For those of you quarantined with your partner, this has probably been an eye-opening experience no matter how long you’ve been together, even for those in long-term relationships. It might have been eye-opening in a positive way or… not (but that’s a separate blog, so stay tuned). Either way, we have to recognize how stress can impact us physically and mentally. This can include increased irritability, mood swings, fatigue, overreactions to minor annoyances, and so much more. The American Institute of Stress has a list of 50 common signs and symptoms of stress .
YES, there are 50 COMMON signs of stress.
In the same way your partner might be showing signs of stress and annoying you, most likely (if you are being honest with yourself), you are doing the same to them. It’s easy to get caught up in the negatives, especially in times of stress. This is why it is so important to try to have compassion for yourself and others during this difficult time. Now more than ever, it is important explore intentional ways to increase positive, quality connection time with your parnter.
Three ways to help manage stress are with Mindfulness, Mastery, and Movement (the 3 M’s). Not only do these tools help with your own self-regulation, but working on them with your partner has the added benefit of co-regulation. You’ll feel more calm and peaceful together!
Quarantine Date Night ideas to help reduce stress while increasing connection
Candlelight Yoga. Yoga in a great way to integrate all of the 3 M’s, while also creating a relaxing and romantic environment.
Indoor Picnic. This could be a day, afternoon, or nighttime picnic, as long as you are together and NO PHONES!
Mindful Eating. Using your 5 senses, explore the experience of eating different types of food. Pay attention to the texture, smell, color, shape, crunch, taste. Once you master this, try Mindful Feeding where you and your partner take turns feeding each other. The person getting fed closes their eyes and has to guess which food they received.
5-5-5 technique. This technique involves finding 5 things you can see, hear, and feel. Using this technique, challenge yourself to find something you haven’t noticed about your partner. Is there a freckle or beauty mark you never noticed? Does their hair look different? Do the lines on their palm make a shape you never noticed before? Get creative. Put your ear to their chest and listen to their heart and how they are breathing, as 2 out of the 5 things you can hear. Ask for a hug. What do you feel? Do you feel the warmth of their chest to yours? Their chest moving up and down from breathing? Their hands on your back? Is your heart beating faster or slower? What about your breathing/chest moving? Again… get creative!
Back to Back. Sit with your backs touching, and without talking try to match each other’s breathing. The goal is to breathe in and out at the same time. Then, hook your left arm with your partner’s right arm and your right arm with their left arm. This time, with talking allowed, try to work together to stand up.
Trust Walk. Blindfold each other and take turns leading each other around the house with a specific end goal. You can write a note to one another and place it somewhere in the house (out in the open). With them blindfolded, you can physically guide them into the room, and once in the room, let go and only direct them verbally until they are able to pick up the letter. You can read the letter once the person finds it, or wait until you both found them and read the letters together. For a bigger challenge, do this activity, but instead of one note, leave small messages on 5 sticky notes in different rooms/ areas.
Back Messages. NOT massages (at least not yet). Take turns writing words on each other’s backs, while the person has to guess what the other one wrote. This requires a lot of focus on each movement of your SO’s finger or hand. Yes, we want to try to make an accurate guess, but don’t get so caught up that you miss focusing on just being present and enjoying the time with your SO. This is also a great time to communicate your needs. Do you need less or more pressure? Would it be helpful if they wrote one larger letter on your back at a time, or the whole word using smaller letters across your back?
Back Massages or Rubs. NOW the massages! Massages can be a great start or end to a Date Night, and can also help reduce some of the tension carried in our bodies throughout the day. Do this mindfully! Using all of your 5 senses, whether it is your turn to give or receive the back massage. This is another time when you can communicate your needs, and explain if you need less or more pressure or would like certain areas to be targeted more.
Gratitude Jar. Get a jar or box you are no longer using, and agree with your SO to identify this as the “gratitude jar.” Each day throughout the week, both of you will write one thing you are grateful for about the other person. It can be specific to that day or in general. Then at the end of the week, you both can read these moments of gratitude during your Date Night!
Learn a New Dance. This also incorporates all of the 3M’s, and is a great way to have fun while also overcoming some challenging moments together. Remember that mindfulness is not about being in a perpetual “calm” state, as you can be mindful even when frustrated, angry, upset, etc. It involves being curious about that feeling and noticing (i.e. where are you feeling it in your body, how are your thoughts and breathing changing, etc.) versus reacting to it. Think about this as you are learning something new together, and know it is okay for these emotions to come up. Emotions do not “ruin” the activity, but our responses to our emotions can result in a need to take a break or stop for the day. It’s also okay to laugh at ourselves and make mistakes. You are not entering a competition, so relax, have fun, and even be silly!