Relate and eHarmony report on self-esteem pre and post pandemic

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Jean Hill takes a look at how the pandemic has affected our sense of wellbeing and self-esteem and our relationships…

Whilst reading the research I began to wonder if feelings of wellbeing, anxiety levels and self-esteem are never static except perhaps with long-term depression. We react to changing circumstances and then seek to re-calibrate, find that equilibrium. That has obviously become trickier when dealing with the long-term impact of a pandemic.

Loving yourself sounds vaguely self-indulgent. Think of it as a self-help ritual. Feed the body and feed the soul. That might be about tuning in to mood music and reaching for the positives whenever possible. Try and eat healthily: try and keep a gratitude diary: celebrate the small achievements. Try and find a nature trail. Yoga, Pilates and Tai chi can often calm a troubled mind. Listen to the bird song, and enjoy (even dance) to pop music and/or listen to a little classical music too. Whatever works for you.

Celebrate those wonderful friendships that see you through hard times (as you support those friends when in need). Cherish your family. Pay someone a compliment (why hesitate). Smile when you meet someone. Look for the redeeming features. When I lived in Canada, folk used to say (after a bit of a debacle): ‘pick yourself up and just fail better, until you succeed’. Relate offers counselling sessions to people who need support because a pandemic can cause havoc with a person’s sense of well-being.

Relate across Cheshire, Merseyside & Greater Manchester encourages people to work on loving themselves.

‘The Way We Are Now 2021’, is a report released by leading relationships charity Relate and relationship experts eHarmony during Relationships Week (5-11 July). These are its findings.

The Covid-19 pandemic appears to have contributed to a split in self-esteem levels. Just over a fifth of respondents in the North West say their self-esteem has decreased compared with pre-pandemic levels. A similar percentage said it had increased. In Greater London, almost a third (31%) reported an increase in self-esteem levels. This compares to 21% across the UK as a whole. The Welsh appear to be struggling with self-esteem the most, almost a third reported a decrease and just under a fifth reported any increase. 

The report combines insights from counsellor focus groups and consumer polling, and  website and service data. It considers how single people and couples have reacted to lockdown easing and identifies key attitude and behaviour changes. As well it offers tips from counsellors for building healthy relationships with yourself and others.

The research found that adults surveyed across the UK recognise the importance of good self-esteem and with almost two thirds (64%) of adults surveyed agreeing that self-esteem is linked to success in a romantic relationship. This rose to 68% for people living in the North West. That’s why Relate across Cheshire, Merseyside & Greater Manchester is using Relationships Week and beyond to encourage people to work on arguably the most important relationship of all: the one with themselves. 

Relate Cheshire, Merseyside & Greater Manchester Chief Executive Sarah Hall, said the pandemic appears to have contributed to a split in self-esteem levels: “A positive and balanced view of yourself is critical to overall wellbeing and building strong relationships of all kinds. It’s great that just under a fifth of people in the North West feel their self-esteem has increased but for others it has taken a big hit. As we focus on ‘getting back out there’ don’t forget to take some time to also focus on yourself. Learning to love yourself can mean different things to different people. It might be joining a face-to-face exercise class now that’s possible again. (Or)  saying no to a social engagement (that isn’t for you), or getting some support such as counselling.” 

Across the whole of the UK, the top reasons for self-esteem increasing compared to pre the Covid-19 pandemic were paying more attention to physical health (30%), realising how strong they are for getting through a pandemic (24%) and taking up a new hobby (24%). For those who said their self-esteem decreased during the pandemic, this was driven by inability to socialise with friends and family (almost half), money worries (4 out of 10) and not prioritising physical health (4 out of 10). Comparison with others on social media (over a fifth) was another key factor. Low self-esteem is currently more prevalent among women than men. Nearly a third of women said their self-esteem decreased compared to pre Covid-19 pandemic levels. Whereas only just under a fifth of men said the same.  

These findings are supported by Relate’s own website data which shows their page on low self-esteem has recently seen a 125% increase in page views. This suggests people are keen to work on their self-esteem now we are emerging from lockdown. Relate’s own data shows that the number of 18-34 year olds attending counselling on their own at Relate has increased since before the pandemic. They want to encourage even more Millennials and Gen-Zers to get in touch by accessing their online self-help content.  Attending services such as individual counselling to work on issues relating to low self-esteem, friendship and finding love is also a viable option for those who seek support..

Self-help for singles 

The report shows over two in five single people said they either have or are more likely to enter into short but intense romantic relationships with one or more people since restrictions have relaxed. Three in ten of single people surveyed said they make more effort to learn from previous mistakes and/or recognise unhealthy romantic patterns than they did pre the Covid-19 pandemic. Over a fifth (23%) of people use self-help resources including books, online quizzes or advice from wellness influencers more than they did prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Interestingly, 18–34-year-olds surveyed were the most likely to say that they use self-help resources more than before the Covid-19 pandemic (nearly a third).

Over a quarter (28%) of single people who said they are more likely to enter into short but intense romantic relationships since restrictions have relaxed said it’s because they now have a better sense of what they want from a relationship. A similar number (around a quarter) don’t want to waste any more time. However, sex presents an issue for some. One in four  feel ‘out of practice’ in the bedroom, while over one in eight (13%) are not ready to be intimate again.

Rachael Lloyd, relationship expert at eHarmony said: “Lockdown was hard for a lot of people, but it also gave singles the time to work out who they are and what they’re looking for in a partner. While it’s only natural that some people feel nervous about having sex again, lockdown has also created a boom in more meaningful dating, with people keen to find real substance. At eHarmony, we’ve seen this kind of thing happening before…Traumatic environmental events invariably lead to spikes in dating and people wanting to connect deeply with each other.”  

The state of Britain’s relationships 

Looking at those in relationships, the pandemic has sped up how quickly couples are reaching common relationship milestones including saying ‘I love you’ for the first time: 68%. Those getting a pet: 59%. Those buying a house together: 58%. Those getting engaged: 63% and trying for a baby:61%.

For couples who have been in a relationship for a year or longer and whose quality of relationship has got better post the Covid-19 pandemic, reasons include more quality time together as a family (nearly half). The opportunity for more open and honest conversations (that improve the quality of the relationship with their partner: 37% and a spike for some in how often they have sex: one in five.

Over one in eight respondents, however, are left feeling that the quality of their relationship has worsenedthrough the pandemic.  The report found that one in ten UK adults agreed that having more time apart due to lockdown lifting will help their relationship.

Relate Cheshire, Merseyside & Greater Manchester Chief Executive Sarah Hall adds: “A key issue we see in counselling is partners not prioritising quality time together. Lockdown meant this was no longer a bone of contention but as restrictions ease and calendars get busier, making time for one another requires a more concerted effort.” 

‘The Way We Are Now’ report has been released.  People can access self-help content on learning to love yourself beyond Relationship Week (which has now ended). Information on services to help boost self-esteem is available.

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