6 ideas to help nurture relationships in difficult times
Often we don't get enough time with family and friends. For now, we are living 24/7 in the same space and that can create tension. This blog offers six ideas for helping you maintain strong relationships during lock-down and beyond.
Talk about going from one extreme to another. Usually people find that they don't get enough time with their partner and family or friends. When work and life get busy, often the first thing we sacrifice is personal time. To keep schedules under control, we might skip family meals, ditch date night and miss out on socials with friends.
Self-isolation and social distancing caused by the Covid-19 pandemic mean that things are currently very different. Many of us are living in the same space 24/7 with family or other housemates. While this will provide opportunities for social connections, sharing space with someone with little or no time away from each other may give rise to arguments and tension.
Here are six ideas for maintaining good relationships with those around you:
1. Keep the channels of communication open
Don't bottle up your worries and concerns. Share your thoughts and communicate what's on your mind. Be considerate and ask to talk things through together. Be prepared to listen without jumping in. People often get into the habit of using the time when someone is talking to think about what they want to say. Life can be hectic and talking can become a competitive sport. Try focusing on what the other person is saying instead. It is a fantastic experience to feel fully heard. The process can provide a sense of relief, and being understood reduces tension.
2. Get into a routine with a regular timetable for work and personal commitments
Restore a sense of normality and purpose by planning out your days. Share plans with each other so that you avoid clashes. Create a roster to help you distribute chores equally and fairly. Schedule tasks such as cooking and laundry, as well as activities you enjoy will help you stick to your new routine. Structuring activities around mealtimes and bedtime can also help you keep to your schedule while ensuring you eat regularly and get enough sleep.
3. Inject bursts of positive emotions into each day
Try sharing positive feelings and happy experiences, for example, by looking at photos of things that made you happy such as taking holidays together. Take a few minutes to think about what you were doing and how much you enjoyed it, then take turns to talk about it. Doing so is an excellent way of boosting your mood as the brain recalls pleasant memories, and this stimulates serotonin – the feel-good hormone. Sharing the experience also strengthening the connection you have with someone.
4. Have fun together – and apart
Find things to do things together that make you laugh as this will draw you closer together. Laughter is an excellent way of relieving stress as it stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Endorphins are the body’s natural feel-good chemicals and promote an overall sense of wellbeing.
What do you enjoy doing together? Find activities that you can do at home, such as watching comedy movies, listening to upbeat music, having a quiz night. Leave your mobile and other devices somewhere out of sight so you can enjoy each other’s company and take time off from news and social media.
Make sure you each have time to do things on your own. You will have different things to talk about when you get back together. Go for a walk or jog or maybe cycle. If you have access to green space, do some gardening. Try photography – it is incredible what beauty is to be found in ordinary things if you look for it. Read a book that you would normally not try. How about doing an online fitness class? Spend time in different rooms. Open the windows to let in the fresh air as this can ease feelings of being trapped inside.
5. Treat each other with respect
Proximity and limitations of lock down can cause tensions to rise. Our natural tendency to focus on problems can distort our perspective. It may help to remember the acronym WAIT, which stands for - what am I thinking? Why am I talking? This approach brings awareness to your present state of mind and allows you to decide if what you are about to say or do will help or hinder a more productive outcome. If you do have heated words, just walk away, breathe and take time to gain perspective. You can return to the discussion later and repair any hurt caused.
6. Show your appreciation
It helps to show gratitude to others by expressing what you value about them. Consciously directing attention to what you appreciate shapes your view about that person – and about yourself. Small gestures can make a big difference, such as saying ‘thank you’ or offering a handwritten note of appreciation for something specific that they have done for you.
Building social connections with friends or family members enhance feelings of self-worth and, long-term studies have shown, is associated with better health and longer life. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and use this time to nurture them.
SPIRE - Wholebeing Institute
Maintaining your mental health during social isolation - The Australian Psychological Society Limited
Managing relationships at home during lockdown - BUPA UK
Stress relief from laughter? It's no joke. Mayo Clinic