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For the long haul

One set of parents reached a milestone anniversary this week, and after sheltering in place with my husband for more than 2 months, it seemed like time for a relationship post. I am of course not an expert in anyone’s relationship but my own, so take all advice with the appropriate grain of salt, but we have been together almost 7 years and I’ve been fortunate to observe successful relationships that have lasted even longer.

Invest in the other person’s interests. I am not a video games person, but can keep up in conversation about way more games than I would ever be willing to play because I talk to my significant other about their interests, and actually listen and ask questions. If it’s a hobby you’re not interested in doing, it still means a lot that you listen and engage when they want to talk about it or show you something. And this can extend beyond conversation as well. For example, I’ve found a couple of video games that I like, so sometimes we’ll just sit next to each other and talk while we each play our own game. Jump into a TV show the other person enjoys, find a sport you can play together, get super into puzzles. Whatever floats your boat together!

Keep your own interests, and set aside time to not be together. I don’t love guitar the way my spouse does, and he isn’t super into crocheting like I am. We make time most days to do things that we individually want to do and make an effort to make room for each person to have individual plans. This is especially important with friends! It’s awesome if you have a lot of mutual friends, but it’s important that you each have friends you can hang out with without your significant other. Be consistent with other people in your life too.

Find ways to surprise each other. We’ve been together for almost 7 years, and friends for almost a decade, so often it feels like we know almost everything there is to know about the other. But to his credit, this guy still manages to surprise me. The best part is that surprises don’t have to be big to be special; getting off work a little early or picking up a treat they love at the grocery store can be super meaningful simply because it reflects that you’re thinking about each other and wanting to put in effort to show that you care.

Learn how to be mad, and how to make up. Quarantine is challenging even for folks who get along great, and some tension is both inevitable and — depending on how you respond to it — healthy. Like most people, we’ve had a few spats when cooped up in the house for long stretches, and then we talk it through and figure out how to do better next time. I cannot stress how important it has been for us to articulate why we’re upset and how we feel without picking a fight or going after the other person. It doesn’t make conflict magically go away, it just means we can take down our defenses for long enough to work out a solution together. And then when we figure out what we can do better in the future, actually detailing how we intend to do that helps us stick to the plan instead of falling back into the same cycle.

Be affectionate! It’s great when folks in long-term relationships are super comfortable and don’t need to be touchy-feely all the time (especially if you’re around other people), but super simple stuff like holding hands or a smile from across the room can make things feel so much sweeter. It helps the other person feel seen and loved, and especially in a time when a bunch of us are isolated, positive* physical touch is really beneficial for our emotional and mental health.

If you think something nice about the other person, say it. This seems silly, but can make a big difference. If you catch yourself thinking something complimentary, tell them that instead of tucking it away. As well as you might know each other, no one is a mind reader. Out-of-the-blue compliments can make someone’s day, which is obviously even better when it’s someone you care about.

For more relationships info, check out this post on relationships or this post on being long distance. Obviously nothing I covered here is fully comprehensive, but I hope there was something you found helpful. And if you’re not in a romantic relationship, honestly most of this applies to friendships too!

Anything I missed? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

* Positive physical touch meaning touch that is wanted in that moment, welcome, and pleasant rather than painful. Consent is obviously important, but also good to remember that giving your partner a tight hug if they’ve got an injury might not be the way to go.

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Mental Health Awareness

May is mental health awareness month, so I’m going to keep this simple with a list of resources that can help us all take care of our mental (and relatedly, emotional and physical) health a bit better.

(Content warning for this post that there is mention of mental health conditions, as well as self-harm and suicide, with information on where to get help.)

