Not many of us were prepared for the challenges we have faced over the past year. How our lives have changed would have been beyond comprehension in February 2020, but here we all are a year on, still adapting and doing the best we can despite having little control over the situation.
Our busy lives used to mean that we would spend time apart, seeing our family members at the start of the working day and then catching up at the end of the day. Now all of those things that we did separately are taking place under one roof, and without the normal support network, we had set up around us: teachers, work colleagues, family and friends.
People have lost jobs, and children have lost access to their friends. The pandemic may have affected us all in different ways, but the one thing that is clear is the increase in mental health problems across all sectors and age groups.
As a provider of mental health services, we have seen an increase in referrals for anxiety, depression and also from families who are struggling with the changes: disputes over homework, increased time spent online and gaming, fewer opportunities to get outside and burn off energy, being isolated from friends and family. Some families have had to face an extra burden due to the financial strain of lockdown due to being unable to work, furlough and redundancies. Creating further pressure on families to cope during lockdown.
What we have learnt is that it is easy to get despondent and feel that you have no control over making things manageable for you and the rest of the family. We have put together some tips for things you can do as a family to ease the pressure and work together to get through these challenging times.
Things you can do as a family to help
- Establishing a routine for everyone in the family provides structure to the day and helps everyone in the family to have productive days. Try a visual schedule on the wall so all members of the family can see what is coming up.
- Sleep is always essential, and getting enough of it will help keep everyone well rested and support their physical wellbeing.
- Physical activity is important for all members of the family. It can be a great way to relieve stress and release any pent up energy. If you can, encourage all family members to exercise outside: fresh air is another good stress release and breaks up a day working indoors.
- Get involved in creative activities as a family. This can include art, games or baking. It is important to do activities outside of school or work.
- Use this extra time as an opportunity to teach children essential life skills, such as cooking, washing up and washing clothes.
- Communicate with each other. When things get tense, inform other members, so everyone understands how each member of the family is feeling.
- Ensure every family member has a chance to have their own private space to be away from the family.
- Support children to stay in touch with their friends, so they have some level of social contact even if it is remote or socially distanced.
- Strong emotions are likely to be experienced in this challenging time. Allow these emotions to be expressed and felt. Then give time to talk about these feelings as a family.
- Discuss fears and concerns. These are very uncertain and anxiety-inducing times. Talk about these worries as a family and work through them together.
- However, sometimes things can become overwhelming for families, this is when seeking external support may be necessary. Here at Select Psychology, we do offer family therapy to help families who may be struggling through these tough times.
- Headspace supports users through a guided meditation to encourage relaxation and mindfulness.
- Samaritans, a helpline that provides support for people struggling with their mental health. It is a free helpline and is available to all.
- Cove helps people to express their mood by making music and storing the music to create a journal.
- Catch It is an app teaching people how to manage negative thoughts and emotions. Users are guided to help turn negative thoughts into positive ones, which boosts an individual’s mental wellbeing.
- Thrive an app, aims to relax users and reduce anxiety through interactive games.