Dr Ian Nnatu , a consultant psychiatrist at the Doctify-rated private mental health hospital Nightingale Hospital (doctify.co.uk), gives advice on looking after your mental health during the lockdown.
Q: My family – myself, partner and teenage children – have been getting irritable with each other during the lockdown. Do you have any tips to stop tempers fraying?
A: The social distancing and isolation requirements have the potential to cause a degree of stress in every household. However, there are a number of strategies that may be helpful.
My general message is that it is important to set time aside for yourself, with your spouse and time together as a family. Try these steps to make things easier…
1 Get some structure
Try to introduce some structure to the family’s day to counter boredom and monotony. Depending on the ages of your children, consider creating some kind of timetable with their input (but avoid being too rigid about it). Build in periods of regular daily exercise on some days as a family but also independently of each other.
2 Maintain friendships
Encourage the whole family, especially the children, to maintain their friendships and familial relationships through regular phone calls, social media or text messaging. There are many new platforms through which groups of teenagers and adults are able to ‘meet’ and socialise, such as Zoom.
3 Nurture communication and understanding
Maintain communication and understanding of the other family members’ perspectives. This is key where there is potential or actual irritability or conflict. Adopting the following strategy may be helpful:
- First, acknowledge where the difference lies.
- Then, pause (ie. resist the urge to respond immediately).
- Next, take a break to allow yourself time to reflect on the issue.
- Finally, let things go.