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Lifeline Connections

Healthy Family Relationships and Mental Health

Healthy Family Relationships and Mental Health. While earning my B.S. in Marriage and Family Life I was so fascinated about how mental health and families are intertwined. What seemed so unique about familial relationships vs. any other relationship was their ability to provide all of the necessities of life for any one individual. These necessities include all physical, mental, emotional, and social connections that can help an individual become functional, healthy, and a great contributor to society.

However, as many, if not all, of you may know, these relationships can also disrupt the acquisition of those necessities and cause or at least foster unhealthy habits that will lead to dysfunction and poor mental health and vice versa.

Why does this happen?

There isn’t a simple answer. In fact, according to the Family Systems Theory, it happens because of a number of different factors like: the personalities of each individual, ethics among the family members, actions from each family member, socioeconomic status, and so on. To say that there is a perfect formula to distinguish how a family works better than another would be just completely false. Many families have stressful situations but report happiness. Others have relatively few dysfunctional aspects and report unhappiness.

What I can tell you is this: it is possible to be happy and to enjoy good mental health when you are spending time with your family even if it caused stress for you in the past. As always, this has everything to do with how you handle the situations you may be in.

If there is a family member that you particularly struggle to interact positively with, it doesn’t hurt to limit our time with them or at least do some consistent unwinding after spending many hours together. Exercise, reading, writing in your journal, these are all healthy ways to spend time alone and reflect. The holidays don’t just have to be about family time, they can also be about reconnecting with the things you love to do as well as a little self-love. If it helps you to take a nap or bake some treats, then do it and enjoy every minute.

But maybe there isn’t a simple fix to maintain your personal peace. After all, there are many reasons to completely avoid certain family members or to keep yourself from certain situations. But if you are feeling like you want to make your family relationships work in the future, consider these tips:

  • Before you attend a family event where things might be tough on you, contemplate your boundaries and write them down in a journal. This will make it much easier to communicate your boundaries with members of your family when the time comes.
  • Remember that mental health is greatly affected by physical health. If you are feeling down or weepy, assess whether you have been taking care of yourself. Have you been eating well? Sleeping well? Exercising? The holidays tend to be prime time for slacking in these areas and they may be the real culprits for a bad mood when you are spending time with your family.
  • Be optimistic. This isn’t always easy, but starting off the holidays with a negative outlook will only give you reasons to find fault in everything, which leads to anxiety, depression, and at the very least disappointment.
  • This sounds odd, but I find that in my preparation for a holiday get together with family, I am almost always better off when I accept the fact that things will not go exactly the way I want. I have been practicing lowering my often unattainable expectations and it has done a lot in terms of learning to feel happy even when the difficult things haven’t changed a bit.

Maintaining healthy relationships will greatly foster your best mental health. However, maintaining your mental health will also greatly benefit your relationships. Take care of yourself but also know that it takes work in a relationship to fully reap the greatest blessings of it.

If you live in or near Vancouver, WA or Portland, OR and you are in need of mental health counseling or residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation, we are here for you. Here at Lifeline Connections, we create a personalized recovery program to assist you to living a cleaner, healthier life. Whatever questions you may have you are welcome to call or email us anytime.

Phone: 360-397-8246 ext. 7580



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