Nurturing our relationships during the coronavirus pandemic

Page last reviewed: 16 December 2021

The Mental Health Foundation is part of the national mental health response during the coronavirus outbreak. Government advice designed to keep us safe is under constant review and will be different depending on where you live: more details and up to date information here.

The pandemic continues to affect our lives, including our relationships with family, friends, colleagues and others.

We may still feel wary about the risks of visiting or being visited by loved ones, visiting shops, gyms or cafes, or even leaving our homes. This may be especially true if we have a disability or long-term health condition that makes us more vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus.

Losing face-to-face contact with people can feel stressful and may be worrying, frightening or even unbearable. Not getting enough contact can leave us feeling lonely and alone with our problems.

At a time when we all face ongoing uncertainty about coronavirus, it’s worth trying to be extra patient and understanding with each other and ourselves. 

Many tips about how to maintain good relationships are as relevant and important now as before the pandemic.

For instance, all five of the Mental Health Foundation’s top tips for nurturing healthy relationships can still make a big difference:

Give time - put more time aside to connect with your friends and family. 

Be present - this means really paying attention to the other people in your life and trying not to be distracted by your phone or your work or other interests.

Listen - really listen to what others are saying and try to understand it and to focus on their needs in that moment. 

Let yourself be listened to - honestly share how you are feeling, and allow yourself to be heard and supported by others. 

Recognise unhealthy relationships - harmful relationships can make us unhappy. Recognising this can help us to move forward and find solutions. 

During this strange and difficult time, it’s also worth considering additional ways to protect our relationships and try to cope a bit better with some of the relationship problems the virus creates. 

Stay connected

Stay in touch however you can, whether that’s through phone calls, emails, text messages or letters, for example. Hearing a familiar voice or reading a message from people we care about helps us feel more connected. This is important for our mental health, especially for people living alone who may be feeling lonely, isolated and afraid. 

We don’t all feel confident or comfortable with video technologies like Skype, Zoom and WhatsApp video but seeing a friendly face can help us feel more connected.

This might be a time when younger people can help older relatives, friends and neighbours to use the internet and enjoy some of the ways it can let us stay connected with each other and the wider world. Age UK has a useful guide to making video calls with different apps.

If you want to make new connections with other people, online communities can be ideal for this. They can be extremely supportive, although it’s worth remembering they are not always safe places. 

There are a vast number of online communities out there. You’ll find everything from general interest communities like Mumsnet to more specialist communities focused on, for instance, football, particular health conditions, fitness, politics, local areas, cookery, relationships and rock music.

Mind’s Side by Side is a supportive community where you can talk about your mental health. Our page on peer support has more suggestions.

Join together to support others

Getting involved in local efforts to support people who are more vulnerable during the pandemic is good for helpers, as well as those they’re supporting. You could join your local COVID-19 mutual aid group, or volunteer as a telephone befriender for the Silver Line, for example. Contact local groups or charities you care about to see what opportunities they have.

Our page on random acts of kindness has more about the joy and inspiring effects of helping people in our communities and beyond.

Create some rules and routines

If you live with other people, it’s easy to feel irritated or overwhelmed by constant togetherness. It may help to agree who is going to use which parts of the home and when, especially if you need to work and/or look after children. 

Make the best use of the physical space you have. This may mean planning your day, discussing how to share communal rooms, being aware of others’ needs or just doing things a little differently. Similarly, it may help to divide up household tasks such as washing up, cleaning and food shopping. Having a daily routine may help us to feel more in control and less anxious.

Going outside each day, if you’re able to, is important for your mental health. So is being in nature, for example seeing trees and birds, or visiting a park, lake or river.

Keep talking and listening

Think about setting aside time each day when everyone at home can say how they are feeling - for instance, they could share what they have found most difficult and what they are grateful for that day. 

Sharing feelings, without fear of being criticised or told off, can help us feel calmer and closer to each other. We’re all affected by the pandemic and may be feeling more anxious or irritable than usual, perhaps without even realising why.

This includes children. Here is our guide to talking to them about the coronavirus. 

Our guide to supporting someone with a mental health problem includes a section on ‘talking about mental health’, which may be helpful for talking to anyone who is particularly distressed about the pandemic and finding it hard to cope with everyday life. 

We all need to talk, listen and care for each other and ourselves, building on what brings us together and what we want to see in the future.

Find out more about how to look after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak using our coronavirus hub.

If you want to develop a personalised plan for supporting your mental health you can visit the Every Mind Matters site, developed in collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation.

If you need to talk confidentially you can call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. We also have a resource on how to get help for your mental health.