Stress, fear and anxiety are the largest factors affecting our mental health and relationships in 2020. Finding moments of gratitude and positive distractions help find balance in our daily lives.
According to Joanna Stagg, a Clinical Psychologist from Kaiser Permanente, “We’ve changed our entire landscape of our lives to different degrees and are trying to renegotiate our relationships with our partners and families” during this pandemic.
Making Space and Creating a Time to Check-In
The changes that we face with children home from school, work and our daily responsibilities affect the way we communicate with our partner. Stagg recommends carving out special time during the week to be with one another. Ask direct questions, actively listen to your partner and understand what they are saying. Help to lessen stressful times by talking about solutions. “Be vulnerable with your partner so they are open to sharing what they are feeling. Take more time, than you normally would, to check -in,” said Stagg.
Time with each other can extend beyond a once-a-week activity. Simple things like taking a daily walk, gardening or exercising together are positive ways to connect. Time together every week helps lower anxiety and stress levels. It deepens your relationships and creates a positive outlet for yourself and your partner.
Physical intimacy also helps to reduce stress and anxiety levels. “Take a few minutes to give or ask for a hug or cuddle with your partner” explained Stagg, “are proven ways to decrease the fight-or-flight response.”
Focusing on Self-Care and Gratitude
You can also change your own mood by seeking positive distractions. Recognize your triggers and do things like guided meditation, eat healthy, reduce alcohol consumption, exercise, enjoy the outdoors and reduce news and social media intake all help keep negative thoughts at bay.
Stagg also recommends gratitude practice, an activity that extends to the family. “We can be positive in our lives by noticing the good moments and saying thank you to one another,” said Stagg. She goes on to say that gratitude practice can be done at the dinner table with the whole family. The moments that we note shouldn’t be broad like ‘I am thankful for my health.’ We should share moments like appreciating your partner for making coffee or thanking your children for giving space.
Stagg said, “The benefit of gratitude practice is to overcome our negativity bias when we are under stress. It helps us be intentional about finding the positive, shifting the balance in the system of our lives.”
Seeking Professional Help
When should you seek professional help? Stagg recommends seeing a professional “when you have been trying to do positive things, and are also trying to get help from others, but are feeling worse, stuck or know what you should be doing, but can’t do it.”
If you or your partner are showing signs of depression or having suicidal thoughts, please contact your doctor immediately for assistance.
Joanna is a Clinical Psychologist at Kaiser Permanente Factoria Medical Center. She’s been with Kaiser Permanente for 2.5 years and working as a psychologist for 10. She provides psychological assessment, individual, and group therapy.