Covid-19: How to keep your relationships happy during cohabitation
Updated: Apr 17, 2020
Printed in the Business Post Magazine!
Being forced to spend an indefinite time with another person can be a challenge for many. The Corona Virus may have shifted you into a new reality of being at home with a family member, a partner or housemates day after day who are responding to this crisis in different ways to you . Living with someone else can have a positive and a negative impact on our moods at times. Let's check in with your relationships and practice becoming aware of how you respond to them.
Are you living with someone who is uncharacteristically anxious about the Corona Virus?
For many people the uncertainty around the corona virus can be the hardest thing to handle. Some of you may not be a typical worrier, however, at a time like this, when the world is experiencing a global pandemic, it is completely normal and natural to be experiencing anxiety and fear.
Validating their fear and worry can be an important step in showing them that you care. Sometimes, simply just stating that you hear them and you’re here for them might be enough. Ask yourself, “Am I acknowledging my housemate’s anxiety and do I allow them to feel fear without judgement”? This can be a process of acceptance. Acceptance that your partner’s feelings are valid and okay. Encourage your family member to chat to someone through online counselling if their worry is impacting on their ability to cope day to day.
Routine: support your partner to only check the news/ social media reports for a limited period each day. If this is still too worrying for them, perhaps you could relay information to them at an allocated time each day. Plan distracting and relaxing activities to engage in with your housemate such as dancing or walking. Plan some virtual activities with outside friends or other family members. This could be a quiz or charades. Perhaps someone could help you organise this at a set time each week.
Exposure to information: encourage your family member to only read/ listen to Covid19 updates from trustworthy sources such as the WHO, HSE and RTE. This will avoid unnecessary sensationalistic coverage that only feeds into their fear.
Look after yourself: if you’re finding you’re becoming stressed looking out for this other person, be sure to find your own support and outlets also. Remember that you need to be able to look after yourself before you can help others.
Are you living with someone who is ignoring the recommended precautions, breaking the rules and in denial about the seriousness of this virus?
Some people have different ways of viewing our current crisis and may have different ways of reacting and coping. It’s difficult if the person your share a home with is on a different page to you. Remember that you can’t control another person’s actions, what you can control is how you respond to them.
Communication: Share how you’re feeling about the situation. Explain your concerns in a way that you think they will understand best. Maybe write down what you’d like to say and show it to them or say your thoughts aloud using clear, assertive language. For example, “I’m upset and frustrated because the current guidelines are important to me and…” If you don’t feel listened to or heard perhaps reach out to a professional for some support with this.
Share your problem: chat to a friend or a family member who might know this person and maybe ask them to help you. If you don’t feel comfortable chatting, maybe use a journal; write down your thoughts.
Create a time out space in your home: nurture your own self-care. You can go here and practice taking a few deep breaths, play your favourite song, practice a hobby or just dance or scream until you feel good. Do something in your “time-out” space that makes you feel good!
Routine: allocate time in the day to see your housemate/family member/partner and time to spend alone. If you’re finding that being around this person is particularly difficult for you now, voice this to someone. Reach out and know that you are not alone.
Keep outside interests and relationships alive. Video call friends and family.
During this discombobulating time there are bound to be misunderstandings, inept responses, and failures of communication. This is all because this is hard. Hard for everyone. Remember that we’re all in this together.
Michelle Murray is a Mental Health Occupational Therapist, Trauma Sensitive Yoga Facilitator and founder of Anchor Therapy Mental Health Services in Dublin. She is supporting the community through online counselling during Covid 19 outbreak. Michelle can support you to practice assertive communication skills and to develop a more meaningful and compassionate daily routine. You can follow Michelle on Instagram @the_wellness_anchor or check out her weekly mental health blogs at www.anchortherapy.ie.