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Tackling Stress Generationally: Destressing Together as a Family

Updated: Apr 13

Written by Aneesha Perkins, PsyD & Charmain Jackman, PhD

April is National Stress Awareness Month, and a family that de-stresses together could grow stronger together. Turning inward and isolating when stressed out is very tempting. However, turning towards your family (blood or otherwise)  and working through stressful times together could improve your overall mental and emotional well-being.

Check out seven (7) strategies to shake off that stress together:

1.) Put on your dancing shoes —There’s something about moving your body to your favorite songs. So why not ask your family members to share their favorite songs, create a family playlist, or invite everyone over to dance the night away? Not only are you helping improve your physical health, but you are also developing and modeling generational health amongst your family with the power of movement.

2.) Prepare your favorite family meal — Good nutritional and soulful food in your belly makes your heart smile, right? So why not gather your family, come together in the kitchen, and ask everyone to prepare different dishes (e.g., appetizers, entrees, and desserts). Ask the elders to share their favorite recipes, and ask the youth to pick a new recipe they’d love to try – work together to bring the recipes to life!

3.) Take a family walk in nature — Walking in nature is another beautiful way to deepen family bonds and promote a healthy lifestyle. Research shows that we spend 90% of our life indoors (Environmental Protection Agency), yet the need to get outdoors to reap the benefits of mother nature is needed now more than ever. Whether taking a walk in a nearby park, a local arboretum, or public garden, walking together helps to reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus, and support mood regulation. Next time you have a family dinner, schedule a time to walk afterwards. A bonus is that walking helps with digestion.

4.) Family game night — Play is a proven stress-reduction tool and antidote to stress. Play generates happiness hormones such as Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Endorphins (see below).  I can still fondly remember a multi-generational family game night we had over 15 years ago. There were a few friendly disputes, but it was so much fun. In addition to the positive memories we created together, the  laughter and time together generated enough oxytocin and endorphins to last a lifetime. 

Consider alternatives to game night. For example, if you are looking for an alternative to game night and you want to engage in intentional conversations about self-care and stress reduction, try the My Time To Thrive card deck to get discussion prompts, stress-less exercises, and empowering quotes that prioritize mental wellbeing.

5.) Breathe it out —Deep breathing is undoubtedly beneficial to regulating and resetting one’s nervous system, especially during times of stress. As a family, there is great value in practicing regulation skills together. Check out this breathing video led by Dr. Jackman, gather your family over Zoom or in person for 5 to 10 minutes, and take a few deep breaths together.

6.) Work on a family project — There has to be some home or community project that sparks the interest of you and your family. Whether it’s planting a garden, passing out care package kits to the unsheltered, or volunteering at a local shelter – gather your family to spend a few hours together for a meaningful cause that aligns with your family values or interests.

7.) Visit a museum—There’s nothing more adventurous and enriching than learning about something new at a museum. Now, ask a few of your family members to join you and make a group trip out of it. Many museums across various states offer days in which entry is free—check out your local locations and give yourself and your family an opportunity to destress by taking their minds off of their day-to-day challenges with some enrichment.

While science shows us that stress can be passed through generations, there is an opportunity to change your family narrative and pass down healthy coping strategies. Working through stress as a family can be good for your mind, body, spirit, and soul. Specifically, it can be good for your nervous system.  Let us know some other great activities that you and your family engage in to destress together!

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