STRENGTHENING RELATIONSHIPS DURING COVID-19

Many of us are largely housebound at the moment, perhaps cooped up with multiple generations all vying for access to limited resources like internet capability, screens and space for some private work or time alone.  Others are feeling very isolated, living alone, working remotely and without the typical interactions normally achieved through work and social contacts.  Layered on top of that is the fear the you or a loved one might actually catch the COVID virus.  So, of course we’re going to feel challenged at times and this can spill over into all of our relationships.

Writing in the Irish Times Weekend on May 23, Dr Maureen Gaffney suggested a “modest” goal for all of us with regard to our relationships.  It is one that I believe we could bring to all our personal and professional relationships at this time:

“Old or young, single or married, how about aiming to still be on speaking terms with everybody when this thing finally ends?”

Below are 4 suggestions for ways in which you can aim to be on speaking terms or better with your nearest and dearest as well as your professional colleagues and wider circle of friends and contacts during and after this pandemic.

1) Be Kind to Yourself
This is building on the idea in last week’s blog to create self care strategies to support yourself on the understanding that in order to be of help to others we must first resource ourselves (aka the Airline Oxygen Mask Approach).  As a species, we have a profound need for physical and emotional safety, both of which are compromised during this pandemic experience.  So it is really important to look after both your physical safety needs – keeping safe with hand washing and social distancing, making sure you are getting enough exercise, nutrition and rest, as well as making sure you are getting sufficient opportunity to connect within and be attentive to your emotional wellbeing. 

Here are some suggestions for how you can be more kind to yourself:

  • Use kindness to comfort yourself when afraid or feeling anxious or fidgety. Be gentle. Imagine you’re soothing a friend, small child or animal who is afraid – how would you be with them and what would you say? Then bring those qualities and kind words to yourself!
  • Use kindness to give yourself – and others – the benefit of the doubt. Instead of getting upset when you see other people behaving badly, remember that we all do silly things when we’re scared.
  • There is a part of you that is unflappable, intelligent and unconditionally kind.  He or she shows up when you are at your best, perhaps as a loving partner, parent or best friend to another.  Now, when you need it, connect with that kind, wise self within you, asking him/her to support you, encourage you and say exactly what you need to hear (not just the sugary stuff, but also the tough love and common sense).

2) Be Kind to Others
Attending to our emotional needs, also means attending to our need to connect with others.  Some of that is about asking for help and sharing concerns and troubles.  Another aspect, often overlooked if we’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed, is the positive impact of reaching out to others to support them. Helping others is empowering and makes us feel better.

Here are some ways you could help others:

  • Check in on a neighbour or friend and see if they need anything. You can do this by phone, or in person, remembering to maintain a 2-meter distance.
  • Offer to get someone groceries if you’re going to the shops
  • Help someone less technically savvy learn how to use Zoom or WhatsApp or whatever they need to get online.
  • Host a virtual get-together with your regular friends or offer to host a virtual coffee session with work colleagues.
  • Reconnect more deeply with friends or relatives who have moved away.

This is also a time when we can be kind and considerate to others in our extended community.  Lots of suppliers, retailers and service providers are under a lot of pressure during lockdown and it is a great time to get back to shopping and supporting local.  You can go to @localonline_ie to see a new directory of local Irish businesses that you can buy from online or simply google ‘shop local’ and the name of your town or city and see links to local initiatives wherever you are in the world.  However you do it, find out what’s available in your locality and help keep those companies afloat.  It’s better for the community, it’s better for business and better for the environment.  And it’ll make you feel better too!

Also think about the wider community nationally and internationally.  If you have time and/or financial resources you can volunteer your time or give financial support to charities and organisations nationally and internationally who are working under more pressure than ever to support vulnerable individuals and communities at this time.

These are some of the organisations close to my heart that I’ve been supporting recently:

  • Oxfam Ireland – mobilising the power of people against poverty, including in response to the corona pandemic internationally
  • Avaaz – the global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere, including identifying how we can best go forward from this pandemic

Share what you’ve been doing to help others in the comments below!

3) Send “Real” Snail Mail Letters or Cards
Go old-fashioned! Who doesn’t love to receive a lovely card or handwritten letter in the post box?  Re-discover the lost art of letter-writing and make someone’s day.

Yes, you could send an email appreciating someone, and that’s great. But imagine your recipient’s face as they pick up that hand-written card in the mailbox.  An Post, the Irish postal service, are really getting behind this idea at the moment with their campaign to ‘send love’!  And we could all do with some of that at the moment!

Wondering what to say? Write from the heart! Here are some ideas to get started:

  • I really appreciate having you in my life because ________.
  • I love hanging out with you when we ________.
  • I’ve realised that you bring ________ to my life.

So these were my ideas to get you started on a kindness campaign as part of your strategies to survive corona with your sense of self intact and your relationships with others positive.  Which one might be a good place for you to start or deepen your engagement?

For my part, love and kindness have been personal values for years now and it is a great way to live!  To keep me focused on living those values, especially in high pressure situations or moments of intense emotion, I seek to bring to mind that beautiful and highly transformational question: “What would love do here?” 

What would love do is a question that dramatically alters how we relate to the people and the circumstances we’re in, especially during these more challenging times. 

If we’re courageous enough to ask that question and then listen to the answers we receive and act on them from a place of love and compassion, it truly transforms our lives and relationships in a real and profound way.

I shared this transformational question recently on my free group coaching programme Standing Firm When Your World is Shaking – 12 powerful strategies to support you in surviving and thriving in any challenging situation.  I’m re-running this 4-week complimentary programme commencing on Wednesday 3 June at 8pm and continuing for the following three Wednesdays at the same time (each session is approx.. 1 hour duration, supported with a worksheet and/or resources for you to implement some of the ideas each week. 

If you’d like to join me and learn powerful strategies to support and resource yourself at this time, simply sign up here.

Credits: Photo by Gustavo Fring on Canva

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