Whether you’ve got a serious case of cabin fever, are trying to parent and work at the same time, or feel increasingly anxious about negotiating trips to the supermarket or park, the resulting tension can mean that normal levels of courtesy and consideration are neglected.
Here’s Debrett's advice for keeping calm and carrying on, whether you’re at home, shopping, or out in public:
• Silence is golden: when two or more of you are working from home, make yourself as scarce and silent as you can. Set up work areas in separate rooms where possible, use headphones, and remember you don’t have to shout to make yourself heard on a video call.
• Caring means sharing: if you’re a couple working from home with small children, plan around each other to share childcare in a way that feels fair to you both. Make sure you not only give each other time to work, but also some downtime to exercise, read, watch Netflix or simply stare at the wall.
• Pick your battles (and lower your standards): laundry basket overflowing? Sink full of washing up? Your co-habitants’ slovenly approach to their home environment might leave you fuming, but now is the time to let it go. After all, it’s unlikely that anyone else will be witnessing the mess for a good few weeks to come.
• Keep talking: all of us are lurching between good days and bad ones. If you’re feeling anxious and uptight, simply telling your partner or housemate can help ease any tension, and lets them know either to give you some space or to be a sympathetic sounding-board.
• Remember kindness matters: whether it’s a well-timed cup of tea, cleaning the bathroom when it wasn’t technically your turn, or complimenting your partner on their newly untamed lockdown hair, a little kindness goes a long way to ensuring household harmony.
Out and About
• Make way for others: confused about who has right of way? Avoid the ‘social swerve’ – the game of chicken before one of you eventually steps into the road – by being the first to move aside (assuming no oncoming traffic, of course). Particular consideration should be shown to wheelchair users, the elderly or infirm, and those with buggies or small children.
• Exercise (with) caution: if you’re out jogging or cycling, it might be harder for others to get out of your way in time. The onus is on you to ensure you’re allowing them enough space. Alternatively, save your exercise hour for the early morning or evening when it’s likely to be quieter.
• Say thank you: our instinct is to feel slighted if someone avoids us, but at the moment it’s the polite thing to do, so thank anyone who gets out of your way. Similarly, remember to thank shop staff and delivery drivers. Now, more than ever, they deserve our gratitude.
• Be patient: many shops, post offices and supermarkets are running a limited service, and queueing is therefore inevitable. Be patient and channel your inner calm: getting frustrated will only exacerbate the tension. Don’t be tempted to queue-jump or move forward prematurely, and don’t reach in front of someone for an item: wait for them to finish browsing first.
• Smile: it’s an anxious time, and as we all become less accustomed to venturing outside, we might feel inclined to avoid eye contact and stare at the pavement. Spread a little positivity by smiling (or, if you’re wearing a mask, nodding hello) to those you pass – from a suitably safe distance, of course.