Tag Archive for social media

Six Steps to Unhappiness (AND How to Avoid Them)

A recent study involving 1,230 people and several on-line surveys revealed six small steps that descend into “reduced life satisfaction” or unhappiness. I want to describe them to you so we can protect our families from that descent into “reduced life satisfaction.” The first step involves taking a materialistic approach to life, having a materialistic mindset. Unfortunately, our consumer-oriented society promotes a materialistic mindset. Advertisements encourage our desire for more things, new things, and improved things to keep up with the times.

That materialistic mindset promoted by a consumer-oriented society tempts us to compare ourselves with others. The stronger a person’s materialistic mindset, the greater their tendency to compare themselves with others. Our unconscious thoughts become “I need what makes them happy.” Unhealthy comparisons (are any comparisons healthy?) drive us to the second step on the descent into unhappiness.

Of course, an easy place to compare oneself to others is on social media, which leads to the third step toward unhappiness—passive use of social media. Scrolling through social media and passively looking at content posted by others provides the perfect environment for social comparisons. The scroller sees “all the things” others have that seemingly brings them happiness—material blessings as well as activities and interactions. Suddenly, I need those things to bring me happiness.

Passive scrolling pushes us down to the fourth step on our descent into unhappiness—addictive use of social media. The person begins to spend more time on social media and more time thinking about various social media platforms. With that, they quickly descend to the fifth step—increased stress. The fear of missing out grows. As we fear missing out on experiences and the objects/materials that “make” those experiences enjoyable, we find ourselves at the bottom of the stairs in the basement of unhappiness wondering how we got here.

None of us want to slide down these six steps. Nor do we want to find our spouse or children sliding down these steps. In fact, we would do well to block the stairs altogether so that no one in the family begins the descent into long-term unhappiness. With that in mind, here are five actions you can take to keep your whole family off the stairs to unhappiness.

  • Practice daily gratitude. I know it sounds almost cliché, but we live happier lives when we practice gratitude. Make it a point to look for opportunities to express gratitude to the people in your family, your neighbors, the cashier, the waiter…to everyone you can. A disciplined practice of gratitude will also replace complaints with gratitude. Rather than complain about traffic, express gratitude that you have a mode of transportation. Rather than complaining about the heat, give thanks for cold showers and air conditioning.
  • Focus on experiences rather than material things. Material things begin to weigh on us over time. They accumulate, cluttering space and demanding time for upkeep and cleaning. Experiences, however, allow us the joy of sharing with others, memories of times together, and often result in a sense of awe that inspires greater joy.
  • Focus on relationships rather than material things. We are a social people. It’s wired into our DNA, our essence. Even introverts enjoy time with other people. Whether you enjoy time with just a few people or with whole parties of people, our relationship remains crucial to our mental and emotional health. Studies reveal that those who nurture healthy relationships live longer and healthier. They bring us greater joy. We need relationships.
  • Learn contentment. Our society confronts us with a “paradox of choice” that threatens to leave us with a constant sense of dissatisfaction. We have so many options that we fear we may have chosen poorly, if the one I didn’t get would have been better. If we’re not careful, these choices will rob us of contentment. We have to make a decision to accept what we have, to feel gratitude for what we have. Sharing what we have with others may also increase contentment. Accept what we have. Express gratitude for what we have. Share what we have. It all combines to bring us contentment.
  • Use social media in an active manner rather than a passive manner. There is a difference between mindlessly scrolling through social media platforms (passive use) and searching for information or maintaining contact with friends and family (active use). Passive use will lead us into mindless scrolling for hours, leaving us with a sense of dissatisfaction and sadness in response to time lost, comparisons mindlessly made, and a desire for more. Active use helps us acquire useful information and to maintain social contacts, both of which can bring greater joy. Use caution though because active use can easily slip into passive use before we know it. Be as wise in your consumption of social media as you are in consumption of food. Consume a healthy diet of active use.

These five action steps demand intention and awareness, but they will keep you and your family off the six steps to unhappiness. They will keep you on the path of contentment, joy, and growing intimacy within your family.

A Two-Week Family Experiment

Does anyone in your family ever feel any anxiety, depression, loneliness, or fear of missing out (FOMO)? If you or your family have any of these feelings, let me suggest a 2-week experiment. Researchers at Iowa state University conducted this experiment with 230 participants and found it had a positive impact in just 2 weeks. Specifically, after 2 weeks of making this one change in their behavior, the participants reported lower anxiety, depression, loneliness, and FOMO. They also felt more positive emotions like excitement and pride. So, this one daily action led to both fewer negative emotions and more positive emotions. 

