The relationship between family and mental health is definitely interrelated. Mental health issues can put a lot of strain on relationships because it can be difficult for the other parties in the relationship to understand what the sufferer is going through. Family stress can make mental health issues worse, and add stress to already stressful lives.
Causes of Family Stress
Family stress can come from many issues, including poverty, relationship issues, health and gender roles.1 Family networks can be positive in a lot of cases, but they can also be a source of significant stress for some people. For example, families with step-parents or single parents often face more stress than those that are a more traditional unit.2
Coping With Stress
Even people who identify as loners will need a support network from time to time. For most people, a huge part of that support comes from their family. Most people tend to enjoy better mental health when they have a good support network. Take, for example, work-family conflicts, or support. Someone who faces a lot of work-family conflict will find themselves more stressed than someone who enjoys more support in that regard.3
While things are getting better, there is still some stigma surrounding mental illness. Doctors are working to reduce that stigma, and to ensure that families get the information and support they need in the event that someone they are close to suffers from a mental health issue.4
There Are No Perfect Families
Family stress is something that is getting talked about a lot more these days as people are seeing images of ‘perfect’ families on TV and on social media. It is easy to develop unrealistic expectations of what family life should be like. A lot of people post on social media about how happy they are and how much they love their partners. They don’t post about how they have had arguments, or how the in-laws are stressing them out.
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Arguments, fighting, fatigue and personal difficulties are common within families but are not something that people tend to share.5
Building Coping Strategies
Sometimes, family stress is out of your control. Sometimes, stress is caused by external circumstances. If you are working long hours and your partner feels neglected, that could cause arguments. If you are struggling financially then that may make things fraught too.
You cannot change how other people act or react to various situations, but you can alter how you approach those situations yourself. If you are struggling financially, try to find ways to cut spending without making people feel deprived. Focus on quality time together and activities that don’t cost a lot of money. If you and your partner are arguing because you are rarely at home, then see if you can find ways to trim your schedule. Say “no” to work trips, find hobbies that don’t require you to be out late at night. Make a point of being present when you are at home, talking to each other instead of sitting on the sofa with your mind focused on what’s on your phone screen.
When stressful things come up, communicate. It’s easy for families to argue because there is too much going on. Is your son’s football game more important than your daughter’s music lessons? Is your wife’s desire to do a charity 5K this weekend more important than your pub quiz? Agree on what things people want to prioritize. Some things may become traditions, and some things may actually have run their course and no longer be so important.
If you’re going through life changes (moving, having a child, etc) then you should focus on ways of reducing stress both short and long term. Being sleep-deprived can cause you to feel more stressed, and it is not uncommon for mothers to feel very stressed after the birth of their child because of the hormones that are going through their bodies.6
Put Yourself First
As obvious as it sounds, day to day self-care can be incredibly important for reducing stress. Getting enough sleep, eating right, and getting regular exercise can help you to clear your head and forget about your stresses, as well as making sure that you are thinking more clearly and less likely to respond negatively when something stressful happens.
Many people turn to yoga and aromatherapy as a stress coping mechanism. Something like the MONQ Happy blend, which promises “natural bliss” can be beneficial for helping you to find your center. A blend of fennel, thyme and vanilla, it helps people to concentrate better and feel more confident. Fennel has been found to help to reduce anxiety and stress.7 Vanilla has been found to have a calming impact too.8
Combining aromatherapy with regular exercise and with other stress-busting actions could go a long way towards improving a person’s quality of life.
There is no Need to Suffer
Some family stress is a normal fact of life. Interpersonal relationships can sometimes be a struggle. That does not mean that people need to stay in unhappy relationships, however. If you are in a relationship where you feel you are being controlled or bullied, then you do not have to accept that treatment. There is help available for people who are in abusive relationships. Whether you turn to your own personal support network or to organizations that help families in your area, there are options.9 If you feel that you are in an abusive relationship and you have children, then it is important that you seek help and find a safe way out for your own safety and for that of the children as well.
If you are struggling with your mental health then you should talk to someone. Whether that is your doctor, an online support network or an organization such as The Samaritans, you should know that you are not alone and there are people that are happy to help. Your mental health is worth investing in.
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