The coronavirus pandemic has impacted relationships deeply. Our circumstances are all different, both in the generalities that impact us all, and the specifics that vary greatly. What is common is that the ‘different’ has gone on for quite some time now. Some people found lockdown hard straight away, for others there was a honeymoon period of enjoying the changes. Perhaps you had more time at home, less time working or changed obligations.
Now the newness has worn off, it seems that generally people are finding things harder as the situation continues on with no certainty of when or how things may change. For many there is no longer a novelty, just a struggle to cope with how things now are.
One common theme I notice, whether people are working more hours or fewer, is that relationships are altered. Both relationships with other people, and relationships with our own self.
As activity patterns changed, we encountered ourselves and those we loved in new and different ways. We all had to find ways to cope with the uncertainty, the difficulty, the losses, the fear and the range of other emotions we had. We had to find new patterns, ways of staying in touch with those we can’t see, and ways of finding space from those we see more than we would like. We had to find ways to be with our own minds and bodies, to keep ourselves well when our usual ways of doing that were not available.
It’s important to acknowledge that while much has opened up, we are still having to do this. The impact of these past months for many has been cumulative. Short tempers, arguments, impasses, sadness, low mood, anxiety… if you are experiencing these or other symptoms you will be far from alone. What is good to notice is that these are normal reactions to abnormal events.
There is much you can do to maintain your well-being, and none of it is surprising or sophisticated. Get your rest, stay hydrated, eat well, exercise, find time to reflect and be still, have social interactions, be in nature...the list is a familiar one.
We can add to these good things the practices of kindness and generosity in our relationships. Putting ourselves in the shoes of others and seeing the world through their eyes is crucial just now. What does their behaviour tell us about how they may be feeling? What might we want to gently enquire about and explore? How can we be with vulnerability, theirs and ours, and find ways to hold it safely?
It is easy to judge other people, and when we do, its an indication we are probably also good at judging our own self. The more beneficial, and stretching stance is one of curiosity, of understanding, and of love. When we can embrace frailties and hurts, we can begin to find connection, and to make a difference to both our well-being. In a world of discontinuity and disconnection, perhaps this is what we need most.