Coronavirus or COVID-19 has forced us to create a new normal. With recommendations of self-isolation and quarantine, we are now spending our days confined to our homes. Household schedules have started to shift to different responsibilities, such as homeschooling duties and working from home. Social distancing is a necessary step to keep our family and community safe.
In the meantime, as we practice being socially responsible, how do we have a healthy relationship with our partner? It is easy to forget what we love about our partner when we are inundated with their quirks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The simple act of them chewing food may feel like nails on a chalkboard. I am going to provide some survival tips during this isolation period to help strengthen a relationship.
Managing Relationship Stress and Cope Better with Isolation:
KEEP LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN- this can be a distressing time. Discuss stressful emotions with your partner. This can help you turn towards each other rather than away. This includes spending time talking without devices. Listen to your partner and in turn have them listen to you. Simply by talking about possible unknowns can start to alleviate stress and anxiety.
DESIGNATING A QUIET SPACE FOR COMPLETING WORK – whether you are working from home or not, it is important to have a space that can be deemed a quiet space. This can be particularly important with a busy family and trying to find a work/life balance. This will lead to better productivity and an increase in mental focus. If you still struggle to achieve the calm in your home, try noise-canceling headphones.
FIND “YOU” TIME- in the midst of this chaotic time, it is still important for you to also focus on your needs. Find the time to do an activity that you enjoy. Schedule this time so that it happens. We still need time to explore interests separately from our partner. Doing absolutely everything with our partner does not foster balance.
QUALITY TIME TOGETHER- Schedule time together. Do activities that you both enjoy. BE CREATIVE. This could mean recreating an old date, binge-watching your favorite TV show or playing a board game. Remembering quality time is not household chores. It is important to balance “you” time with “couple time”.
Recognize and Accept That There is Going to Be Conflict
CONFLICT IS NORMAL – Eventually, you will get on each other’s nerves and that is ok. With two different people you may have two different perspectives. You may have different reactions to COVID-19. Different ideas around restricting. This is an important time to listen and try to understand your partner’s view. Spend your time supporting each other rather than provoking each other.
HEAR YOUR PARTNER – Spend time not only listening but hearing what your partner is saying. How are they coping? How are they feeling? Listen to understand, not to respond. Listening from a place of understanding and empathy will build connections rather than having two people isolating in different silos.
Take-Aways to Consider
Navigating relationships during the best times can be challenging. During a pandemic, this can even be trickier. Practicing patience (I know easier said than done) and focusing on connections are key elements. This is a time when we need to practice self-isolation and social distancing and we can still do this while connecting with the important people in our lives.
March 28, 2020: ADDICTION RECOVERY DURING COVID-19
"These are Unprecedented Times", "Social Distancing", "Flatten the Curve" are catchphrases we hear on a daily basis, since the arrival of COVID-19. Schools, restaurants, social gatherings, 12 step meetings, malls and unessential services are closed until further notice. Throughout my career I have had countless conversations with people about the importance of connecting with others, to improve mental health and to aid in recovery. Working in the addictions field I have never thought to develop a relapse prevention plan for the chance of a pandemic. What I do know is isolation, boredom, lack of routine and stress can be the perfect storm for alcohol, drug, gambling or sex addiction relapses. The next question is, how do we stay connected in the midst of social distancing and maintain the course of recovery? These are a few of my "go-to" suggestions:
REMAIN INFORMED BUT TAKE BREAKS FROM NEWS AND SOCIAL MEDIA - it is important to remain informed but spending too much time focusing on the pandemic can be stressful and upsetting. Take breaks. Read and listen to reputable sources. My favourite source is Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Alberta. She delivers daily Covid-19 updates. Her outstanding knowledge combined with her calm reassurance has made her an Alberta hero.
REACH OUT AND CONNECT WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS - this can still be done from a social distance. Pick up the telephone. Use platforms such as face time, Instagram, Skype, Zoom. By reaching out we realize we aren't alone. It may normalize some fears and anxieties. It also brings normalcy back and brings moments of connection. Not to mention times of humour and laughter. This is particularly important in recovery, to reach out to cope with cravings and to prevent them.
SUPPORT GROUPS - with public gatherings prohibited, 12 step and other face to face meetings are put on hold. Support meetings can be a vital part of a recovery program. There are virtual options available to provide support. Examples include Narcotics Anonymous, SMART RECOVERY, Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Women for Sobriety and Moderation Management. I am a true believer in the power of a group. The weekly recovery-based group that I now offer through a ZOOM format continues to thrive. Members continue to find support and guidance to help them move forward in recovery.
FIND ROUTINE IN YOUR DAY - with constant changes it can be tricky to find that new normal. Keeping routines simple and regular helps to regain control. Focus on diet, sleep, exercise and fun.
FIND SELF-COMPASSION AND SPEAK TO YOURSELF LIKE YOU WOULD SPEAK TO A GOOD FRIEND - a favourite website of mine is www.self-compassion.org This is the official website of Dr. Kristin Neff's, self-compassion researcher and overall guru in this area. I love the free guided self-compassion meditations that are offered. Whether in crisis or normal day to day living we need to be kind to ourselves and avoid that self-critical voice.
PRACTICING GRATITUDE AND FINDING INSPIRATION - Alberta Health Services launched the TEXT4HOPE program. By texting COVID19HOPE to the number 393939 you will receive daily texts of encouragement and inspiration. Recovery relies on healthy thinking and managing emotions.
REVIEW YOUR RECOVERY PLAN AND RELAPSE PREVENTION PLAN - I always remember the old saying, "Fail to plan, plan to fail". Always have a plan, a written plan is even better. Consider triggers, "people, places and things' and what your support system is. Pandemics can be stressful. Find coping strategies besides your substance of choice. Discuss a plan with a counsellor, therapist, pastor or family member. Having a plan reduces the chances of falling off track.
SELF-CARE - self-care is not a single act but it should be a regular part of your day. Ask yourself what brings you joy? What makes me laugh? Who do I want to spend time with (even if it is virtually)? Find activities and people who make deposits to your recovery bank so you are ready for any bank withdrawals.
COVID-19 does not need to be a step back in recovery. Stay connected to your supports and your community. "We are all in this together".