What did they do to produce these results? They attempted to cut back their social media use to 30 minutes a day. That’s right, they attempted to use their social media only 30 minutes a day. Notice I used the word “attempted.” The participants agreed to use social media only 30 minutes a day, but sometimes exceeded the 30-minute time limit.  Good news—even if they sometimes exceeded that 30-minute usage, they experienced the same results, fewer negative emotions and more positive emotions. It seems that simply putting in the effort to minimize social media usage and becoming more aware of one’s social media usage contributed to the positive results. 

If you think cutting back on social media usage sounds too difficult, let me offer some suggestions to help.

  • Increase your awareness of your social media usage. Set a timer. Use your phone settings to look up how much time you engage social media sites. Use a wellness app to monitor your time on social media. In whatever way you choose, the goal remains to increase your awareness of time spent on social media.
  • Be kind to yourself. Show yourself compassion. It’s not easy to make changes. Social media apps are designed to keep you engaged so it may prove difficult to make this change. Stick with it. Don’t give up. Even attempting to do this brings positive results.
  • Make it a 2-week experiment, not an indefinite change.  Do it for 2-weeks then assess how well you did and the impact on your emotions and relationships. Have your feelings of anxiety or depression lessoned? Do you find yourself enjoying more face-to-face interactions? Do you feel less lonely? Are you sleeping better?
  • If you don’t want to make it a lifestyle change, make it a “one-week-a-month change.” Even doing this for periods of time will have a positive effect. Take a social media vacation once a month or once a quarter…whatever you choose.

I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the impact that this experiment will have on you and your family. Less anxiety, less depression, less loneliness, more excitement…seems worth the try to me. 

Your Phone & Your Marriage

I’ve read many articles about the impact that smartphones and screentime have on our children and teens. However, they are not the only ones impacted by screentime. More and more, research suggests that screentime also impacts the quality of our marriages. In fact, 44% of married Americans under the age of 35 report their spouse is on the phone too much. This drops to 34% of married Americans between the ages of 35 and 55.

Perhaps more troubling, excessive phone usage interferes with the quality of a person’s marriage. One in five (21%) of married adults who believe their spouse is on their phone excessively report being unhappy with their marriage and having an increased worry of divorce. In addition, couples who report that screentime and phone usage pose a problem enjoy less sexual intimacy and fewer “date nights” compared to those couples who do not report a phone problem. (Statistics taken from More Scrolling, More Marital Problems.)

Overall, excessive phone use and screentime can rob you of a healthy, joyous marriage if you do not manage it wisely. Fortunately, you have the power to manage your screentime and its impact on your life. Consider the findings of a study from Swansea University. This study examined “the effects on physical health and psychological functioning of reducing social media usage by 15 minutes a day.” The participants were divided into three groups. One group reduced their social media usage by 15 minutes a day. The second group was asked to do something other than social media for 15 minutes a day. The third group simply continued social media usage as they normally would.

Ironically, the group asked to reduce social media by 15 minutes a day actually reduced their use by 40 minutes a day. The group asked to do something other than social media ended up increasing their social media usage by 25 minutes a day. The group asked to change nothing increased social media usage by 10 minutes a day.

More importantly, after three months those who reduced their social media usage exhibited a 15% improvement in immune functioning, a 50% improvement in sleep quality, and 30% fewer depressive symptoms. If reducing social media usage will impact an individual in these ways, imagine what it might do for your marriage. In fact, each of these improvements will impact marital quality in its own way through less irritability and more energy.

With all this in mind, here is a challenge (if you choose to accept it). Commit to reducing your social media usage by 15 minutes a day and use that time to connect with your spouse. Replace 15 minutes of social media usage with 15 minutes of conversation with your spouse, 15 minutes of snuggling with your spouse, or 15 minutes of holding hands with your spouse while you take a walk. Try it for the next month and discover a whole new level of intimacy in your marriage.

