Date Published: 31 March 2020

Psychologists suggest how to get along when staying at home

Government advice or instruction to stay at home has caused millions of people to change their daily routines dramatically in recent weeks. Various local papers1 have published articles suggesting ways to help people cope with the unusual constraint of being in the continuous company of their own household only for an extended duration. Challenges mentioned include boredom, frustration, anxiety (worry) and the social demands of getting along with others while in a confined space.

Experts from universities have also offered suggestions about how to create and maintain household harmony2, how to cope with boredom3 (perhaps not a problem for those working from home), how to maintain physical activity4, and even which TV series to watch for entertainment5.

Advice about how to create or maintain household harmony from Dr Angela Rowe, a social psychologist at the University of Bristol in the south-west of England, who has researched human behaviour towards our "nearest and dearest" and "especially in tough times" includes:

  1. Talk - try to be as honest as possible while also being respectful. Be considerate and work through any conflicts.
  2. Identify possible sourcs of conflict - noise, mess, use of communal areas, preferences for activities together such as choice of TV.
  3. Be tolerant - if someone is being tetchy, it's good to make allowances and not 'bite back'.
  4. Have fun together - it's important to keep each other's spirits up and make time for relaxation.
  5. Give each other space - being kind and accomodating each other's need for 'breathing space' is essential.

These suggestions have been summarised and simplified. For more detail see the Bristol University article about household harmony during lockdown.

On a slightly different subject, given that one can be bored either alone or within a large household, Prof John Eastwood of York University, Toronto (Ontario) Canada, offered the following ideas about coping with boredom:

  1. Don't panic - boredom can be such an unpleasant feeling that people react in inappropriate ways, for example by overeating. The challenge is to respond wisely.
  2. Accept what you cannot change - boredom doesn't indicate a character flaw or poor planning. Allow yourself feel bored long enough to learn from it.
  3. Find another gear - alone time, or enforced time at home, can cause personal decision making to shift from reacting to demands and schedules to increased self-determination of time, attention and action.
  4. Understand why you're feeling bored - "boredom is born of disordered wanting and valuing, not an absence of possibility" 3.
  5. Take time to find clarity - it has been suggested that some of the most transformative and fulfilling changes in people's lives were sparked by change that led to reflection on goals and values.
  6. Avoid passive entertainment - instead, reclaim authorship of your life. Find activities that flow from and give expression to your passions, creativity and curiosity.
  7. Get by with a little help from your friends - perhaps by phone or video chat. Social distancing does not have to mean an absence of social connection.
  8. Look for the silver lining - times of pause from the usual pace of life can create a space to explore who we are and what we value.

For more about each of these points and to view the associated video see the York University article in full.

As advice or instructions to "stay at home" continue in many places it is likely that there'll be more suggestions about how to stay healthy and happy while doing so. Emphasis here has been given to recent suggestions from experts in psychology. Meanwhile, social media increasingly features pictures of pets during the 'lockdown' and mention of wild animals beginning to make use of the outdoor spaces normally used by people, among other themes.

The following remarks by Dr Angela Rowe, Reader in Social Cognitive Psychology at Bristol University, are quoted from the article about ways to create household harmony. On the subject of talking within households, she said2:

" There's also no point skirting around the sensitive stuff to be polite, so try to be as honest as possible while also being respectful. There's bound to be disagreement, heated debate, and possibly blazing rows on occasion. Be considerate and work through the conflicts. I'd definitely recommend never letting the sun go down on an argument. Instead of allowing frustrations to fester, part ways with a fist bump even if you don't fully resolve things straight away. "

Also in the News:

COVID-19 Mental health and social impact study - 23 Mar '20

Improving the relationship between use of social media and body image - 9 Jan '20

Benefits of dementia friendly swimming opportunities - 30 May '18

Concerns about the health impact of social media - 16 Nov '17

Psychological benefits of different types of natural environments - 2 Nov '17

Research confirms that good moods are contagious. Depression isn't. - 21 Sep '17

Report says 65% Britons surveyed report experience of mental health challenges - 8 May '17

Combining motivational interviewing with cognitive behavioural therapy to treat anxiety - 23 Mar '16

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