We’re navigating a changing reality of physical distancing and adapting to new routines. It can be challenging and overwhelming! But we’re humans. And even when we physically distance, we need to stay connected. Even though you may be physically surrounded by your immediate family, you may not feel connected. But it’s important you connect, find ways to feel good about your day-to-day, and care for yourself.
Staying connected keeps us healthy
Though we might be overwhelmed, when we find ways to stay connected during this period of physical distancing, it may actually be good for our health. Studies have shown that social connection makes our immune system stronger, and can reduce stress and anxiety. When we feel more connected to others, we tend to have higher levels of self-esteem, trust, and empathy (1). But simply being in the same physical space doesn’t equal connection. It’s important to be mindful of your family’s connectedness during these times.
Connect with your partner
The increase in togetherness, plus the stress of our current situation, can place strain on your relationship with your partner. It’s normal to struggle and to realize your relationship has been affected. For many of us, the “new normal”, means an uncomfortable balance of work and child care responsibilities, and you may be leaning on each other more. Discuss the daily schedule with your partner to manage expectations and divide child care and housekeeping responsibilities—this might help foster a healthy team dynamic. You can also support each other by setting some good boundaries, like having separate workspaces and giving each other some space during the day (2). Find opportunities to let your partner know you appreciate them, and get creative with home-based date nights—cook for each other, enjoy a movie night, or introduce a hobby to each other.
Support your children
While children adjust to learning from home and being apart from their teachers and classmates, they’ll need extra support and reassurance from parents. In the same way that routines and flexibility help adults cope with our responsibilities, kids will benefit from regular bedtimes, fresh air, and schedules. To avoid feelings of overwhelm, it’s ok to focus less on grades and more on routine. It might be a good time to encourage the development of life skills and quality of family connections. Although children are incredibly resilient, they’re also susceptible to anxiety. Reassure them and encourage them to ask questions and talk about how they feel (3). Carve out some time for family fun while respecting physical distancing guidelines —take a walk outside, do a family games night, have the kids choose (and help prepare!) meals, or make art to hang in your windows.
Working? Stay connected
If you’re adapting to work at home, know that the challenge of working remotely is real. Research has shown that it can lead to higher stress levels than working in an office environment (4). Having a dedicated place in your home to work is helpful. If you don’t have a formal office space, try to create a small space to set up a makeshift desk, with a proper chair and room for your computer. Structure can help maintain a degree of normalcy. Try to avoid sleeping in, and make sure to shower and get dressed in the morning like you normally would. It’s ok to keep your routine flexible—you may have competing priorities during your workday. Talk to your leaders and be open about what you need to be successful.
You’re best able to connect with and support those around you when you take care of yourself first. Find ways to move your body to stay energized. It doesn’t have to be a hardcore gym-style workout session—studies show that even low-intensity exercise like walking can boost your energy levels (4). Most importantly, give yourself permission to feel however you need to feel. It’s good to acknowledge any stress and anxiety, and to allow yourself to process it. Meditation or journaling might be ways to check your mental health—and it’s healthy to try find ways to connect with people outside of your home as well. No matter how you feel, take steps to stay connected—through family, work, routine, and self-care. And if you’re really overwhelmed, reach out to friends or family you trust.