As the weather gets colder and people are forced to be inside with great restrictions due to the continually circulating Covid-19, we often ask ourselves – how did we get here and how can we continue to cope? The global pandemic has dragged on for 7 months, although some might say it feels closer to 7 years. Things that we are usually able to do have dramatically changed – hugging friends and extended family; gathering in larger groups; and speaking closely with friends and neighbors. Although the summer offered us some reprieve with nicer weather, less restrictions and no school, the fall is rapidly reminding us that our lives must pivot and change once more.
“Covid fatigue” is also setting in for many people at a time when the world needs us to tighten our behaviours and ensure that we continue to act in line with public health guidelines.
This is not an easy time for anyone. For those that live alone, there might be ongoing feelings of isolation and challenges in meeting new people. For those that are a part of a family unit, there might be stress with your partner and ongoing stress with your children. Our current life situation is forcing all of us to spend much more time with those within our household and much less time with those who are not within our immediate household. From a mental health perspective, this poses many challenges. Adults are used to socializing with a number of people that fill different emotional needs – not just their partner. Children are used to intense and close socializing with multiple peers and being able to participate in a variety of physical activities, of which many now have restrictions or have been closed down. These changes can cause feelings of grief and loss for what we no longer have as well as enhanced conflict and frustration within the home environment.
Family dynamics are often challenging but without any buffers in our lives, those dynamics and tensions can become much harder to navigate and may transform into sources of stress that never existed before. We might begin to expect more from those within our household as we have less social connections outside of that dynamic. However, we can all only offer so much to each other and a lack of emotional fulfillment can lead to disappointment and frustration in ways that we have never experienced. “Covid fatigue” is also setting in for many people at a time when the world needs us to tighten our behaviours and ensure that we continue to act in line with public health guidelines. Every small part that we do helps the universal fight against a disease that has taken far too many lives already. It is a time in our lives when we must step up and protect each other and come together.
Every small part that we do helps the universal fight against a disease that has taken far too many lives already.
But how do we come together from so far apart? How do families become stronger when conflict and disappointment are the norm that we are all experiencing?
Here are some ways that we can navigate and enhance our couple and family relationships over the next few months:
(1) recognize where the conflict is coming from and validate the trying nature of the world right now;
(2) find creative ways to still have a “date night” at home – watch a movie once the kids go to bed or take 30 minutes to talk about your day together;
(3) ensure you still have some fun family nights together – eat breakfast for dinner or do something else to lighten the responsibility and increase the fun;
(4) find creative ways to socialize with others outside your household (phone calls/virtual connections; distanced meet ups outside with a warm drink);
(5) outdoor activities – running in layered clothing; long walks when the sun is shining; snowshoeing and skiing as a family;
(6) celebrate holidays outside – drive by decorated houses on Halloween or take in some light shows outside at neighbors’ houses;
(7) send cards to friends and extended family;
(8) work on developing a mindset of gratitude and trying to help others experiencing hardship – this has been shown to benefit both the individual doing the kind act and the receiver; and
(9) let yourself be sad at times as this is a hard time for everyone; self- care can go a long way right now.
Here at Forward Thinking Psychological Services we will work with families and couples to offer support and therapeutic intervention for those individuals who find themselves in challenging conflicts and difficulty relating to each other as they once used to. We look forward to helping you regain the fun and health within your relationships again.