Some of our relationships are likely to be strained – but for the good of our communities, we should stay at home through that. Many families have teenagers in the house who want to go out, for example.
However, for some of us, staying home can be dangerous or intolerable – if we’re living with domestic abuse. In these situations, our immediate physical and emotional safety come first and we may have to leave home. This is allowed by government rules.
For instance, all five of the Mental Health Foundation’s top tips for nurturing healthy relationships can still make a big difference:
During this strange and difficult time, it’s also worth considering additional ways to protect our relationships, and try to cope a bit better with some of the relationship problems the virus creates.
Use phones, computers and the post to stay in touch. Hearing a friendly, familiar voice, or reading a message from people we care about, helps us feel more connected. This is important for our mental health, especially for people living alone, who may be feeling lonely, isolated and afraid.
We don’t all feel confident or comfortable with video technologies like Skype, Zoom and WhatsApp video but, as with phone calls, seeing a friendly, familiar face can help both sides feel more connected. This might be a time when younger people in our families can help older relatives to use the internet, and some of the ways it can let us stay connected with each other and the wider world.
Some of us may want to reach out beyond the people we already know, to make new connections with other people. Online communities are ideal for this and can be extremely supportive, although it’s worth remembering they are not always safe places.
There are a vast number of online communities out there and this might be a good time to find a few that appeal to you. You’ll find everything from general interest communities like Mumsnet to more specialist communities focused on, for instance, football, particular health conditions, fitness, politics, local areas, cookery, relationships and rock music.
One supportive community for those of us experiencing problems with our mental health is Mind’s Elefriends
Join together in supporting others
Getting involved in local efforts to support people who are more vulnerable during the pandemic is good for helpers, as well as those they’re supporting. Here is more about the inspiring effects of helping other people in our communities and beyond - and the joy of random acts of kindness.
Create some certainities
For those of us who live with other people and who are feeling irritated or overwhelmed by constant togetherness, it may help to agree who is going to use which parts of the home - for instance during the day, when we may need to work and/or look after children.
Make best use of the physical space you have. This may be about planning your day, sharing or alternating use of space, being aware of others’ needs or just doing things a little differently. Similarly, it may help to share out household tasks such as washing up, cleaning and food shopping. Having a daily routine may help us to feel more in control, at a time when we have lost a lot of control over our daily lives.
Going outside for daily exercise may also help (so long as it is safe for you), as part of your routine Exercise, including walking, is good for our mental health. So is contact with nature, such as seeing trees and birds, or being in a park or near a lake or river.
Keep talking and listening
Also helpful may be to agree a time each day when everyone in our home can say how they are feeling - for instance, it could be what we have found most difficult and what we are grateful for that day.
Sharing feelings, without fear of being criticised or told off, can help us feel calmer and closer to each other. It may help to remember that everyone is affected by the coronavirus situation and may be feeling more anxious and perhaps irritable than usual.
Our guide to supporting someone with a mental health problem
includes a section on ‘talking about mental health’, which may be helpful for talking with people who are particularly distressed about the coronavirus situation and finding it hard to cope with everyday life.
Remember that these constraints will come to an end but in the meantime, we are going to be physically closer to some and more distant from others. In order to come through this, we all need to talk, listen and care for each other and ourselves, building on what brings us together and what we want to see in the future.