Self-Isolating With Roommates? Here Are a Few Expert Tips on How to Cope
As 2020 dawned, few of us could have imagined the reality we're living right now. The coronavirus has impacted every area of our lives, and one thing is clear: we have to self-isolate in the coming weeks or even months. However, for people currently living with housemates, that phrase is something of a misnomer. You will be isolating together.
Whether that thought strikes fear or joy into your heart, the truth of the matter is that this experience will be a challenge for the best of us. Spending all of your time under one roof with the same people — even if you're friendly — is certain to be tricky. So, how can you cope and get through this bizarre time together? Let's take a look at some expert tips to keep you going strong.
Defuse Arguments Quickly
Proximity breeds contempt. Before now, you and your roommates may have been like ships in the night; effortlessly passing one another by and, on occasion, stopping in the kitchen for a quick cuppa and a natter. Those days are over. Living in close quarters with these people 24/7 is a serious change. Let the bickering commence.
"It is critical that people are able to communicate the way that they feel. Allowing hostility, resentment, or anger build up is not good at all and leads to disaster!" Dr. Christopher Jones, clinical psychologist and creator of the Confessions of a Sex Therapist podcast, told POPSUGAR.
"I think it is also critical that when there is a disagreement, that people take alone time to reflect. What is important is that you find what works for you and those you live with and discuss collectively how you will deal with such a situation should it occur."
Set Some Boundaries
Thanks to social distancing, you're going to need to set some physical boundaries with your housemates. However, it doesn't end there. The chaos of quarantine will shake the best of us. It may be tempting to cling on to people around you for fear of getting lonely.
Being in your shared home around the clock is certain to be tough, especially when you crave "you time." Be clear from the start and let your housemates know that you need time apart but also value your time with them.
"The old saying 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' is very true. Spending too much time with a person, no matter how much you get along with them, increases the likelihood of arguments. Besides this, everyone needs some alone time, time when they can reflect and focus on self-care. Setting boundaries is a good way to do this," said Dr. Jones.
Up Your Cleaning Game
The usual housemate drama won't go away simply because there's a pandemic going on. Sure, you might still argue over who's turn it is to do the dishes and who vacuumed the living room last. When you're self-isolating, though, tidiness is more crucial than ever.
"Cleanliness is very important, not just for the sake of keeping the peace between you and your housemate but also to minimize the spread of germs. This is very important during this time. Not implying that you have coronavirus in your place, but anything that could compromise your immune system can make you more susceptible to germs outside of the home," explained Dr. Jones.
Create a House Schedule
Your everyday routine just went out the window. You no longer have to get up, commute to work, go to the gym, or meet friends for coffee. Not right now, anyhow. While you can take a moment to mourn your former social life, it's time to move forward. Since you're living with people, you can maintain a schedule by planning things to do together.
"Having a routine is very important for mental health, and creating a schedule really helps with this," said Dr. Jones. "Depending on the number of people you live with, it may be difficult to have activities that everyone agrees on. So you may want to opt for categories such as 'personal time' and 'group time.' This way, you can still have some spontaneity and variety in your day."
Set Up a Coworking Area
"For those who are not used to working from home, they may fall into the temptation of being on the sofa and getting sucked into Netflix while their laptop sits next to them. So having a space to work allows for you to have some structure and routine that may help you to be more productive," said Dr. Jones.
Why not dedicate some time to creating an attractive working space in your home? You could set up a makeshift "office" on your kitchen table, complete with a plant, plenty of lighting, and even some inspirational posters (you can make these yourself!). While quarantine can be a challenge, try to see the fun and exciting side of things.
Support Each Other, and Try to Laugh!
Let's not beat around the bush: we're living in uncertain times and that can be emotionally tough. Regardless of whether you and your housemates are BFFs or near strangers, you need to band together and support one another right now.
"As disorienting as coronavirus is towards everyone's regular lives, the fact is that everyone is going through it together. Since we are all in this strange time in history together, [we] are all affected in one way or another," said Dr. Jones.
"This means that we can support and encourage each other. Even if you are typically not close to your roommate, you are sympathetic to their situation. Motivate and encourage each other, and always find things to laugh about!"
Stay Social (but Keep Distancing!)
Talking to your roommates all day, every day, will mean that conversation runs dry fast. While you can't physically see other people, there are plenty of ways to stay in touch with those outside your home. What's more, it's healthy to socialize with others during this period.
"I personally don't like the terminology 'social distancing.' We are social people and socialization is important for our mental well-being. I prefer the term 'physical distancing' and encourage pe
ople to still remain social," said Dr. Jones.
"Thankfully, there are so many options available thanks to the internet and our smartphones. FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, whichever option you like, use it! If you are unable to be with your significant other, set up a video date night, eat together, and enjoy a movie. If you are single and have been so busy that you haven't been able to find a partner, now is a time to spend time on dating apps and websites."