This Vacation Will Improve Your Family’s Mental Health (& You Don’t Even Have to Leave Home)

A team of researchers at the University of Bath published a study in May of 2022 that revealed a way to improve mental health and well-being in just one week. It’s not a cure-all, but it can make a difference. The study included 154 participants between the ages of 18- and 72-years-old. Researchers randomly assigned them to one of two groups. One group was asked to stop using all social media for one week. The other group continued “scrolling through” social media as usual. I don’t know about you, but “scrolling as usual” for me often occurs mindlessly. I go to Facebook or Instagram to check something simple and find myself scrolling for more time than I want. In fact, the average time spent on social media in the United States is about 2 hours and 6 minutes (See Average Time Spent Daily on Social Media (Latest 2022 Data) – BroadbandSearch for more statistics on social media use.)  That means that taking time off social media frees up an average of 2 hours every day. Imagine what you can do with 2 extra hours a day.  But that was not the objective of this study. Check out the results this study discovered.

Questionnaires completed before and after the week of the study showed that those who had taken a time off of social media showed a “significant improvement in well-being, depression, and anxiety.”  In addition, those who took a week off social media self-reported improved mood and less anxiety. Read that again. Those who took a week off of social media exhibited an overall improvement in well-being and a decrease in depression and anxiety.

Social media usage has increased dramatically over the last decade. In fact, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that we spend more time using social media than we do socializing, eating and drinking, or doing housework. (See Time Spent Daily on Social Media (Latest 2022 Data) – BroadbandSearch for more.) Not using social media for a week opens up time for you and your family to engage in many other things that might bring you greater joy and health. For instance, you might enjoy activities ranging from visiting the zoo or aviary to going to an amusement park to taking a raft down the river to having a picnic to enjoying a free concert to spending time with your family to… the list goes on.

So here is a challenge. Sit down with your family (maybe over dinner or a trip to the ice cream parlor) and discuss the findings of this study. As a family, pick a week to take a “social media vacation.” You might combine it with your family vacation; or you might choose a different week. Whichever you choose, be sure everyone agrees to take a week off social media. Plan some activities—fun activities, family activities, individual activities—to do during that week. Put the week and the activities on the schedule. Then do it…and enjoy it. After it’s all said and done, reconvene (another trip to the ice cream parlor perhaps) and discuss your experience. Who knows? You might end up deciding to take a one-week-social-media-vacation twice a year or once a quarter.

What the COVID Lockdown Taught Us About Our Children

We have heard a lot about the negative effects of the COVID lockdown on our children’s mental health; and that is definitely a concern we need to address. However, negative effects were not uniformly reported. Some studies suggested positive effects of the lockdown on our children’s mental health. This lack of consistency aroused the curiosity of Emma Soneson, a PhD student and Gates Scholar at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge. She and her colleagues collected data from over 17,000 students (age 8- to 18-years-old) participating in a large, school-based survey called the OxWell Student Survey. For this study, the students completed questionnaires about their experiences around the pandemic, school, home, life, and relationships at the end of the first lockdown. Based on their answers, the students fell into three categories, each continuing about one third of the participating students:

  1. Those whose well-being improved during the lockdown
  2. Those who experienced no change in well-being during the lockdown
  3. Those who experienced a deterioration in well-being during the lockdown

What was different for these three groups? The answer to that question may give us good information about how to promote our children’s well-being in general, pandemic or not. So what’s different?

  • Nearly half of those reporting improved well-being also reported feeling less lonely or left out. 41% reported improved relationships with friends (as opposed to 26% in the no change group and 27% in the deterioration group).
  • Over half [53%] of those reporting improved well-being cited getting along better with family members, as opposed to 26% in the no change group and 21% in the deterioration group).
  • Those who reported greater well-being also noted a decrease in being bullied. In fact, 92% of those reporting improved well-being noted a decrease in being bullied, compared to only 83% in the no change and 81% deterioration group. Interestingly, that’s a lot of people saying bullying decreased in their life during the lockdown.
  • Another factor involved sleep. 49% of those who reported improved well-being reported sleeping more (compared to 30% in the no change group and 19% in the deterioration group).
  • Those who reported greater well-being were also those who remained in school every day
    or nearly every day versus attending once or twice. (In many areas, those with special educational needs or those whose parents feared their child falling behind through cyber school remained in school.) Some factor contributing to this group noting greater well-being may include more flexibility to tailor teaching styles to meet different learning styles, smaller classrooms, more focused attention from teachers, later waking times since the schools often had later start times, and more freedom during the school day.

Overall, this provides important information about ways in which we can promote our children’s overall well-being. Here are some ideas.

