Friday, 5 June 2020

Four Tips for Managing your Mental Health in Long-Distance Relationships

Ro offers advice for dealing with the challenges of a long-distance relationship whilst remembering to take care of your own mental health.
- Ro Crawford


Long-distance relationships are not unusual at university, and managing academic commitments, social life and other responsibilities can affect your mental health. As a year-abroader whose relationship has survived intact across the European continent, I’d like to offer up some tips on maintaining a healthy relationship and a healthy mind whilst at university.

1. Plan Ahead (If You Can) 
Speaking from my experience, nothing has had a more immediate effect on my mental health than an abrupt or unexpected change to my circumstances or habits. Going into a long-distance relationship, particularly when it didn’t start out that way, will be that much harder if you don’t face up to the difficulties coming your way beforehand and plan for how you’re going to deal with them together and individually. It’s important to discuss whether you’re both on the same page about being long-distance and that you both have the same expectations about exclusivity, for example, during your time apart.

2. Work Out a Schedule to Keep Talking 
Making and keeping routines can be a key factor in managing your mental health, and a big part of the planning for this time is working out when and how often you’re going to talk, perhaps over a call or video call, and when you’re going to travel to see each other (if this is practical and affordable for you, and only if and when travel is safe). One crucial benefit of establishing and following a routine is to enable a sense of stability, and as people in long-distance relationships often struggle with uncertainty, this is particularly important. Having the same expectations of how and when you’re going to talk or see each other is critical to maintaining a healthy level of communication. For example, you could agree to message when you wake up every day, to video chat every other day, or to make trips to see each other once a month.

3. Rely on Trust 
Trust is an essential part of any relationship, and when partners in a relationship are far away from each other, it’s even more crucial. Long-distance relationships can be susceptible to jealousy, as a lack of consistent communication and thoughts of your partner leading a life completely apart from yours can raise insecurities. Because of this, it’s crucial to maintain trust, which means having faith in your partner, and talking to them about your own insecurities. That’s not to say you should have blind faith in a long-distance relationship, but  building mutual trust is worthwhile and is likely to be much better for your mental health; doubts can easily exacerbate things like anxiety and low mood.

4. Maintain and develop your support system outside of your partner 
I’ve learned over time that the stability needed to manage mental wellbeing depends on having as broad a support system as possible. This way, if someone you usually talk to is unavailable for some reason, you still have somewhere else to turn. Particularly if you’re long-distance, it’s really important to maintain your individual lives outside of your relationship, so that you have a circle of support in place if needed. This also means you can avoid being overly reliant on your partner to the extent that you’re neglecting the more immediate aspects of your life. By making friends at uni or work and accessing support services like counselling if you need them, you can take some pressure off your relationship when it comes to your and your partner’s mental health needs.

Long-distance relationships are rarely easy, but often worthwhile. Hopefully, these tips can help you maintain a healthy relationship with your own mind, as well as a stable and balanced relationship with your partner. 

Click here to find more information about advice and resources on looking after your wellbeing during a year abroad.



 

I am a third-year student at the University of Oxford with a history of depression and anxiety. I hope that by sharing my experiences and the lessons I've learned I can help make somebody else's life a little bit easier. 

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