Ever since the outbreak of COVID-19, with the mandate of confinement, there has been an overall shrinkage of the world available to our behest. This also extends to the people in our lives, wherein the number of people we used to interact with daily has reduced dramatically; contrastingly, our interactions with a select few have magnified drastically, impacting our interpersonal relationships in different ways. It is then natural for one to feel the need for some ‘alone time’ amidst this and to crave some solitude. Solitude is beneficial as it gives an opportunity to unwind and enhance existing relationships, while also managing your own emotions and keeping your stressors in check.
Here are some things that you may do to create such a space for yourself within your shared living space:
- Set healthy and balanced boundaries: Dr Orna Guralnikh stated that people sharing the same space together over a period results in an increased number of arguments. Hence, in order to limit such conflicts with the house members, creating artificial boundaries and sticking to them dogmatically helps. Creating boundaries can be physical in nature, by letting them know that you don’t want to be disturbed when the door is closed, or artificial in nature, by plugging in earplugs or headphones and letting others know of the scheduled “work-time” and “family-time”. Adopting these boundaries benefits each member as they learn to respect each others’ requirements. Setting these boundaries further help in reducing the possibility of said misunderstandings that may lead to conflicts.
- Create a personal work-space and time: As far as possible, designate an area where you will be performing personal activities such as working for your job, fostering hobbies, exercising, and so on, such that there is no conflict in terms of shared geographical area. Similarly, try and maintain a time schedule in which you will operate at the designated space. If this usage of space is spontaneously determined, make sure to inform your family members. This helps others to be aware of your schedule and the place occupied, thus reducing conflicts at your residence. If it is not possible to create designated spaces for different activities, you can create mental spaces for those activities along with the set boundaries.
- Create a common space and time: As important as it is to have a personal space and time, it is also important to designate a common space and time where the household members get together. Adopting a structured social time enables reduction of feelings of loneliness while allowing “people not to feel like others are constantly observing them or (are) constantly present” according to Palinkas. You may plan to spend time together over activities such as watching a movie, working out, having meals, and cooking. This will foster the relationship, as common activities will allow you to have shared experiences and goals, thus, strengthening relationships.
- Let the small things slide: According to Coleman, a social psychologist and conflict resolution researcher at Columbia University, it is vital that people acknowledge the rise in the intensity of emotions towards housemates during times of isolation (c.f. Klein, 2020). Moreover, negative encounters leave a much deeper mark and are remembered longer than positive encounters. Therefore, it may be a good idea to consciously look for positives and to let small things slide. (However, under no circumstance, is it okay for someone to abuse you/ violate your boundaries in any way. Reach out for help if you’re feeling unsafe. Our details are below.)
- Practice conflict resolution: In the event that a conflict does arise, it is necessary to have a conversation about it, although it may not seem easy at the time. It is helpful to look inwards and to investigate where the conflict is coming from. A lot of resources are available on conflict resolution, with useful tips such as using ‘I’ statements and communicating assertively (You may find more tips here: Rules to guide you through conflict; How to Address Family Conflict & Your Child’s Behavioral Problems During the COVID-19 Pandemic)
- Consider self-care as essential: It is crucial to understand that as others’ needs are important, so are yours. Therefore, keep in mind that you are not solely responsible for the well-being of others. Self-care can involve practices such as taking time off from people when required, getting to know yourself better by the means of introspection, balancing your sleep routine, eating healthy, practicing self-compassion amongst others. (You may find more self-care practice examples here: Self-care practices for every area in your life)
- Reach out to a healthy support system: Living with the same house members over an extended period of time, without any other face-to-face interactions, can affect your emotional state and well-being. Reaching out to other people in your life who are not currently staying with you, is a good option as it not only improves your relationship with them but also will lead to better wellbeing and stronger resilience.
Remember, if you find yourself in an abusive home environment or a relationship or are feeling unsafe with the people you’re staying with, please reach out and seek help. Our details are as follows:
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DW News (2020). Coronavirus: How to avoid conflicts in quarantine. Retrieved from https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-how-to-avoid-conflicts-in-quarantine-inthistogether/av-53018459 on 13/04/2020.
Curtis, C. (2020). How are Britons reacting to Coronavirus? Retrieved from https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2020/03/20/how-are-britons-reacting-coronavirus on 13/04/2020.
Ellis, E. G. (2020). How not to completely hate the people you are quarantined with. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/coronavirus-surviving-quarantine-without-killing-partner/ on 13/04/2020.