Lockdown life has its ups-and-downs. Our daily routines have endured big changes and we feel the strain of spending unnatural amounts of time with our isolation partners. While some of us may appreciate spending more time with those who are close to us, others may not share this sentiment. More contact time may result in more conflict. Understanding why this happens and what we can do about it is important, lockdown or not.
In our previous post, we reported the top stressors that participants from the Global Covid Study found were most concerning during lockdown. In our recent Instagram poll, we found that over 70% of voters experienced household conflict during lockdown. So this a genuine concern.
So what causes conflict in the first place?
While there may be many reasons, research has identified the following roots of cause that may be particularly salient during these challenging times:
- Misperception: believing something to be true without definitive proof. For example, believing your sister is lazy for leaving dirty dishes in the sink when in reality, she received an important phone call just as she was getting started.
- Difference in opinion: you are annoyed at your sister for leaving dirty dishes in the sink while she thinks it’s not a big deal.
What can be done?
It’s easier said than done, but here are some good reminders:
The best way to address a problem without turning it into a personal attack or argument is to stay calm. When you feel yourself getting angry, deep breathing is an effective technique that eases stress. You can also try counting to 10 before responding to a loaded comment or even leaving the room and returning once you feel more relaxed. Another effective tip is to ask yourself the following question: ‘What will this achieve?’ More often than not, the answer is greater conflict.
LET THINGS GO
If you do lose your cool, don’t fret. This happens to the best of us. However, what is more important is that you move on from it and let things go. Research has shown that allowing conflict to cause a rift between you and another person while isolating together won’t be conducive to either of your mental health. Further research has identified cognitive reasoning as an effective technique to keep arguments at bay. This is when you assess a situation from a third-person’s perspective to re-evaluate personal opinion. By reasoning cognitively, you may realise that you are in an ‘emotional’ state and that your behaviours and words are driven by emotion over reason and rationality. Research has also shown that this will in turn help you avoid saying something horrible you don’t mean.
With regard to family life, letting things go is of particular importance. Research has shown that household conflict can have adverse effects on children including sleep disturbance, anxiety, conduct problems and academic problems. It is important to recognise that although it is perfectly normal for parents and guardians to argue, engaging in frequent and unresolved conflict is what the literature identifies as negatively affecting children the most. Moreover, if the conflict is explicitely about children, research has shown children tend to blame themselves leading to feelings of guilt and sadness. So resolving conflict is an all round win-win solution!
FOCUS ON THE NEW OPPORTUNITIES
The suggestion of a silver lining in a time of crisis can sometimes feel condescending. An inherently unpleasant situation doesn’t always warrant a ‘something good always comes from something bad’ approach. However, after accepting that lockdown gives rise to conflict, we can also accept that it has provided some of us with unique opportunities. Young adults who have moved back into their family homes, for example, are able to reconnect with family. It can feel quite nice to go for walks together, watch movies and simply hang out as a family more than you usually would. Therefore, don’t let conflict stop you from exploring the unique opportunities lockdown presents. You may surprise yourself and feel rather comforted.
Remember, the glass is always half full and it is your perception that can keep things in perspective. A small dose of household conflict is normal, but the key lies in knowing how to come to a resolution quickly.
This post was written by Ms Ketki “Keya” Prabhu (@kkprabhu), a third year student on the BSc in Psychology with Education degree at UCL with minor comments from Dr Keri Wong (@DrKeriWong).
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