Self Care: an opportnity for the family

Living with a chronic illness can be an isolating feeling. You will undoubtedly need to overcome challenges, as well as accept and adapt to new realities. Mental health disorders can be considered chronic conditions and affect tens of millions of people each year, including children.

When an individual is impacted by mental illness the people closest to them in life are as well. But support from family and loved ones is a crucial part of restoring and maintaining good mental health. Making self-care a priority in your family’s routine can strengthen and sustain the entire family’s well-being.

Luckily, there are a number of ways that the entire family can take part in self-care:
Educate each other.
In many cases, family members and other close loved ones are the first to recognize changes in each other’s mood and behavior. When there is a complete understanding of the struggles that someone is facing, there is less of an opportunity for feelings of isolation and misinterpretation of actions and attitudes. Empower the whole family to use education to create an environment of camaraderie. You may not know where to start - and that’s okay! There are free, family-friendly mental health materials that easily introduce information and share personal experiences of others who have also been affected by mental health conditions. It’s comforting to know others are out there and that they have made it through this journey.

Embrace expressive outlets.
There can be a point where words will not suffice. Sometimes feelings are so intense or unfamiliar that we have a hard time explaining them. Encouraging your family to find a creative outlet to channel their feelings will reduce the risk of internalizing intense emotions. Whether each of you keeps a journal, creates music, or makes art through drawing or painting - you will give voice to experiences and feelings not easily expressed through spoken word. Creative outlets provide safe and productive ways to de-stress and manage emotions.

Remedy your mind with exercise.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness affirms that family has a big influence on how we perceive exercise and mental health: “Exercising as a family not only gets the entire family moving to reap the benefits of exercise but also models healthy beliefs about physical activity and improves family relationships.” There’s no need to be a family of star athletes to begin and enjoy exercising. Nor do you need to have hours on end of spare time to get moving. Building physical activity into your family’s routine can be as simple as a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood, or, as entertaining as having a dance party or teaming up for a local “fun run” with paint or bounce house themes. When enticing, exercise has the power to enhance mood and energy, combat stress, increase self-esteem, and improve social relationships.

Recovery is a family effort. It takes a lot of energy from all members even if you don’t realize it at first. Taking care of your mind and body will only make you more energized and ready to face whatever tasks the day brings. A strong family unit is essential, work together and be a support system.

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