  1. Provide places for your children to engage in healthy peer relationships. This may include various clubs, sports, activities, churches, or even having their friends to your house. Provide an environment that can promote positive peer relationships.
  2. Spend time with your children. Build a strong relationship with your child. Engage them in fun activities, not just work. Invest in their interests. Share your interests with them. Enjoy your time together.
  3. Develop healthy sleep hygiene in your home. Model healthy sleep and so model for your child. Put limits on social media and cellphone usage so it does not interfere with sleep. Develop healthy bedtime routines.
  4. Watch for bullying. If your child is a victim of bullying, address it immediately. Go to the school to talk with the school staff about your child’s experience of bullying. Develop a plan to help decrease bullying. Build your child’s self-image so they can stand against bullying. If it continues, take your child out of the situation in which they are being bullied and find another place, a safe place, for them to learn.

Hopefully we are moving past this pandemic. There are, however, things we can learn and implement even after the pandemic is past. These four practices can improve our children’s sense of well-being even after the pandemic.

Clues Learned During the Pandemic for Future Parenting

I remember when the pandemic started. I thought it would last 6-12 months. Boy was I wrong. The longer it drags on, the greater impact it seems to have on our mental health and the mental health of our children. A study published in PLOS ONE, 2021, however, offers some wonderful wisdom for promoting our children’s resilience and mental health during this time. This study recruited 224 participants between the ages of 7 and 15 years from two longitudinal studies of children and adolescents in the Greater Seattle area. They gave these youth and their parents a battery of questionnaires assessing social behaviors, psychopathology, and pandemic-related stresses in November of 2020. They gave them a follow-up battery of questionnaires in January or 2021. Because the youth were participants in a larger longitudinal study, the researchers also had access to their social behaviors, psychopathology, and related stresses prior to the pandemic.

In short, the research suggested:

  • The number of pandemic-related stresses they experienced (serious illness or death of a friend or family as well as quarantine, exposures, significant financial changes, social isolation, changes in community involvement, etc.) was positively associated with mental health symptoms and behavioral difficulties.
  • Youth who spent less time on digital devices and consumed less than two hours of news per day exhibited fewer mental health symptoms. In fact, “the strong association between pandemic-related stressors and psychopathology was absent among children with lower amounts of screen time and news media consumption.”
  • Youth who got the recommended amount of sleep and those who had a more structured daily routine during stay-at-home orders had lower levels of behavioral symptoms.
  • Those youth who spent greater amounts of time in nature exhibited a somewhat lower level of mental health symptoms.

This offers parents some excellent advice about how to help our children navigate the unpredictability created by the pandemic. First, develop a positive daily routine for your family and children. This routine might include a family meal, homework time, play time, various community activities, a regular bedtime and bedtime routine.

Second, limit screen time. Our children (and many of us) can easily find themselves sucked into video games, social media interactions, simply scrolling social media platforms, or binging Netflix. Unfortunately, social media platforms become stressful when we do not limit our involvement. Video games can rob us of other stress reducing activities like face-to-face interactions with family and friends. In fact, studies suggest the more screen time a teen engages in the less happy they become.

Third, limit your children’s exposure to news media about the pandemic. It’s good to get some news about the pandemic, other “world happenings,” and politics. However, it can easily become overwhelming, and our children may not have developed the emotional resources to manage the stress of the overwhelming, nonstop, 24-hour a day barrage of news. Really, how many of us have chosen to limit news intake for the same reason? Teach your children to be wise consumers of news and social media just as you teach them to be a wise consumer of food.

Fourth, get outside. Spend some time in nature. Nature promotes health. It helps to reduce stress and increases happiness.

Finally, establish healthy sleep hygiene. Sleep is crucial to our mental health, especially during times of increased stress.

These five suggestions will help you and your children navigate the times of this pandemic while maintaining emotional health and further developing resilience. Ironically, these five suggestions will also serve to nurture healthy children when the pandemic ends. So, start practicing them now and keep them up when we finally navigate our way to the other side of this troubled time. Even then, you will be pleasantly surprised at how well these five suggestions help your children live happier, healthier lives.

