“From what I’ve seen with my clients, everyone is feeling smothered and overwhelmed,” says Alyza Berman, a clinical social worker and founder of a mental health treatment centre in Atlanta, US.
With fewer options for personal space and our own routines, even the best-suited couples, for example, are struggling after 12 months of on and off lockdowns. “It’s not that they don’t love each other; they just never expected to be so inseparable,” says Berman.
When it comes to relationships with your significant others, whether they are children, partners, friends or flatmates, Berman suggests putting some boundaries in place. It might even be literal: rearranging a living space so everyone has a separate area for alone time, or setting up different areas for different activities.
Boundaries can be emotional too. Supporting friends and family shouldn’t come at the expense of your own mental health, reminds Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari, a psychologist, author and therapist. “Express validation, compassion and empathy for your friend’s struggles,” she says, but also recommends: “Explain why this is a challenging time for you, what you find overwhelming and how you are going to take care of yourself.”