As lockdown loosens, we have difficult decisions to make about how to engage with the world again while keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe.
We are trying to balance the needs of everyone in the family in a time of extraordinary pressures, when once-simple activities are projects fraught with anxiety and frustration, whether that’s meeting grandparents or shopping for clothes (ask me how I know).
High stress levels can make us snappy with each other, leading to a spiral of strained relationships.
Here are some ways to minimise household anxiety and friction.
Use reliable information to assess risk: rather than copying others or being driven by your own internal level of anxiety, seek out information from trustworthy sources such as the NHS, WHO and government websites.
Don’t force solutions ahead of time: We really don’t know what things are going to look like a month or three from now, and it’s exhausting to keep trying to second-guess the future.
You’ll make the decisions you need to when you can.
Avoid dwelling on worst-case scenarios – remind yourself you’ve coped so far, and you’ll continue to cope with whatever comes up.
Clarify household policies co-operatively: not everyone in the household may have the same priorities or perspectives on risks, and that can be a source of friction, for example if you are unsure you can trust your teenager to socialise safely.
Instead of arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong, you could hold a discussion about how everyone can get their needs met, including the need to socialise and to feel safe.
A good ground rule is that people can talk about what they want and how they feel, but not criticise others.
This isn’t simple to do if emotions are high, so if you would like more support with minimising stress and friction at home, you could join the free online course “Household Harmony: Navigating Change” which I am running with B&NES Wellbeing College from July 11th.
Details at https://www.wellbeingcollegebanes.co.uk/.
Karen Bray (MBACP) is a counsellor with a private practice in Bath. Her website is at www.karenbray.co.uk.