It has been more than a year since the pandemic changed the way we lead our lives. Everything happening around us is taking a toll on our mental and emotional wellbeing. This is making us difficult to stay emotionally connected with our loved ones. Doesn’t matter if we’re physically near them or not.
For those who are living away from their family and friends, work stress, schedule, and all the other responsibilities are making it challenging to stay connected. And for those who are living together, lack of personal space and constant proximity is adding to the stress. Some of us may be overcompensating as a way to cope with difficult emotions.
Another common response is that of defeatism, where you just feel too hopeless to do anything and start believing in worst case scenarios, feeling helpless, ruminating and worrying about the current situation. These feelings can manifest in unhealthy ways. At times like these, we need to be particularly careful of our own mental health, not only for ourselves, but for the people around us who may need our strength and resilience.
Here’s how you can stay emotionally connected to each other.
- Stay in touch regularly. Be it call, video calls, messages, check what the other person is feeling/needing and whether you can help them.
- If you feel particularly stressed or anxious, let your partner, parents and friends know how you are feeling and ask them to be gentler with you.
- Remember that we all use different ways of coping with stress. Overcompensation, avoidance, and surrender are some ways that people use to cope with stress. Be kind, understanding and accepting of others’ ways. Remember, no one is unaffected by the current crisis, even if they are staying strong emotionally.
- Start a project together – maybe sorting out old photos or learning skills from each other.
- Rely on friends for emotional support. Be mindful of giving each other space, even if it’s emotional space.
- Share knowledge together, watch something interesting and have a discussion about it afterwards.
For families with children
Set up a structure/routine for each member of the family.
Write it up on a big board or piece of paper and stick in the family room. Get the kids to help with this. Draw pictures or put stickers on the roster as visual cues for younger children so that they know what they need to do.
Set a healthy work-life balance
When trying to balance doing your own work from home and helping your child with their home schooling, divide and conquer. Get all the adults (parents, grandparents, helpers, older siblings) in the house to take turns to supervise their work. If there is no extra help, each parent can take turns working and supervising the children – for example, one parent works from 7am-2pm and the other works from 2pm-9pm.
Carve out spaces in the home for everyone
Dedicated workspaces and also a space for your children to study. Other spaces for play, rest and quiet time. It is important to differentiate these spaces so that this can signal to the brain that it is work time, play time or rest time. Give everyone permission to time out when they are overwhelmed, so they can go to a quiet spot and recharge. Please allow your helpers to do this as well. This is a difficult time for everyone involved.
Use TV wisely
There are a lot of educational videos and programs online. Do some research and pick the ones that your child would enjoy and structure those during the week to occupy your child. There will be days when all the best-laid plans won’t work. This isn’t the time to enforce strict screening rules – we all just need to get through this time however we can. Reset the next day.
Make sure everyone engages in some physical activity
For at least 30 minutes a day. This can be following an exercise programme at home, be it yoga, aerobics, stretching or even dancing. Pick whatever that suits you but make sure that you remain active and physically fit.
Schedule playdates online
For your children if that is something they were doing before the lockdown. This can be organised via any of the online video conferencing platforms. This helps the kids stay connected and not feel left out. This also helps develop children’s communication skills.
Tempers will fray as we all learn how to work/school from home. We may not get everything done and some days may be harder than others. Set expectations low and do only what is necessary while you hunker down.
Stay strong and be emotionally supportive to each other.