The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our lives in many ways, including our interactions (and lack thereof) with the people close to us.
At home, the combination of financial stress, anxieties, the pressures of working from home, and restrictions in leisure outings are causing most of us to become irritable and short-tempered with our partner and our kids.
We’re missing our social groups — the co-workers, school friends, and yoga/running/spinning/hiking buddies — whom we usually turn to if we need to destress and decompress.
Lastly, many of us have also started neglecting ourselves. After all, it’s hard to squeeze in self-care when there are just so many social, financial, psychological, and physical stressors surrounding the pandemic.
But it is precisely because of all these challenges that we need to take better care of the relationships we have with our loved ones and with ourselves. “Having healthy relationships can provide us with meaning and a sense of hope and support during difficult times like now,” says Aiza Tabayoyong, a family and relationship coach at The Love Institute, a pioneering company equipping couples, parents, and individuals with skills on how to have fulfilling relationships with those dearest to them. “The lockdown is actually giving us a unique opportunity to identify the things and people that are most important to us, so let’s use the time to get to know them better and enjoy them.”
Below are some ways we can strengthen and support our relationships:
1. With our spouse or partner
- Schedule weekly date nights. If you are at home, find a corner in the house where you and your partner can be secluded and have a romantic moment together, whether it’s just binge-watching your favorite Netflix show or having a nice meal. And whether your dates are at home or done virtually, make sure you use the time to have fun, focus on each other, and build each other up. “Do not use this time to write down a list of what errands to do, what repairs need to be done, or discuss problems in the relationship,” instructs Aiza. “Have a separate day to talk about home management concerns or relationship issues.”
- Frequently tell the other person how much you love and appreciate them, whether it’s verbally, through text messages (even if your home workstations are just a few feet away from each other), or by leaving little notes in their drawers.
- Know your partner’s love language to make it easier and more efficient to meet their needs.
2. With your children (if any)
Just like with your partner, schedule one-on-one time with your child. Make the conversations light and fun. “This is the time to listen to them and be curious about their interests. Don’t use this time for scolding them or pushing them in the direction that you want,” Aiza reminds. “The stress of remote learning has unavoidably turned your parent-child relationship into a teacher-child interaction, so you need to balance this shift by letting your child see that you are still fun to be around. When that happens, your connection becomes stronger and you have more leverage to better influence them.”
3. With your friends
“Once a week or when your schedule permits, schedule a get-together with people who can lift you up during these tough times, either through virtual platforms or at restaurants that provide al fresco dining options,” advises Aiza. Maintaining ties with friends is crucial because they provide you a safe space to decompress from the stresses of home. It also assures you that you are not the only ones with problems, so make sure each person is given an equal opportunity to vent his or her concerns.
4. With yourself
This is the most important relationship of all. “Nourishing yourself is actually prerequisite to nurturing all your other connections,” says Aiza. “Make time for self-care, and remember that it is not selfish. Adopt the mindset that ‘I need this, I deserve this, and doing this will benefit everyone else.’”
- Remember to get enough sleep and to eat well.
- Ask your partner or eldest child to give you massages or haircuts
- Schedule regular quiet time. “Use it to do deep breathing exercises, to meditate, or for prayer time to connect and communicate with your god,” suggests Aiza.
Self-care also goes beyond meeting one’s physical needs for rest. It involves looking beyond the bad days we experience and viewing ourselves in a kinder light. So remember to:
- Reframe negative self-talk. “Always remind yourself that you are valuable as you are, and that you deserve the same kind of love you give others,” says Aiza.
- Practice self-compassion. “Instead of being your harshest critic and saying things like ‘I’m so stupid,’ or ‘I can’t do this,’ replace these statements with ‘Oh well, that’s not my strength, I’ll just find someone to help me,’” advises Aiza.
- Celebrate your achievements. “If you don’t hear enough affirmation from other people (probably because they are going through something themselves), you have to give it to yourself,” Aiza suggests. “Look in the mirror and tell yourself ‘I am amazing, I am capable, I am loved.’”
Maintaining relationships may seem time-consuming, but the key to success is to make sure you plan properly. “Having a calendar will help you properly schedule and balance your must-do’s for home and work and your dates with the people most important in your life, including yourself,” advises Aiza.
If you are feeling isolated, overwhelmed, or need advice on how to manage your relationships better, feel free to reach out to MindNation psychologists. Sessions are available 24/7. Book now thru bit.ly/mn-chat.