7 Tips for Sharing Space With Loved Ones

1. Schedule “The Talk”

Well, not THE talk, but a discussion nonetheless. Even if everything is going well right now, conflict is just around the corner when you’re unexpectedly stuck at home or sharing space for weeks on end. Why not head conflict off at the pass? Consider scheduling some time with the people you’re sharing space with, and talk about how your schedules have changed, how you expect to cope with the changes, what everyone thinks they’ll need to stay upbeat and occupied, and potential areas where frustration could build. This conversation should help to provide a framework for compromise while everyone still has cool heads, before you’re in the midst of a heated conversation.


2. Set expectations

Once you’ve identified potential pitfalls, be as open as possible about expectations regarding chores and responsibilities, personal time, together time, quiet time, loud time and any situation unique to your household. Err on the side of clarity — but be sure to temper clarity with kindness! The goal is to create a road map for success, not to “win” the conversation.


3. Promote a team mentality

Actively adopting a “same team” mentality has several benefits. First, it can help you and the person or people you’re sharing space with to focus on finding solutions to problems together rather than individually. And that, in turn, can help you remember that you’re not in this stressful situation by yourself! Second, when a conflict inevitably arises, having a “same team” mentality can help you view the conflict from a healthier perspective. It’s less that the person you’re in conflict with is attacking you personally and more that a problem has cropped up you are both invested in resolving.


4. Get active

How did people from the era before Netflix manage to spend months on end in close quarters without driving each other crazy? Board games, card games, singing and even reading aloud were all on the agenda! Why not try a few of these activities in your household? In case you need more convincing, communal activities like these aren’t just good for maintaining the household peace — research shows that having an active social life can help decrease feelings of depression and improve overall health in individuals


5. Invest in exercise

Getting plenty of exercise is something you should do regardless of your roommate situation — the health and emotional benefits are well documented — but it’s especially valuable in times of stress. Exercise is something you can do by yourself or with a partner. If you exercise with the person you’re sharing space with, you can get the added benefit of some quality socializing time. Bonus! Just be sure to give your doctor a ring (or a video call) to make sure the exercise program you’re considering is in line with your larger health goals.


6. Stay connected

Don’t limit your world to the four walls of your house or apartment. With sites like Facebook® and apps like Skype™ or Zoom®, everyone in your household can keep laughing, chatting, crying and even enjoying a happy hour cocktail or whipping up a new recipe with friends all over the world.


7. Take some “me” time

Even if you implement every single one of these suggestions down to the letter, you’re likely going to need to take some time to rest, recover and focus on yourself for a little while. Don’t feel guilty about designating the hour after lunch or 30 minutes before bedtime to shut a door, turn on some music and have some time to yourself. This is some advice you’re going to want to implement proactively — in other words, take your “me” time before it feels necessary. After all, you wouldn’t wait until you’re stranded on the side of the road to decide to fill up your car’s gas tank, right? Same principle. In tough times, keep your tank of emotional energy topped off.

Here’s a bonus tip: When you’re living with someone and times are getting tough, a good way to stay out of your own head and keep the peace is to look for opportunities to put someone else first. Psychologist Dr. Michael Ungar says, “find ways to be accountable to others, whether that is focusing on our role as a parent or helping to look after someone else’s pet if they can’t leave their home. The more accountable we feel, the easier it is to maintain our mental health.” So if you’re facing weeks of stress and the prospect of the people you love most driving you absolutely crazy, remember this: start with service. After all, you’re all on the same team.


If you or someone you know is facing or in danger of domestic violence or child abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) and/or check out resources here and here.

Facebook is a registered trademark of Facebook, Inc. Skype is a trademark of the Microsoft Corporation, Inc. Zoom is a registered trademark of Zoom Video Communications, Inc.

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