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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

Here’s How to Self-Isolate if You Live With Your Family

You're stuck in your home with the same group of people day in and day out for weeks on end. Here's how to make the most of it.

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Self-isolation is important

Social distancing isn’t easy for anyone, but it can be especially tricky when multiple people live together. Even if you’re besties or wildly in love with the person or people you’re home with, you’re going to need your space and time apart. We have some advice on how to navigate this new experience because while you can safely ignore etiquette rules during the coronavirus pandemic, you still have to be polite to the people you live with.

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Create a schedule

If you want your relationship to survive being quarantined for several weeks, you need to have a schedule that allows partners to spend time together—and apart, says Claire Barber, a certified mental health consultant and relationship expert based in Detroit, Michigan. A schedule is vital because it will help both individuals to still feel productive, Barber says. “Setting an alarm, getting up together, doing chores, keeping the house tidy, having some physical activity, and spending time alone are all important,” she says. Following a schedule is also one of the 13 golden rules for working from home.

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Plan for alone time

Be open and honest with each other about your emotional needs. “If you need time alone, voice it—and if you need attention, ask for that, too,” Barber says. While it can be hard to provide, solitary time in the form of a short solo walk or a soak in a tub—especially if you live in a small apartment in a city—is absolutely necessary. “Constantly being around anyone, including your partner can be stressful,” she says. Here’s how one therapist is staying sane while sheltering in place.

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Make time for exercise

Yes, you know that fitness is good for your body, but it also offers numerous benefits for your mind and overall well being. “There are a lot of emotions and uncertainty wrapped up right now and just doing some simple movements will get the blood flowing through your body and give you a jolt of energy,” shares Morgan Kline, co-founder of Burn Boot Camp. She urges everyone to resist the temptation of turning into a couch potato, as that could cause or worsen a sense of disconnection and loneliness. So whether you join an online streaming class like the ones Burn Boot Camps offers its members, or go for a jog on your own, you’ll reap the benefits. “Move your body and your body will thank you,” Kline says. Beginners could start with this 20-minute full-body workout that will give results in just four weeks.

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Create a social distancing version of your roommate agreement

Everything has changed with respect to your living arrangements, and this needs to be discussed, says Kendra Lehner, a communications associate for Common. “Just like in any relationship, transparent communication about what you’re comfortable with during this time will be the best way to find a middle ground and avoid any unnecessary conflict,” Lehner says. “Take time to sit down with your roommates and discuss how to best adjust your cleaning and personal space boundaries.”


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Get outdoors

Yes, you need to maintain a minimum distance of six feet from others, but taking a walk in nature is one of the most overlooked, yet most powerful things we can do, says Jennifer Walsh, leader of Wellness Walks in New York City. “We are experiencing the greatest migration indoors further separating ourselves from what our bodies and brains need to survive and thrive: nature.” Walsh goes on to share that spending time walking outdoors increases focus and energy levels, boosts immunity, and more. Learn 25 more ways you can relax that don’t cost a cent.

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Check-in daily

You may be living with your partner and seeing them 24/7, but you should still check-in on their emotional wellness daily. “The biggest challenges I’ve faced so far are the cases in which both spouses are looking at what’s going on with different lenses—one person thinks the sky is falling and the other thinks people are making a big deal about it,” Michele Weiner-Davis, a Boulder, Colorado-based marriage and family therapist told CNN. “When people have different perspectives, they have different ideas of what needs to be done, and the only way to work around that is to communicate.” These are 11 communication rules every couple should follow in their relationship.

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Make time for romance

Date nights to restaurants and movies may be out of the question, but romance doesn’t have to go out the window. Randy Schroeder, author of Simple Habits for Marital Happiness, told Parade that couples should go for walks together, cuddle while watching TV, and play board games in order to keep up the romance. One date night idea at home: These impressive but easy romantic recipes.

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Practice self-care

This is especially important if you are parenting young children, according to Zero to Three. You can’t parent calmly and successfully unless you are calm and mentally stable—so, self-care is essential. If you can, collaborate with your partner so you each have time to do something nice for yourself. If you don’t have another adult support person at home, do your best to practice self-care while your child is napping, before they wake in the morning or after they go to bed. These are the best self-care gifts for anyone in need of pampering.

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Validate disappointment

If you are home with teens, you’re going to be dealing with many emotions (plus, your own). A big one will be the disappointment they’re feeling: They may be missing their friends, their social life, their prom, and maybe even their graduation ceremony. This can lead to super grumpy teens. Help yourself by helping them: validate their disappointment, according to Childmind. Listen to them without any judgment and give them room to explore their feelings of loss.

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Accept growing pains

Some families have adult children living with them—or maybe grandparents moved back in with their adult children to save money or to receive help with childcare. In this case, you’re going to have to accept that there will be growing pains. Everyone is accustomed to having their freedom, yet most people revert to their former ways when they move back home. Plus, you’re going to have to get accustomed to new rules and new chores—and you may have to listen to the rules coming out of your parents’ mouths…again. Do your best to let the little things slide so everyone can get along better.

Danielle Braff
Danielle Braff regularly covers travel, health and lifestyle for Reader's Digest. Her articles have also been published in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Boston Globe and other publications. She has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and a master's degree in musicology from Oxford University in England. Danielle is based in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and two children. See her recent articles at You can follow her on Facebook @Danielle.Karpinos, Twitter @daniellebraff, and Instagram at danikarp.