Expert stresses kindness, self-awareness for healthy communication while isolated with others

Dr. Donna Rockwell gives tips on healthy cohabitation during the coronavirus outbreak

With the rapid advancement of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Michigan, people are staying home much longer than they’re used to -- and it may be putting a strain on their relationships.

“We’re so used to our fast paced lives, we’re not used to spending time together in one space in the confines we’re being asked to do now,” said Farmington-based clinical psychologist Dr. Donna Rockwell. “It can give rise to people feeling irritated or upset with one another; sort of a lack of patience.”

Amid Michigan’s stay at home order many couples and families are working from home together, coexisting all hours of the day and night. Some families have been balancing home life, work and school lessons for nearly two weeks due to the outbreak.

Even in addition to navigating cohabitation, many are still trying to cope with the anxiety and stress of the global pandemic in general.

Experts like Dr. Rockwell say that how we treat others and ourselves during this quarantine can help improve our situation and overall wellbeing.

“This is a very important time to have self-awareness and what’s called emotional intelligence,” said Dr. Rockwell. “If we’re feeling a little uptight, we need to have a conversation with ourselves and implore ourselves to relax and to take a breath, and to feel ourselves and give ourselves appreciation that we’re not in more dire straits, and appreciate that we’re going to get through this together.”

Dr. Rockwell says that when we begin to feel stressed, we are likely to regress and pick on one another. However, this isolation is actually a great opportunity to connect with your partner or family -- if approached with patience and vulnerability.

“It may be more irritating to be in such close quarters, but it’s an incredible opportunity to talk about our feelings, to be vulnerable with one another. We’ll never be more vulnerable than under a situation like this,” said Dr. Rockwell.

If you’re at home with children, experts like Dr. Rockwell stress the importance of having honest and calm conversations with your kids about the situation, and letting them know that you’re all working through this together.

Dr. Rockwell also encourages families to establish rituals that will bring everyone together and create some structure for the days ahead.

“One of the things that will help us get through this is a sense of ritual. We need to have rituals of different moments during the day: of having breakfast with our family, of waking up together, before we go to sleep, maybe have a moment of appreciation as a family that we got through this day, that we had enough to eat; that not everyone is as fortunate as we are, and have a sense of compassion and give love to everyone at this time. That’s a wonderful lesson for children,” said Dr. Rockwell.

As we all continue to navigate this unprecedented isolation, we need to remember to be kind to ourselves and others.

Dr. Rockwell says to give ourselves permission to feel the stress of this situation, and to accept we may not be on top of our game because of it.

However, if we stick together and help one another, we will get through these strange times in one piece.

Click here for more information on Dr. Rockwell.

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