Family Mental Health in the Post-Pandemic World
The Coronavirus pandemic, and its associated self-isolation, have brought many concerns to the forefront for families and children. Due to the lockdown and self-isolation, all family members are now huddled together under one roof – for some families, all members already stayed together whereas, for some other families, children/parents have now moved into one home. This has led to increased face time and a lack of physical and mental space.
Daily routines, constriction of space, having time off from each other – all have been disrupted. On the other hand, families whose members stay in different cities/countries are feeling helpless because they are not being able to provide the required support. This is also a major cause for increased worry, anxiety about the safety of those family members.
Individuals and families, with their routine issues, are now battling new concerns such as financial loss, pay cuts, job/business uncertainity, monthly investments, financial loans, rents, dietary restriction. It feels even more helpless because there doesn’t seem to be an understanding at this point when things might bounce back.
Cause for Pause: The earth is healing! Environmental changes are visible with the pollution levels dropping, the sky is clearer, birds and animals are rejoicing! Human beings have finally stopped running and are stopping to talk, unwind, build self-awareness and deeper bonds with others.
This is the time to focus on physical, mental, emotional health. To improve physical health - Eat well and follow breathing and physical exercise, to improve mental and emotional health - express, share and understand each other rather than questioning dismissing, and alienating family members.
Tips to Face the Pandemic at an Individual Level:
In these turbulent times of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is natural to feel anxious, stressed, fearful and confused. The print and online media is presenting a grim picture. I encourage families to follow these tips to face the pandemic at an individual level.
Couples/Partners/ Single Parent in the house:
Our physical health is linked to our mental health, both contributing equally to our well-being. In turn, our children’s well-being is linked to our well-being. So, first and foremost – take care of yourself. Spend time with, talk to your confidant about your feelings and use this time to build on self-awareness and strengthen your relationships. Share responsibilities – household chores, child care, and emotional load. Take turns so that everyone can get enough rest.
Children in the house:
Educate your children on the safety precautions necessary to keep themselves safe. However, filter the information you share in front of them. So, limit watching Coronavirus-related news and discussing Coronavirus-related statistics in front of your children. Divide house duties and involve your children in household chores.
Elderly in the house:
The elderly generally have lower levels of tolerance towards change or bad news. They will easily panic with so much news floating around about the Covid-19 pandemic. It is extremely important to normalize the impact/effect of the Covid-19 pandemic for them. Try and keep their daily routine as close as possible to their normal one.
Tips to Face the Pandemic as a Family:
Each family is affected by the prevalence and spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. No one is sure what the future holds, whether it is being in lockdown or it is the change in their lifestyles. Allow all emotions in the house. Encourage each other, the elderly, the children to express and share their feelings. Some days one may feel frustrated, upset, depressed, helpless, fearful, anxious, scared – instead of dismissing them, try to acknowledge each other’s emotions. Encourage family members in the house to talk about different topics other than Coronavirus and the doom of self-isolation.
Make a timetable of the family’s daily routine that is filled with indoor activities; such as doing breathing and physical exercises, reading, watching TV, playing board games, catching up with family and friends through video/ audio calls. Ensure that if any of YOU parents are working from home, mark that time as – work from home, where you go into a separate space and are not to be disturbed by family members.
Create boundaries with your family. It is healthy to give each other space, it boosts individuality, independence, respect, and confidence for each family member, thereby strengthening the core of the family. Ensure that while there is family time (at meals, during chores, or in fun activities), you also spend some time apart. Creating and respecting boundaries ensure you avoid situations of conflict.
A time like this can lead to increased conflict between families or it can be a beautiful opportunity to build meaningful bonds with your children. You have been given the gift of time, use it judiciously. Spend time with the elderly and your children. Let everyone remember this as the best time of their lives where they got to spend time, develop deeper bonds, relax and make memories for life. Take care and stay safe!
About the Author:
Dr. Lubhana Malik is an Experienced Psychologist has been working in the field of marital and family problems and mental health for over a decade
She holds a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) focused in Intimate Relationships from Delhi University.
She seeks to proactively improve, build and strengthen personal relationships with one & one’s family in a safe environment and, in the process, help to de-stigmatize relationship counselling.
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