9 Tips for Maintaining Healthy Relationships in Close Quarters

How to make the most out of sheltering in place.

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- Posted on Mar 20, 2020

Mom working from home

The recent Covid-19 outbreak has left millions of people without childcare, forcing many to work from home. As families band together to provide childcare and company during these troubling times, they may also be struggling to remain patient, stay upbeat and set healthy boundaries with such close proximity.

There are currently 10 people living at my parent's house in California, a state which is asking all residents to shelter in place, and these are realities we're confronting every day. With six adults working remotely and one toddler who needs lots of love and attention, we're all doing our best to enjoy this unexpected time together, while remaining productive and kind. Here are a few ideas we've come up with to do our part to maintain social distance without sacrificing our healthy relationships.

1. Set a schedule

Sticking to a routine is one of the easiest ways to make life feel more normal when you don't have anywhere else to go to. Come up with a new stay-at-home schedule for the family and stick to it. For example, my brother and sister-in-law are starting their days at 5 to get in some work before my niece wakes up. It might also be helpful to set a "closing" time when you officially stop working for the day. Without a time clock to punch or an office to leave, it can be easy for the work day to bleed into the evening.

2. Make a plan

Especially if you have children who need care or adults who need space to work, it's helpful to make a plan. One thing we've found helpful is to designate one room as the "conference room" where people can join work calls or take meetings. We're also trying to limit our nonessential internet usage, so that those working can stay on top of their tasks. Designating work spaces has also been really helpful for us. We've all claimed a desk or table as our primary work station, and everyone else knows that when we're there, we're trying to focus. The plans may change, but having some structure makes us feel more like a team.

3. Exercise

It's easy to go a little stir crazy when stuck inside for so long. Exercise is an easy way to relieve some stress and fill a block of your schedule. Once work is finished for the day, we've been taking my niece and dog for long walks around the neighborhood, making sure to keep the appropriate six feet of distance from any other walkers. It's a good way to get some sunshine, wear out the kids and stay healthy.

4. Start a family project

Performing our jobs is important on the week days but what about the weekends? With nowhere to go and no work to be done, the two day break can feel endless. That's why we've come up with a list of family projects. My mom and sister-in-law are painting one of the bedrooms, my brother and I are working on a massive puzzle and we're all very invested in our Settlers of Catan tournament. Even something as simple as re-watching all of the Marvel movies can make it feel like you are all in on a project together.

5. Take alone time when you need it

For an introvert like me, being around nine other people all the time can be exhausting. But just because I'm in a house all day with everyone doesn't mean I need to be social all the time. I'm trying to go to bed a little early each night so I can have some private time to read, journal and decompress. When I feel myself getting angry or frustrated, the first question I do is step away for a moment to get some personal space. Even if you need to just sit in your car or take a quick lap around the block, just a few minutes can make a big difference for your mental health.

6. Keep the TV off

It can be tempting to obsessively track the news all day and night, but having the television on can be both a distraction and an anxiety-raiser. Keeping the TV off during the day will help you maintain your work schedule and stay calm.

7. Divvy up responsibilities

Spending so much time at home can lead to increased cooking, messiness and grocery bills. Decide as a home how you want to divide up these responsibilities. Maybe you take turns making dinners or set aside Saturday mornings for a deep clean. Whether you're living with roommates or extended family, it can't hurt to talk openly about how you will all chip in to keep the household running smoothly.

8. Keep doing what you love

These are stressful times, and I don't think I'm alone in feeling helpless to change them. But just because we're sheltering at home doesn't mean we have to give up all the activities that we love. Attending church is an important tradition for our family. We can't physically go to church right now, but we can watch a livestream service together on Sunday mornings or do a family devotional. If your household loves sports, come up with a creative way to play sports in your backyard or living room. If your children love performing, use the weekend to write and put on a show.

9. Practice gratitude

The most important thing our family is doing to stay grounded and positive is to practice gratitude. With so much to worry about, it's easy to forget all that we have to be thankful for. If you find yourself getting stressed about being stuck at home, take a moment to remember all the good in your life. Being able to work from home, spend more time with family and staying healthy are not things to be taken lightly.

Do you have ideas for keeping a positive home life? Let us know in the comments below.

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