Living through a pandemic is far from easy. You may have found yourself adjusting to a much more limited social life, figuring out new ways to work or study, or trying to balance work and childcare in a whole new way—all while spending A LOT more time with those living under the same roof.
Emotions are likely running high in your household and, as a result, conflict can easily arise. It’s clear that this time of quarantine is a marathon and not a sprint, so it’s helpful to know how to keep the peace within your shared space.
We’re here to help you communicate effectively, as opposed to walking on eggshells or gritting your teeth and powering through. Here are tips for intentional and open communication that will help you to keep the peace during quarantine.
Introduce “communication containers.”
So, you want to bring up your concern that your partner isn’t pulling their weight when it comes to chores around the house, but you know from past experience that this issue typically leads to a fight. Ok, this is great information! How can you navigate things differently this time?
There are certain topics that we all avoid because we know they will likely lead to some sort of conflict. However, living with tension in the air is no fun. Setting a designated time daily, weekly, or monthly to discuss the topics or issues that are particularly charged can greatly improve your relationships.
When wrangling these elephants in the room, it’s important to create a safe space for each party to share openly. Give each person time to express themselves and practice listening with intention. Once everyone feels heard and some sort of compromise has been reached, put the lid on the metaphorical container so that the tension doesn’t seep out into the remainder of your day. If things still feel unresolved, schedule a follow-up container conversation to revisit the topic.
Use “I” statements when possible.
You understandably get defensive when someone confronts you with an accusation, right? Finger-pointing along with “you” statements (like the one we just used!) can quickly escalate a situation. Consider another way to tell your partner, child, or roommate how you feel, without blaming and lashing out.
Using “I” statements has been proven to reduce hostility and anger. Keeping the focus on yourself is much more constructive, as it allows the other party involved to hear your perspective instead of feeling attacked. Using “I” statements can help you reflect back what you’re hearing, helping the other person feel heard, or giving them a chance to try again. For example, “I hear you saying you’re angry and frustrated because I didn’t take out the trash. Is that right?”
If you find yourself getting stuck in the same conflict with those around you, take the time to reflect on what role you are playing in the dynamic. Self-awareness is key in helping you to get unstuck and find new and more constructive ways to express yourself and your needs to those around you.
Take space when needed.
So things have gotten heated after your roommate once again ate the last bit of ice cream that you’d been looking forward to all day. While it might seem petty in retrospect, small frustrations can build over time and eventually lead to an emotional eruption.
If you’re feeling the tension, sometimes it’s best to step away and clear your head before addressing the situation. If safe to do so, taking time and space outside of your home are essential for one’s mental wellbeing.
Consider making it a priority each day to get fresh air and go on a walk to be alone with your thoughts. Everyone needs time alone to clear their head and gain perspective, so before you take out your frustrations on those around you, try to step away from the irritations and take some space for yourself.
Practice gratitude and empathy.
We totally get it. When tensions are running high, the last thing you likely want to do is prioritize kindness. Hear us out. When conflict arises, a simple expression of gratitude can go a long way. A sincere “thank you” can help to diffuse the situation and bring everyone together. If you make time to acknowledge the efforts of those around you, they are much more likely to be emotionally available when difficult situations inevitably present themselves.
How can you show up for those around you? Can you bring them a cup of coffee or take out the trash? Can you shift the focus from what someone is doing wrong to what they are doing right?
Taking the time to acknowledge the feelings of those around you, even if they are wildly different from your own, and practicing kindness can go a long way in mitigating conflict.
Create physical and emotional boundaries.
You know that feeling when you’re attempting to appear professional on a Zoom call and your child bursts through the door screaming for a snack? When work–life and home–life collide, it’s essential to set both emotional and physical boundaries.
Can you designate a separate, private section of your home for your work life? If there’s not extra space, can you create a system that shows when you need a little space, like a sign or headphones? Determine what you need to feel safe and at ease in your home and clearly communicate your needs to those around you.
Emotional boundaries serve to protect you by setting a clear line between what is yours and what is not yours. Experiencing resentment, frustration, or guilt can sometimes alert you to the fact that your limits have been reached and better boundaries are needed. While establishing clear boundaries can initially feel uncomfortable, they will ultimately benefit everyone around you.
If you’re taking care of yourself, chances are your relationships with others will improve as a result. While it sounds great, we get that it’s difficult during a pandemic when you have a million competing priorities.
If you can learn to advocate for what you need most, everyone around you will benefit. Here is a list of suggested areas of self-care to consider. We know you’ve heard these before, and some of them can be pretty tough to accomplish depending on what your life might be demanding of you, but all of them will help you feel better.
- Sleep is essential. Aim for at least 8 hours each day.
- Stay hydrated and limit your caffeine intake.
- Whether it’s taking a walk or doing an online yoga class, make time to move your body each day.
- Avoid going down a news rabbit hole and limit mindless phone scrolling time.
- Nourish yourself with plenty of vegetables and fruits, limiting processed foods and mindless snacking.
- Take a few moments each day to check in with yourself to determine how you are feeling and what you need.
- Spend time doing something you love. Reading a book, focusing on a creative outlet, or getting out in nature can help to feel more like yourself in quarantine.
Reach out to others.
Being in isolation can put a great deal of strain on the relationships within your home. While you can’t socialize like you used to, it’s still helpful to establish a healthy support system. Video chats and phone calls can serve as lifelines during this time.
You may also consider creating a pandemic social bubble with those who agree to the same safety standards. Connecting with others outside of your home can often take the pressure off of your housemates to meet all of your social and emotional needs.
Remember that the goal is never perfection.
While incorporating these tips into your next stay-at-home fight will likely ease tensions, remember not to expect perfection. Heightened anxiety during times of uncertainty will lead us all to occasionally lose our cool, so try to have compassion for yourself and those around you.
By prioritizing self-care, setting healthy boundaries, and incorporating communication techniques that allow you to “fight fair,” you’ll likely see a positive shift in your most intimate relationships.