from the other person. Ask yourself do we (me and my child, spouse/etc.) have quality time together each day? Evidence of having fun with your loved one includes activities that lead to mutual laughter, smiling and feelings of intimacy.
Second, evaluate your personal level of overall satisfaction. If you are a caregiver or a person responsible for other people in your home, you may not be in the habit of evaluating and ensuring your personal satisfaction on a regular basis. This is immensely important because caregivers must first care for themselves before they care for others, to avoid burnout. Imagine being on an airplane with a loved one who needs your assistance. Before the plane takes off, the stewardess will inform you that if the plane loses oxygen, a mask will fall from overhead. You will also be reminded that before you assist the person beside you, first place the mask over your nose and mouth. The same holds true in your home relationships. You must first ensure your emotional and spiritual wellness before tending to the needs of loved ones in your home.
Self-care is distinctly different from being self-centered. With self-care, you are intentionally assessing your needs and taking healthy steps to care for yourself. This will help you care for your loved ones more efficiently. Caring for yourself should involve incorporating self-care activities into your schedule such as: getting 6-8 hours of sleep each night, eating properly and maintaining personal activities that increase your feeling of wellness (reading, journaling, virtually connecting with friends, etc.).
Third, create a schedule for yourself (and family). Creating a schedule will increase your feelings of control and influence over your circumstances. It will also allow you to avoid the boredom or frustration that may come with being at home all day or having a mundane routine. Since you control the schedule you can incorporate activities and breaks that increase feelings of pleasure like dancing together, taking a walk around the block, etc. Remember to include time for cooking, eating, sleeping and entertainment. During quarantine you can create new family customs around entertainment that can enhance your relationships such as adding family game nights, date nights, parent-child time, etc.
The fourth and final recommendation is to address problems when they arise. If you notice that your relationship at home has been neglected, strained or under pressure, aim to identify the root cause of the issue. It may feel natural to cast blame or point at the person. Healthy communication, in the absence of personal attacks, can help address concerns. Remember healthy communication involves listening more than talking, placing mutual happiness as a priority, and seeking to understand, as fundamental principles in your approach. If you are having trouble in your relationship, we recommend that you seek help, even virtually. Many counseling agencies and spiritual advisors offer consultations at no cost and most insurance companies provide counseling benefits to help you in times like this.
Quarantine may be an unexpected period of staying at home, but there is no reason we cannot leave this experience with closer bonds to the people we love.
Below are additional tips to help you as you navigate the next couple months:
Schedule fun virtual activities with friends and family
Plan activities together (create a entertainment calendar)
Keep self-care as a priority
Remember to eat healthy and exercise
Develop a plan to address conflict like family meetings
Practice healthy communication
Seek to understand each other (identify your partner/kids love language and use it)
Have fun together
Remember that if you leave the house it is important to protect yourself and your loved ones by practicing social distancing (6 feet), wearing a mask, and washing your hands for 20 seconds at a time.
Be well and stay safe!
-Dr. April M. Clay