In a recent quiz on the Paired app, while over 70% of those in relationships felt they were able to adjust well to new homes and working environments during the ongoing pandemic, fewer felt they were able to manage their physical and mental health well together (62%).
Firstly, it's important to keep an eye on the mental health and wellbeing problems that might arise from cabin fever syndrome during lockdown and acknowledge some of the serious dangers confinement can cause.
The term “cabin fever” refers to a set of symptoms that occur when a person or group is confined together for an extended period of time. Symptoms can include claustrophobia, irritability, restlessness, or irrational anxiety.
There are several other ways confinement and outside stressors may have impacted your relationship. You may have found yourselves feeling overly irritated with your partner's behavior around the house, or flattening your emotions as a way of avoiding strong feelings, for example. This avoidance can also lead to a reduction in the amount of emotional kindness and support you feel it's possible to share.
There are some symptoms of anxiety and depression that you or your partner should discuss with a healthcare professional if they arise. These include persistent trouble sleeping or loss of energy in the day, mood swings and loss of appetite, or aggressive outbursts. Any of these conditions, accompanied by feelings of paranoia, dissociation, suicidal or self-harming thoughts, might indicate more complex problems that need medical assessment as soon as possible.
With this in mind — as many of us approach the next lockdown together — here are some positive steps to practice self-care together while managing the impact of more at-home working and less social interaction.
Even if you don't have any of these symptoms, it's still essential to practice self-care during the pandemic. Here are five tips to consider:
Keep up daily rituals, perhaps starting each day with a task you enjoy such as making the bed or doing your favorite stretches or a couple workout. Ending your working day by packing away things like laptops can also help to mark a clear boundary between work and personal time together.
Add in spontaneous, unplanned activities for yourself and your partner to shake up routines and prevent any institutionalizing effects of spending so much time together. For example, one couple I know borrowed their neighbors’ electric bikes and spent the day exploring nearby towns, while another decided to redecorate their bedroom.
Stay connected with work colleagues using technology. The missing social contact with work colleagues can make us feel less satisfied with our job and more isolated, so arranging an online lunch break with colleagues could be a way to lessen the impact of this problem.
Mindful breathing for even a few minutes can have a direct effect on your stress levels and reduce any unwanted anxiety. There are several free apps or online videos to help you learn these skills.
The general advice from mental health charities is to only read or listen to reputable news sources of information about events. Some media outlets like to sell news by making it fearful or sensational, so decide how much time you want to spend if at all, listening to reports.
Try this 'Couple Health SWOT Analysis' to assess your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in managing your health and wellbeing together.
Find time together to answer some of the following questions.
What are the current strengths of your mental health and wellbeing management? For example, do you bounce back easily? Do you know you can trust the love you share? Are you good at self-care?
What are the current weaknesses of your mental health and well-being? For example, does one of you need lots more encouragement than the other? Do you wait until things reach a crisis before taking action?
What opportunities are at hand for you to make use of? For example, do you have friendship groups who you feel ready to reconnect with?
What threats are there to hamper your health and well-being? Is low self-esteem getting the upper hand when it comes to asking for what you need? Do your family or friends judge you?
Once you have all this information it should be possible to make a more informed plan about how to manage your mental health and well-being in the coming weeks and months.