I know and get it – we’re tired of hearing about COVID. Two years later, the impact of the pandemic sadly remains with us and in the ways we interact with the world and others around us – including our spouses, significant others, children and close loved ones.
Being in a loving relationship is great, but we can often be tested, especially in tough situations as we are now, when life continues to be hectic and unpredictable.
Many couples work outside the home, either both full-time, or one full-time and the other part-time. Many have children that go to school on a daily basis. Almost all of those couples organize themselves around the kids’ activities – schools, sports, extra activities – and when to pick them up on time and bring him or her to their next appointment or to home. And then there are all those weekend activities, church, children’s parties, sleepovers at friend’s houses, recreational activities and more.
February 2020 obviously changed everything. Restaurants closed, children were forced to do remote learning from home – with parents juggling the seemingly impossible task of being teacher, parent and keeper of the house, while still having to take on the pressures of a full-time job.
While much of that has eased, many of the “new world” routines remain, as does the anxiety that continues to raise questions such as, “when this is going to end?” and “when will we be back to normalcy?” And if the answer is pessimistic, surrender can take the form of depression. And let’s all admit it – this can make us testy with one another.
If you’re still struggling, here are five proactive tips you can take to feel better – and avoid the pandemic from controlling you.
- Think in plural. You may feel like you’re suffering, and so do your children. Know that you are not the cause – and they are not the cause of your suffering. The enemy is the pandemic, not your partner or children.
- Try to be yourself. That implies focusing less on your roles (parent, child, spouse) and more on the human being that you are. Your children are your children, and your husband is your husband, and your wife is your wife. But they are also all independent human beings. They are responsible for being themselves. They are choosing their own responses to the pandemic. And this is the moment in which all the members of your household will benefit from seeing each other not as a role, but as the human being that all of you are.
- Increase the level of unconditional tenderness. The others will be happy to see that they exist for you, that you notice them, that you have a non-judgmental empathy with them, one by one. Yes, one by one. Like the little dog at home, when the family arrives, shows happiness to each one of you, moving the tail, jumping and saying, “HELLO!” Yes, maybe your reaction isn’t as enthusiastic, but make it a point to emit regular signs that you appreciate and love your family.
- Explore together the new learning process. Share with each other how you are coping and the new aspects of you that you have discovered. To clarify what I mean, for us mental health counselors, it has been a discovery to realize that we can now support you using telehealth. That implies discovering something new in ourselves, redefining concepts and accommodating to the new reality as a positive phenomenon. Our reality has been enriched by options that we can use when it is not mandatory. And so, in your home, you can apply the same by considering new responses – responses that you have discovered during these long two years.
- Be creative with others to maintain and increase your social network. We don’t know when we are going to be back to “normalcy.” And we don’t even know if it is going to be the same as before. But we can survive as the social being that we are with all the different new togetherness that we have discovered in this period. Don’t consider them as temporal, as provisional – just add them to your box of tools to get together with the other human beings relevant in your life.
Are you seeking support during this difficult time? My team and I offer compassionate, non-judgmental and caring mental counseling services to help you better cope and reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us – we’d love to work with you.
Carlos Martín Cinto is a bi-lingual Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, with extensive experience in adult therapy and couples therapy.