Quick tips

  • Just going for a walk is often a huge mood booster for me when I’m in a funk. If going for a walk is a challenge, then any change of scenery or time I can spend outside still helps.
  • Square breathing. There are a few versions of this technique, but when I’m starting to feel panicky, the one I’ve used most often is the following:
    • Breathe in for a 4-count (slowly)
    • Hold that breath for a 4-count (holding the breath in your belly or toward the base of your chest will feel better than trying to hold it in your mouth or throat)
    • Breathe out for a 4-count (even more slowly)
    • Hold without breath for a 4-count
  • Check in on your physical health. Are you super exhausted? Have you eaten within the last few hours? Had a glass of water? I’ve found that not taking care of myself physically is the fastest way to exacerbate any mental struggles I’m facing, and that once I address those things I usually start to feel better quickly. It doesn’t fix everything by any means, but it’s a necessary part of the process.

To relax

  • Apps like Headspace and Breethe offer meditations and mindfulness exercises that can be a great occasional reset or help build a consistent practice (there are lots of these, but the two listed are ones I’ve used and enjoy*).
    • Note that a lot of the content with both of these apps is paid. If cost is prohibitive, look into whether you can access them for free or a discount (I access Headspace for free through my local library) or you can check out one of the many free options also available online and through apps.
  • I do virtual yoga classes once or twice a week, and have found that the commitment of signing up for an actual class (often with a friend) helps me stick to the plan of taking time to slow down and pay attention to my body for a bit.
  • Find a simple hobby. I’ve been doing a ton of crocheting lately, but also know folks who paint, play an instrument, or have something else that offers a bit of challenge and a bit of comfort, and gives them a way to wind down at the end of the day.
  • It’s hard to hold a candle to listening to music in terms of how much it can take the edge out of negative feelings. Find a playlist or album that’s reliable for you, turn it on, and take a deep breath.

To keep your brain busy

  • Books! I admit that I’ve had a difficult time focusing on reading as much as I would like to, but there is nothing quite like digging into an interesting book. The key here is reading what you want to read, not what you feel like you should be reading.
  • Podcasts are a great alternative to watching something, or if reading a book isn’t quite doing it. There are so many options to choose from out there, so find one that makes you feel good and dive in.
  • Also, movies and TV are not a bad thing! Sometimes it’s good for us to just let our brain follow something else for a while and not fixate on things that might be bothering us. I’ve been watching a lot of sitcoms lately while I crochet, and it’s a nice way to chill after dinner.

To work through it

  • Write it down. I’ve journaled off and on for a long time, and have found that it’s always easier for me to process — and often let go of — something when I put it on paper (or the notes app on my phone). It’s a good way to articulate how you’re feeling with really low risk, and gives those feelings or thoughts an outlet that doesn’t require too much.
  • Talk to a loved one. If you’re just having a rough stretch or an off day, talking to a close friend or family member can be a nice way to process what you’re going through. Just do keep in mind that it should be someone you trust, who listens well, and know that at the end of the day it’s a personal relationship not a strictly therapeutic one.
  • Talk to a counselor/therapist/psychiatrist. Friends and family are awesome, but they’re not trained professionals. If what you’re dealing with is more significant than a couple of weeks (or even if it’s just a really awful few weeks!), talking to a mental health professional is a valid, safe option to help you work through what you’re facing. Mental health professionals can help with seasons of difficulty like grief or high levels of stress, and can help with longer-term mental health struggles like anxiety or depression.
    • Note here that mental health conditions are common, and not something to be ashamed of. 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental health condition each year, and almost half of Americans will deal with one at some point in their life, according to Mental Health America. If you’re concerned about your mental health, the screenings on their website can be a good place to start, followed by contacting your health provider.
  • Content warning (see note above): Of course if you are considering self-harm or suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 or chat the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 911, or go to a nearby hospital. If there is a friend or family member you trust, you can also reach out to that person. You matter, and you are not a burden, and you are worth every tomorrow.

I hope some of the info above offers resources or encouragement for you to take care of your mental health (or support someone else’s), especially in the midst of, well, everything.

Are there any other resources you’ve found helpful? Let me know in a comment below, or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

 

 

* This post is not sponsored, and I don’t receive any compensation for mentioning any of the resources in this post. They’re just things myself or others I know have genuinely found helpful.

(Photo is a free stock photo, because the lighting was perfect.)