How To Maintain Healthy Relationships (From A Distance)

The difficulties of social isolation can complicate relationships with those suffering from mental health issues and addiction. Here are some strategies for maintaining healthy relationships, even from a distance.

Having a meaningful relationship with a loved one facing mental illness or addiction is tough under normal circumstances.

Nowadays, the isolation that comes with social distancing has created a new set of challenges for people with mental illness and for those who care about them.

However, there are healthy ways to stay involved in your loved one’s life, either in-person or from a distance.

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Understand Your Loved One’s Condition

It’s unwise to believe the stigma that’s out there about mental health issues. Your loved one is still a person worthy of love and respect, and a healthy relationship is possible.

On the other hand, it helps to educate yourself on your loved one’s condition. The specific mental health or addiction battles your loved one is facing will result in a specific set of possible behaviors.

The more you understand about the diagnoses your loved one has, the better prepared you’ll be to love the person well.

Get Help Yourself By Expanding Your Network

You’ll be the most helpful to your loved one when you’re coping well. For this reason, we recommend expanding your own support network. Build up your connections with your existing friends and family, and do the same with others in your loved one’s life.

By building up a network of others who can help you and your loved one, you’ll serve your loved one well. You’ll also better position yourself to help when no one else can.

Strategies For Coping With Isolation

Social isolation creates some unique challenges to maintaining healthy relationships. The above tips are important, but they must be paired with practical strategies for coping with isolation.

Here are a few strategies you can use:

Use Technology To Keep In Touch

If your loved one is in a residential facility, there may be limitations on visitors right now. And those who live independently but suffer from anxiety or similar mental health conditions may be unwilling to meet up in person at this moment.

Thankfully, there are plenty of technology tools and platforms that can help us keep in touch. You may already be relying on these in your other relationships. Depending on your loved one’s access to technology, consider using:

Video chatting tools:

  • Zoom
  • Skype
  • FaceTime
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Google Hangouts/Duo

Video/audio/text messaging tools:

  • Voxer (audio messages, not real-time)
  • Marco Polo (video messages, not real-time)
  • Hangouts

Meet Up At The Park

There are plenty of ways to socialize in an outdoor park while maintaining social distance. If your loved one can abide by the guidelines, consider a trip to a local park.

You and your loved one will get that needed face-to-face human interaction. And the fresh air and sunshine will help you both, too.

Have A Tailgate Party

If you and your loved one aren’t socially distancing together, a face-to-face conversation could do wonders for strengthening your relationship. One way to make this happen while enforcing strict space requirements is to have a “tailgate party.”

Find an empty parking lot (churches during the week are a good option). Everyone drives their own cars to the parking lot and stays in them. If you have a van or truck, you can sit in the back.

Even if you can’t physically touch one another, being close enough to read facial expressions and body language can be a powerful thing.

Reach Out For Help When You Need It

If your loved one is in need of a greater level of care or is facing addiction and co-occurring mental illness, we’re here to help.

Contact us to learn about our onsite and online addiction and mental health treatment programs.

National Alliance on Mental Illness - Mental Health Conditions

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