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October 10, 2017 | Family Medicine
Stress is a common concern for many individuals, but it’s also a growing consideration for families as a whole. A 2010 study found that 73 percent of parents report family responsibilities as a significant source of stress, and the connections between high stress levels and health issues are well documented.
Children model the behaviors of their parents, including those for managing stress—good habits will be passed on, as will bad ones. Here are some tips to help the whole family to be both mentally and physically fit.
1. Evaluate Your Lifestyle
Children are more likely to observe a healthy lifestyle if the whole family commits to health changes, and they’re also less likely to associate stress with unhealthy behaviors. Ask yourself a few questions:
If you find that your habits are setting an unhealthy example for your family, start making goals to change—even if it’s a small step at a time. With the right adjustments, your whole family can emulate positive habits.
2. Communicate with Each Other
Strike up a conversation with your children if they look worried or stressed—ask them what’s on their mind and have regular conversations to check in. Low levels of parental communication can lead to poor decision-making among children and teens.
One great place for communication is the dinner table; try to have family dinner together as often as possible. A study showed children who eat with their families at least three times a week are 24 percent more likely to eat healthy foods and 12 percent less likely to become overweight. Another study showed that adults who sit down to family meals in the evenings report more satisfaction at jobs and higher levels of health.
3. Create a Healthy Environment
The home, workplace and other social environments can all have an effect on stress and how you react; making positive changes can help reduce these stressors. Consider cleaning cluttered environments and looking for ways to make common areas more relaxing. Teach children to do the same—this educates them about focusing on the things they can control when they’re stressed.
4. Make Health a Priority
It’s easy to fall into negative cycles during periods of stress, and these give way to unhealthy practices. Make it a family priority to take care of yourselves during these periods—maintain a healthy diet, proper sleep and regular physical activity. These areas of basic health can have a larger impact than you’d think on family stress levels.
5. Change Your Habits
As you move forward with de-stressing the family, you may have several big changes to make, e.g., a healthier diet, increased physical activity, better sleep habits or more time spent together as a family. But if you’re already feeling stressed, trying to add all these changes at once can add to it.
Instead, try to change one habit at a time. Look at individual areas you can focus on, then master them and move on to another when it’s appropriate. Seeing the success during this process will help energize the whole family to keep tackling new areas.
Revere Health Orem Family Medicine is devoted to comprehensive healthcare for patients of all ages, and committed to provide thorough and timely health care for the entire family throughout all stages of life.
“Managing stress for a healthy family.” American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/managing-stress.aspx
“5 Ways to Reduce Stress at Home.” Healthline. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/managing-stress.aspx
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.