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When domestic stress is escalating

The stay-at-home policy brought on by the Coronavirus has changed the structure of our lives overnight. Spending day and night at home for months on end can be challenging, and although measures are being relaxed somewhat, we would like to discuss ways of ‘managing’ relationships during these times.

One of the main reasons for couple’s counselling is a lack of shared time or experiences. But what happens when we are suddenly overloaded with that very opportunity, without being able to gradually build it up, as we would in therapy?

Anxiety and stress

Add the anxiety and stress that can be brought on by isolation, working from home and the negative news surrounding the pandemic, and it’s only natural that our human defence mechanisms kick in.

This can effect our behaviour in the form of irritability and  (unintentional) aggressive responses, prompting us to ignore basic social rules.

Problems with your partner

This may lead to problems with our partners, as we forget about the paramount importance of dialogue and resort to power struggles or even violence as a means of  conflict resolution.

We can prevent such defensive outbursts by being prudent, tolerant and keeping a positive and understanding mindset, trying to avoid fight-or-flight mode: the person beside me is not my enemy, intent on hurting me, they are simply dealing with the same stressful situation as I am right now.

Tips to prevent escalation

It can help to consider the following as a way to help prevent escalation:

  • Limit the Coronavirus topic: Awareness is important, but limit your research to official, trustworthy sources. An overload of information can be depressing.
  • Maintain good communication with your partner: Being aware of one another’s thoughts and feelings is key to a relationship at any time. Apply the T.H.I.N.K. S.M.A.R.T. ruleset for honest and constructive communication. See  what these letters stand for.
  • Settle a schedule for homework: It is important to create and respect a schedule to do homework with your children, that way stress levels will be reduced.
  • Share household activities: To prevent an overload of tasks for a single household member, allow some free time for all parties.
  • Keep some me-time: If possible, take 1 hour a day -even 15 min will do- to do whatever you enjoy, for yourself.
  • Seek and foster intimacy: Being in lockdown does not necessarily mean that you cannot have a romantic dinner, but only that you have to do it at home.
  • Safety of everyone involved is first priority: It’s been reported that during the isolation period domestic violence has increased more than 60% in most of the COVID-19 affected countries.  Having this in mind and aiming to help victims, governments around the globe have established phone numbers you can call, programs and safe words to help people to reach out for help such as ’Mask 19’

How to ask for help

If you, a family member or friend are going through something similar, make sure you know the safe word or a phone number to ask for help. Click here to read more.

These are only a couple of suggestions that might help improve relationships in times of stress. If however, you feel your situation is not improving or violent responses are increasing, becoming an everyday issue, it may be wise to seek professional help.

MsC Ivonne Villarreal - CBT Psychologist and Sex Therapist.

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