When Christmas Comes Early: Connection in Quarantine
With families stuck at home, Costco being the only outing in the foreseeable future, it’s as if the holidays have already arrived and it’s barely Spring. Except gifts are in the form of toilet paper and hand-sanitizer and family time isn’t something that has been prepared for, but more forced upon us. It’s ironic that while we await for those few short weeks off around the holidays for quality family time and relief from daily obligations, after just a week or so we are wishing the kids would go back to school and that we had even just one work email to feel that surge in sense of purpose that has become so dearly missed. It is only natural that relationships with people we care about the most would take on the brunt of the personal stress, frustration, boredom, and anxiety each of us encounter in these unpredictable times.
“This time of isolation could be a period of great growth or great struggle in your relationship,” suggest author John Tierney and social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister (The Atlantic, 2020). In a society very much entranced with better, faster, and now, to slow down and re-adjust to a new sense of normalcy can feel foreign and uncomfortable. A few things may be useful for maintaining some sense of sanity include (but are not limited to): self-care, intentionality in relationships, and shift in perspective.
If you are a caregiver, parent/guardian, healthcare professional, or 2 on the Enneagram, taking care of others may come more naturally to you than recognizing your own needs or wants. Now, more than ever, effective self-care is extremely important. This may look like alone time and privacy, setting boundaries to maintain felt-safety, sticking to routines (or creating new ones), and taking space – literal and emotional – for self.
Intentionality within relationships may seem tiresome, yet crucial, as we all process and respond to stress differently. Be mindful of your needs, and the needs of others. Gratitude, willingness, and positivity may serve you well at this time where inner strength and mental fortitude are priceless. Strive to be honest and open; yet, know that you do not need to save the world’s – or your marriage’s – problems while stuck under the same roof for weeks on end.
Lastly, keep this life of quarantine we are getting to know and love (or hate) so well in perspective. This will not last forever. If optimism feels too far out of reach, shoot for realistic expectations of self and others. Some degree of friction in relationships is normal. This is likely a time of mixed emotions, particularly, of both relief and grief. It is okay and actually normal to experience a range of emotions surrounding all that you may have lost – whether that’s a job, peace of mind, or simply the freedom in a late-night trip to Kroger for ice cream. If you aren’t grieving, it is likely someone you love and care about is.
If we take care – of our selves, our relationships, and our mindsets – we may actually experience moments of joy, peace, and freedom in this time of quarantine. This year instead of presents, if we are intentional, we may get to experience “presence.”
“10 Ways Your Marriage Can Survive the Coronavirus Quarantine.”Focus on the Family, 30 Mar. 2020, www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/10-ways-your-marriage-can-survive-the-coronavirus-quarantine/.
Damour, Lisa. “Quaranteenagers: Strategies for Parenting in Close Quarters.”The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Mar. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/well/family/coronavirus-covid-teenagers-teens-parents-kids-family-advice.html.
Dickinson, Grace. “How Not to Destroy Your Relationship While Spending 24/7 Together during Coronavirus Quarantine.”Https://Www.inquirer.com, Staff, 3 Apr. 2020, www.inquirer.com/health/coronavirus/coronavirus-covid19-relationship-tips-marriage-advice-20200404.html.
John Tierney, Roy F. Baumeister. “How Not to Tank Your Relationship in Quarantine.”The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 1 Apr. 2020, www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/03/how-maintain-your-relationship-quarantine/608830/.
Nicholson, Jeremy. “Steps for Healthy Relationships During Crisis and Quarantine.”Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 30 Mar. 2020, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-attraction-doctor/202003/steps-healthy-relationships-during-crisis-and-quarantine.
Blog written by The Refuge Center Therapist and Intake Specialist, Caroline Berl, MA, NCC