These are very distressing times and they may be going to last a few months more yet so plan for the long haul. The situation is indeed depressing in itself. Lack of choice, limitation of freedom and self-expression, a very threatening external world will all naturally tend to lead us to higher anxiety and depression. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling despairing or overwhelmed. They are very natural and healthy reactions to a crazy situation. Take care of yourself and each other the best ways you can.
To hold your equilibrium as an individual and as a couple, you might like to create your own mental and emotional support bubble together. Here are some guidelines which might help you:
- Initially, have a formal meeting together and commit together to making the best you can of the situation. You really are in this together. You might like to write things down to keep it clear in your minds in these difficult times. A weekly review about what has been going well between you and not is very helpful. Treat it as a date night, do something pleasurable together, cook some nice, food play some games, watch a good film.
- Discuss what you might each need to maintain the most positive frame of mind. This is what you need for yourself not necessarily what you need from the other person. Make a commitment to give those things to yourself – time alone, quiet time, time outdoors, time to listen to loud music, whatever it is that relaxes any tension in your body and gives you peace of mind. Negotiate times when you each get those.
- Make a commitment to talk about how things have gone for each of you every day. Tell each other without interruption what you’ve been grateful for about the day, what are you can give yourself a pat on the back for and what you appreciate about the other person. Is there anything you would’ve liked to be different about your day? How would you like to look after yourself tomorrow? Really do listen! Don’t rush in with solutions, advice or tell the other person where they’ve been going wrong. Just ask about their feelings and needs. A simple question of “is there anything else?” will enable further expression of feelings. We can each think so much better when our head and body are not full of tension and pressure. We will feel lighter and it strengthens our bond.
- Make a commitment to be on each other’s side. Try to understand each other when you’re stressed. Stress and anxiety can have many faces but if we look at it as fight, flight or freeze, we can simply see when we are stressed. Overflowing emotions, raised voices, snappiness, irritation, a feeling of brain fog or not being “quite there” are all signs of stress. If we look after ourselves in the ways I describe, then we will have some resources to look after the other person too. We cannot give from and empty cup nor love well from a depleted heart. I cannot emphasise enough that you must do things for pleasure. Pleasure is the food of mental health.
- Look after your practical needs, too. Have regular drinks of water, don’t let yourself get too hungry or too tired. Eat foods you enjoy and are good for you. Drink only your weekly units allowance. Maintain good sleep patterns and make sure there are breaks from and clear down time away from work at home. If possible, keep work in a separate room. You need to replenish yourself mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
- Relationships are destroyed by criticism blame and shame. If you find yourself doing any of those things to your partner, stop as soon as you can. We often blame others for not reading our minds and knowing what we need. It may be obvious to us, but probably won’t be to others. We need to be very clear about what we are feeling and what we are needing and communicate openly. The feelings and needs may not always be able to be responded to but listening and understanding will go a long way.