Living With Others? How to Look After Everyone’s Mental Health During Covid-19 ‘Stay At Home’.
Written by Dr Caroline Marlow, a Chartered Psychologist and Director of L&M Consulting Ltd.
We often consider psychological wellbeing and resilience from a personal perspective, but in fact, both are greatly influenced by our experiences with, and of, others.
This ‘how to’ article gives ideas of how to promote your own mental health and that of your family, partner and house mates whilst living together during the Covid-19 stay at home period. It outlines the good day-to-day organisation and practice that; reduces stress-inducing daily hassles, helps maintain your reserves, and builds resilience for now and the future. Based on family resilience and functioning research, and also L&M’s experience of living and working with other’s in the world’s harshest environments, it’s principles are also applicable to building resilience in the work environment.
- How Are You All? Just because you feel OK and everyone looks OK, doesn’t mean that everyone is OK. Have regular opportunities to talk, listen and discuss how ‘staying at home’ is for you all. Keep a respectful, solution-focused, ‘in-this-together’ mind-set throughout.
- Who Does What? Together consider what domestic and household tasks are required on a daily and weekly basis to keep everything running smoothly for everyone. Do roles need reallocating for the current times? Who is happy to do what? Are roles distributed fairly? Can you rotate/share the less-desirable jobs? Be aware that someone might feel overburdened, out of control, left out, etc.
- What Does Everyone Do? Have clear house rules that are agreeable to everyone. This might include respecting social space, e.g., acceptable noise levels at key times, not dominating the TV, clearing up after one self. Or how you are going keep the Corona virus away. If new wellbeing needs arise however, you should all have the flexibility to adapt these to find a new balance.
- Respect The Basics. Respect everyone’s right to, and need for, personal time and space. You may not have equal personal space, e.g., in size, light, warmth, peace and quiet. Maybe you don’t have any personal space or personal space is now also work-space. How can you help each other? For example, daylight is key for mental health, maybe someone would really appreciate being alone in a sunny spot for a while.
- Have Fun. Look for opportunities to relax, have fun, be spontaneous. Share jokes, play games that made you laugh as a kid, cook together, create new memorable moments and funnies (remembering that fun has to acceptable to all). Find things to celebrate together. Not just birthdays and anniversaries, but past happy experiences, such as reliving a gig you went to, or small successes like finding loo roll! You might not be able to celebrate as usual, but get creative.
If you have children at home:
- Maintain Hierarchy. Ensure that the parent(s) remains at the centre of the family. If there are two parents, ensure you have equal and dual responsibility so that you pull in the same direction and stay in charge.
- Have Regular, Quality Family Time. Preferably all together, e.g., play a game, watch and talk about a film together. Ask the children for their ideas. Encourage sibling acceptance of other’s preferences and ensure that everyone has their turn. This not only passes the time, but creates opportunities for the family memories, in-jokes and stories that build family bonds.
- Have Regular One-to-one Time with Each Individual Child. Give them your full attention. Ask questions. Follow their ideas. Aim to learn more about them. This will strengthen your relationship and promote your awareness of their strengths, ideas, concerns and worries, all of which will have benefit for their and the family’s future development.
- Valued Roles. Ensure everyone has a role(s) in the family’s functioning and reinforce that each role plays a valued part in family life. This could be a good time to teach even young children basic skills, e.g., dressing themselves, putting toys away, laying the table, or encouraging teenagers to step up, e.g., cook a meal one night a week, wash-up.
- Family Values. Discuss how you should treat each other. The children might well have a school value system that you can use and fun ways to reinforce your chosen values.
- Nurture Sibling Relationships. Encourage siblings to play, work, problem solve, and talk together. This can help take the pressure off you now and build bonds that will last.
- Let Children Grow. This could be an ideal time to let children grow, redefine themselves, become more independent. Reduce the stress on yourself – let them have input into all of the above. Look for and reinforce new positive characteristics. With older children in particular, remember that being a parent is different from being a friend.
- You Time. Make sure the children know that it is important that you have time to yourself (and with your partner). Protect it.
- Don’t Stress Yourself About Getting It All Right. Do what you can and forgive yourself for what you can’t: It will be healthier for everyone!
It will probably seem strange to give proactive thought to how you live with people. But everyone experiences daily hassles at home, it is just easier to avoid or gain distraction from them in normal life. I hope this article helps you to find your own way of living together well and to maintain the resources you need for any challenges ahead.
This article was published as a blog by the Football Medicine and Performance Association (April 2019).
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How L&M Can Help You.
L&M’s doctoral-level, psychological expertise in health, wellbeing and behaviour change enables us to provide the support to help you regain control of your physical health and psychological wellbeing, and to flourish. Please see here for our personal development-based support. We can also provide health and wellbeing presentations, workshops and away days for organisations.
Contact. Please contact L&M Consulting Ltd if you would like to discuss your or your organisations’s specific needs and how our services can help you achieve your aims.
L&M’s Other Covid 19 ‘Stay at Home’ and ‘Coming Back Stronger’ Related Articles
– Is It OK To …? Answering the New Questions that Affect Our Psychological Wellbeing.
– The Power of Belief: How to Promote Each other’s Mental Health, Coping and Resilience During Covid-19 ‘Stay at Home’
– Coming Back Stronger: Communicating Effectively With Each Other.
– Coming Back Stronger: Solving Problems Effectively Together
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