When everyone is sequestered together at home, it shines a light on what is – and isn’t – working within your relationship and family dynamics.

A recent article in The Lancet highlighted numerous adverse effects of being quarantined, including: emotional disturbance, depression, stress, difficulty sleeping, low mood, irritability and anger.

“During periods of isolation, when families are spending endless days in close quarters, tensions often increase and people start to feel overwhelmed,” says Ronel Groenewald, a counselling psychologist at Mediclinic Kimberley and Gariep. “Family relationships can be loving, joyous and fun – but also messy, stressful and irritating. All of us have strengths, weaknesses and flaws in the ways that we relate and communicate. In normal circumstances, couples and families commonly find ways to work around these problems and patterns, but during periods of forced interaction and spending time in close proximity – things are bound to get out of hand.”

The unusual stressors that families are exposed to during lockdown include:

  • Uncertainty: The unknown about the outcomes of COVID-19 leads to fear and anxiety.
  • Monotony and boredom: Not being able to socialise or work can lead to stagnation. You can only watch TV or TikTok for so long.
  • Low mood and motivation: The less you do, the less you want to do after a while. This can lead to depression.
  • Financial concerns: Increasing stress about loss of employment opportunities and income
  • Limited space: When everyone is at home 24/7, chances are even your private space is being invaded.
  • Reduced external activities: Previous opportunities for ‘escape’, such as going for a run or heading for a pottery class, have been taken away.

Ultimately, managing conflict is about managing yourself. Simple techniques like breathing deeply, listening attentively and choosing your words carefully can diffuse a hot situation and help you and others move towards a win-win situation.

Groenewald offers these tips for surviving conflict during lockdown.

Create a routine that lets you be in the present moment. Routines bring structure and structure helps to deal with anxiety.

Give each other the benefit of the doubt. More time together means more opportunities to get annoyed with each other. Make sure that you stay away from unnecessary conflicts and give each other space.

Take care of yourself – sleep, exercise, drink water, and eat well. You are bound to feel lighter and more happy after exercising and taking care of your lifestyle.

When things get heated, take a break.

Express gratitude. Saying thank you goes a long way.

Make yourself laugh. Laughter is a great way to relax everybody and to diffuse conflict.  

To keep things harmonious, avoid blaming another person for the situation. It will only increase hostility and lead you away from a mutually beneficial solution. Having to be 'right', or needing to 'win' all the time, also blocks the possibility of a compromise, or a real solution. Allow yourself to see an issue from another person's perspective. This can produce solutions you may never have thought of alone. Try to find mutual understanding and come to a resolution that respects each person's needs.