There isn’t much that hasn’t been affected by the global pandemic. And unfortunately, our relationships with our nearest and dearest have also felt the impact.
As inherently social creatures, we rely on our social interactions for entertainment, comfort, information, protection. But a life in lockdown has put some relationships under the microscope and driven a wedge between others.
Tips to nourish all relationships
- Shift your focus to the personal qualities you cherish rather than focusing on the behaviour that irritates you.
- Connect and socialise with people whether by phone, virtually or physically but maintaining social distancing.
- Set yourself challenges which can be done either on your own, with those at home or within your communities (such as our Fire Family challenge) and share your experiences with family and friends.
- Tackle problems together.
- Listen to one another, making sure you hear what each other is saying, actively listening can go a long way to resolving conflict and improving how we communicate.
- Have fun, joking and laughing with each other is good for our mental health, you could also try something new like laughter yoga or watching a light hearted box set.
Relationships at home
Spending significantly more or significantly less time with our loved ones can be equally as challenging, because both scenarios see the balance of our relationships disrupted. But there’s no doubt spending so much time with a small group of people, even those we love best, can be difficult. Everyone is experiencing a different emotional response to the situation at different times, which can be hard to cope with.
A combination of home schooling (possibly with different ages and key stages), working from home (possibly in makeshift offices that take up normal communal space), lack of privacy or personal space and general state of stress with the virus as an ever-present constant in the background can all create their own pressures.
If you’re living with just a partner or a friend, it can be tough to suddenly become each other’s only form of human interaction for days or weeks at a time. Be kind to each other, communicate and try not to let stress get the better of you.
It’s important to know what is a reasonable response to these pressures and what is not, and you should feel unsafe in your own home. The Government has produced guidance and support for you or someone you know who may be a victim of domestic abuse. Relationship charity, Relate, also has useful information and advice to help relieve some of the pressures on our relationships, which you can find here.
Top tips for improving relationships at home
- Give each other some space: as much as possible, respect each other’s need for a bit of personal space. Schedule in fair time on electronics.
- Routine is your friend: whether still working or with a load of free time on your hands, there’s no denying coming up with a routine is good for your mental health.
- Try not to let stress get the better of you: we’ve got some advice for avoiding being overwhelmed by what is already a very stressful situation.
- Missing the outside world? Bring it indoors. Recreate a movie night at the pictures, or “go out for dinner” in your dining room. Really, it’s about who you’re with, not where you are.
Relationships with loved ones far away
Having to practice social distancing from those we love in the world but happen to not live with is hard. Feelings of overwhelming loss and isolation are perfectly normal. as by our very nature we thrive on social interaction and physical contact to maintain our mental and physical health and wellbeing.
It can be hard to explain to grandchildren that they can’t come up for a cuddle, but it’s just as tough seeing your adult children and not able to have physical contact. Or if you have family a long way away, it can be upsetting to know you couldn’t just pop round and see them, especially with so many health concerns in the world at the moment.
Top tips for improving relationships with loved ones far away
- Find different ways to keep in touch: Video calls are a great way for seeing each other, and there are plenty of apps out there to help you connect, many of which come with inbuilt games for when you’ve exhausted conversation topics. Hold a virtual quiz or bingo nights
- Pick up the phone: They say it’s good to talk, and especially so during lockdown.
- Surprise each other: dust off your writing materials and send each other nice things in the post, just to let them know you’re thinking of each other.
Relationships with friends
Our friendships are so important to our wellbeing, so it’s important to nurture them. But be sensitive of the fact everyone feels differently at different times, and for some friends it may feel overwhelming to be constantly in contact. But the great the thing about your friends is that you know each other really well, so figure out what works for you. Make a deal no one is allowed to mention the virus at all. Or start with a five-minute moan where everyone gets everything off their chest, and then move forwards with positive conversations.
Top tips for improving relationships with friends
- Be mindful of their mood and supportive of how they are right now.
- Engage in open, honest conversations
- Share experiences and laughter
- Be there for each other (virtually)
Relationships at work
Maintaining relationships with work colleagues has never been so challenging, with many people being furloughed, working from home or picking up new additional responsibilities with different teams in the front line fight against the virus. The way we would normally communicate, go about our work and even drink our social cups of tea have all changed.
There’s no doubt that for those of us trying to carry on working while home schooling our children, life has become even more stressful. We’ve pulled together some resources for families including some activities for children, which may help provide some vital distraction when you’ve got to be on that 9am conference call.
It can also be difficult if you or a member of your team is worried about finances. Maybe you work alongside retained firefighters who have lost their other source of income, or your colleague’s husband has been made redundant and they’re worried about putting food on the table. Take time to talk to each other and offer words of comfort. Sometimes being able to talk to things that are worrying you can be a huge relief. And remember, if you or someone you know is worried about finances and is an eligible beneficiary of The Fire Fighters Charity, we may be able to help with your Welfare.
Top tips for improving relationships at work
- Talk to each other: Keep in regular contact to check in with how each other is doing.
- Signpost to the Charity: We’re here to support all serving and retired fire services personnel, so if you need us, get in touch with us.
- Seek employee assistance or occupational health programmes: your employer has a responsibility to protect the welfare of you and your colleagues, so find out what research is available.
Relationships with your community
The pandemic has driven behaviour which has fragmented communities such as panic buying and hoarding and activities which have united our communities such as the Thursday night clap for the NHS and the rainbows which adorn many houses. We must hold on to these enriched relationships within our communities and build on them as the Pandemic continues so they can endure once the Pandemic has ended. Helping vulnerable members of your community by shopping, collecting medicines, talking to them and sharing experiences with your neighbours such as volunteering, fundraising or showing your appreciation for everyone on the front line will nourish our relationships and shape all of our futures.
If you’re struggling for whatever reason, let us see if we can help. The Fire Fighters Charity is still open for business, so get in touch today by calling 0800 389 8820 or making an enquiry via our website.