Weeks into this “Stay home. Stay safe,” effort and I’m practically bouncing off the walls. If your house is anything like mine, there are the kids (two of them), my husband and the various pets all in an “…itty bitty living space,” to quote Robin Williams in Aladdin. We’ve reached the point where nerves can sometimes be on edge and everyone’s searching for a safe space to spend a little alone time.
That leads me to this post. Expert advice on how to cope with social distancing from everyone but the ones that you love the most.
Yes, date night usually means a night out of the house away from it all with a nice dinner and a show, but in these times consider a date night in. Dr. Jacqueline Del Rosario told Local 10 News in Florida that couples should, “Still have a date night or romantic time together where you are not just in the same room, but together intentionally to love and nourish one another.”
Dr. Del Rosario says couples can go a step further and work on their relationships. She says now may be the best time, before they jump back into their busy lives.
Try to Maintain a Sense of Normalcy
During the day, trying to keep things the way they were before “Stay home. Stay safe,” it may be your best way to cope. According to NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, normalcy helps you deal with isolation.
“I think some of the things that help us up here are to continue to get our daily exercise, to keep to a schedule and a routine — those things are important for both our mental and our physical well-being,” Meir told Late Show host Stephen Colbert on April 15, 2020.
Meir should know. She’s been isolated on the International Space Station since September 2019 with just two other astronauts.
Take Space and Respect Each Other’s Space
Research shows that taking space, even if it’s just going to a room where other people aren’t can help reduce your stress and lead to relaxation. There was a whole study about it published in the SAGE Journals.
Brooke Bendix, a family therapist in Michigan echoes this.
“I always tell parents and kids so they’re all on the same page, boundaries are incredibly important at this time,” Bendix told the Detroit News. “And that means physical boundaries and emotional boundaries…Is it good to isolate in your room all day? No. There has to be some balance.”
Bendix suggests families with kids, especially teens, share two meals like breakfast and dinner and then let each other have their space the rest of the time.
Split the Chores in a Way that Makes Sense
UC Berkeley asked some of its graduates and professors the best ways to keep the peace during this social distancing time and one of the big topics was chores.
“You don’t need to split the chores 50/50. Maybe one of you is more comfortable cooking and the other is more comfortable washing dishes. You can do meals together,” said Arthur Aron, a professor of psychology at State University of New York at Stony Brook. “And don’t forget to express gratitude for what each of you does. One way is to emphasize how much sacrifice the other is making, and the other is to express how many wonderful benefits you are receiving from what they do.”
“If, in the next two months, I’m the one doing all the housework, I’m going to become increasingly bitter. Yet, it’s amazing how a partner’s small acts of charity can really change that dynamic,” said Robert Levenson, a professor of Psychophysiology and Emotion at UC Berkeley. “If you’re the one who does all the cooking, and your partner plans the fun, mix it up a little. Have your partner do some of the cooking, and you plan some fun.”
Another great tip from Bendix.
“It’s being present and enjoying the little things — reading, maybe even coloring, putting on music,” said Bendix. “We’re getting back to basics in a way.”
Doing something fun like a movie night at home on the couch or a walk together can go a long way to improving the family dynamic.
If you’re just looking for a way to improve your mood, the New York Times suggests things like meditating, journaling and exercising to improve your mood.
Hopefully, one or more of these suggestions relieves some of the tension that’s likely building in a packed house. If you need some more tips on working from home with the kids home too, check out this previous post.
Written by Erika Towne