If you’re anything like me, you’re probably feeling inundated with all of the advice, comfort, encouragement, tough talk, pep talks, and other messages flooding your inbox this week. I struggled with writing this because I find when I’m feeling oversaturated, my friends usually are too.
But at the risk of pouring water into an already overflowing bucket, I wanted to say just a couple of quick things about taking care of yourself and your relationships during these unsettling times.
Nothing puts pressure on people who care about each other, quite like forced captivity.
Yes, I know I’m talking like I’ve experienced a mandatory quarantine before, and no, I haven’t. But I have spent days upon days at home caring for sick kids and was once confined to bed rest for six weeks following surgery to repair a broken leg. And now, I work from home and have been known to spend multiple days in the same clothes, hiding from neighbors and deliveries while I tap away on my laptop. So I know a thing or two about the stress that being cooped up can put on relationships.
Happily, whether you’re an empty nester like me or have a house full of family, there are things you can do to lighten the load.
Here are my top 10 favorite ways to keep relationships sane and healthy in times of forced togetherness:
1. Laugh. A lot. Maintaining a sense of humor is going to get you through this. If you or the people in your house aren’t comedians, find something to watch, listen to, or read that will tickle your funny bones. Laughter is the best medicine for whatever ails us – even too much togetherness.
2. Take breaks from each other. Even if you don’t have the option of assigning rooms to everyone, you can create virtual space by calling for a timeout from on-demand interactions. Call it reading time, resting time, or quiet time. Whatever you call it, give each other permission to disconnect at least once a day.
3. Stick to a schedule. It might feel like you’re on vacation, so why not just wing it? Because it won’t be long before days blur into nights, and you won’t remember the last time you showered. Keep regular hours for sleeping, meal times, exercise, and work. Everyone will feel better and smell better, too.
4. Set some goals. Work goals, personal goals, professional goals. Decide what you’d like to accomplish during this unexpected gift of time together. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to speak another language, cook pasta from scratch or get abs of steel. Working toward goals gives meaning to our days, and you can find free lessons on the web for learning just about anything. Share your goals with one another and cheer each other on.
5. Have fun. It seems obvious, but after days upon days in lockdown, it’s easy to slip into the monotony of survival mode, which leads to boredom and more anxiety. Bust out of the rut and brainstorm ways to keep fun a part of your day. Try out the games collecting dust in your closet. Learn to play cards. Work on a puzzle. Act like a kid.
6. Give grace. Most of us aren’t at our best when life turns upside down. Manage expectations for yourself and the people you’re sharing space with, and be quick to forgive when things go sideways. Expect meltdowns. Apologize when it’s you, and let grace flow freely when it’s them.
7. Stay flexible. You’ve made a schedule. You’ve set goals, and you’re determined to have some fun together. Then you oversleep, get sucked into the news, forget that you were going to crush it today and find that the fun activities you planned fall far short of entertaining. Please repeat after me: It’s OK. Staying flexible and ready to shift as needs arise will help everyone keep their sanity.
8. Reach out. Whether or not you live under the same quarantined roof, those who know and love you best shouldn’t be the only ones you turn to for information, conversation, encouragement, and reassurance. Don’t let the people closest to you be your only source of human contact. They and you will quickly grow tired of carrying the load. Use technology to stay connected to friends and outside resources.
9. Make plans. Things won’t always be this way. Talk about the future and dream about what you’ll do to celebrate when this challenge is behind us.
10. Pray together. I’m ending with this, but of course, it should not be the last thing you think of doing. Pray over your days from start to finish and ask God to pour out his comfort, peace, and joy in the undeniable and mysterious ways He does. Every. Single. Time.
God’s capacity to love never runs out.
As we wait out these uncertain times behind closed doors, we can keep our relationships sane and healthy, even when too much togetherness stretches us beyond our capacity.
God supplies everything we need for our relationships to thrive in these difficult days and always. And He will help us care for those we love, as well as those we don’t even know. The ones who are particularly vulnerable. If you’re alone or know someone who is, please reach out. We’ll get through this together. Even when together feels like a lot.
But those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)