Looking after yourself...so you can look after your family
Looking after our emotional health is more important than ever. The constant changes and worrying daily news updates can make us feel anxious and be unsettling for the whole family. These tips will hopefully make it easier to maintain positive relationships with our family, and provide a toolkit of ideas to help us reduce anxiety and stay calm.
- Try to keep active. Activity boosts both our physical and mental health. We all have different preferences; perhaps it’s online yoga, dancing to your favourite tune or whizzing round with the hoover. If you’re at home with children think about doing a fun, family activity. Maybe do an online workout together or go for a brisk walk around your neighbourhood – always remembering to keep a 2 metre distance between members of your household and other people, and to wash hands as soon as you return.
- Go easy on yourself and your child if you are home-schooling. This is new for all of you and staying healthy and happy as a family are your priorities. Your child’s school will have suggested learning ideas and activities for you to share with your child. Introduce these gradually, without putting pressure on you and your child to complete them – aim to keep it fun and stop when your child has had enough. If you can manage 2 hours ‘learning’ a day in different chunks, that is plenty. And remember that lots of games and activities you do as a family – from talking to reading stories to cooking – are all supporting your child’s learning and development. There are some good resources from BBC Bitesize for primary age children to support you with homeschooling https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize
- A daily routine can help us all to adjust to a new situation or environment. Having a rough plan for the day can also help family relationships. Explore together what new routines might look like. If children are doing schoolwork or adults are working at home, think about a start and end time as well as building in regular breaks.
- Try to stay calm. We are role models - children notice and copy what they see around them, so if we try to stay calm, then there’s a good chance that they will too.
- If you are able to take daily exercise outside, this a great way to break up the day, experience a different environment and recharge your batteries. If you have to stay at home, open the window, look outside and take some deep breaths. Listen to the sounds through the open window, what do you hear or notice? Meditation can also help us to focus on the present; there are apps available to help if you haven’t tried it before.
- Make time to connect with family and friends. Feeling close to other people (even virtually) is a basic human need and helps to reduce any sense of isolation. Discussing concerns and talking about how we’re feeling can help us to see things differently.
- Take time to think about what may be going on beneath the surface. It’s very easy to react to our child’s or partner’s behaviour. However, if we dive beneath the surface, we might be able to get a sense of how they’re feeling and what may be causing the behaviour - perhaps they are feeling anxious or overwhelmed by the current situation. Responding with empathy and naming how someone might be feeling, such as, "You sound really fed up at the moment," can diffuse tension and increase understanding and closeness
- Think of ways to boost your batteries, have fun and create calm. Maybe a soak in the bath, read a book, take some exercise – even stroking your pet can help.
- Look after yourself, you’re worth it! Try to get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water and eat regular healthy meals where possible.
- If you have lots of thoughts buzzing round in your head, find a positive way to get them out. You could try writing a journal or drawing pictures. Sharing your worries with a close friend or relative may be helpful – try to do this when children are asleep or in another room.
- Be kind. Saying ‘thank you’, smiling, praise and kind words, a hug. Such actions can make everyone in your family feel loved and appreciated and help to strengthen relationships in these challenging times. Remember to be kind to yourself too. You’re doing the best you can.
More support is available from the Family Lives helpline: 0808 800 2222
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