Defeating M.I.J. (Media Induced Jealousy)

In our world, people like to display what they have and what they have done. We see it on TV as people enjoy home makeovers or live out exciting “reality shows” for everyone to see. We observe it on social media as we look at the pictures of our friend’s amazing adventures and fun times. While enjoying vacation with my family, I have often watched people posing and primping to get “just the right” selfie to display their location and activity while still looking pristine. Unfortunately, as we peruse our social media accounts, we see these beautiful pictures of amazing places filled with beautiful, happy people and feel a tinge of jealousy begin to rise. Maybe we even feel some depression. We see pictures of our friends having fun times with one another and wonder, “Why wasn’t I invited?” Or, we see the exciting activities of those we know (and maybe even people we don’t know) and become jealous, wishing we could have that kind of life too. And that jealousy begins to crush our joy. It can even begin to cause problems within our families. Can this jealousy be defeated? Most definitely…and here are 3 tips to help you get started.

  • First, realize that all the pics on social media and the reality shows on TV are not truly reality. “Reality” TV shows are staged, contrived.  They do not represent real life. In addition, our “pics” on social media focus solely on the joyous, happy times in our life. They give only a snapshot of one small portion of our lives, not our whole life. The pics on social media don’t show us covered with sweat after cleaning out our flooded basement or going through the humdrum activities of taking out the garbage, washing dishes, and doing homework. In fact, a large portion of our lives is spent doing average, normal activities of daily life–washing clothes, cleaning house, taking out the garbage, cleaning kitty litter, mowing our lawn. These activities don’t usually make it on to social media posts. Which leads me to the next tip.
  • Every day, spend time with your family talking about “the best part of your day.” Talk about what you enjoyed during the day. Make it a habit to notice the beauty of the people and the world around you…and acknowledge that beauty in discussions with your family. Family meals are an excellent opportunity to share “the best part of the day.” Doing so will help you and your family reflect on and enjoy the positive experiences you encounter on a daily basis.
  • Share gratitude daily. I know I say this often on this website, but expressing gratitude remains so important to healthy family life. We need to take the time to recognize the blessings for which we can be grateful. Recognize and appreciate things as common as breathing, the sunshine, and the ability to smell. Make it a habit to notice what your family members and friends do for which you can thank them. Don’t just notice those things, take the time to thank them as well.

These three simple activities help us to focus on the good in our lives rather than what we perceive as missing. They help us reflect on the blessings and gifts that fill our lives rather than our sense of what we might lack. When we recognize the abundance of joys, blessings, and beauty in our lives, other people’s happiness will not detract from ours. Take time to celebrate what you have as a family…and celebrate.

Adolescence, Depression, & Technology

Two recent studies explored the relationship between adolescents, video games, and internet use. Unwrapping the first study reveals a surprise. A research team from UCL, Karolinska Institute, and the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute reviewed data from 11,341 adolescents born between 2000-2002. At the age of 11 years, these adolescents answered questions about their time spent on social media, time spent playing video games, and general internet use. They also answered questions about their mood, any loss of pleasure, and levels of concentration at the age 14 years. After ruling out other potential factors, the research team found that boys who played video games most days at age 11 had 24% fewer depressive symptoms at the age of 14 than did boys who played video games less than one time a mouth. Somewhat surprisingly, moderate video game playing at 11 years of age was associated with fewer depressive symptoms at 14 years of age.

A second study, published in Child Development, gathered data from a study involving 1,750 high school students over a three-year period, through the ages of 16, 17, and 18 years. This study explored risk factors contributing to problematic internet use (or internet addiction). The research suggested three harmful effects of problematic internet use and each of these effects had a reciprocal relationship with internet use. In other words, problematic internet use increased these negative outcomes and these negative outcomes increased problematic internet use. The negative outcomes included higher levels of depression, increased substance abuse, and lower levels of academic achievement. We all want to avoid those outcomes. So, what risk factors contributed to problematic internet use? And what can you do about it?

  1. A lack of satisfying relationships or the perceived inadequacy of social networks contributed to problematic internet use. In other words, loneliness predicts problematic internet use. With that in mind, involve your children in community. Enroll them in scouting, sports, dance lessons, theatre, or other group activities. Involve them in a local church youth group. Give them the opportunities to develop relationships with peers and other trusted adults in the community.
  2. Parenting practices, as perceived by the teen, contributed to the level of teen internet use. Parenting perceived as warm, empathetic, interested, and close led to healthy internet use. Parenting perceived as neglectful, being inconsistently available and consistently unresponsive, predicted problematic internet use. This draws attention to the need to build a positive connection with your children. Take time to develop a warm, loving relationship by spending time together and engaging in activities together. Talk, go on outings together, worship together, attend their concerts and sporting events, share meals together. Invest time and attention in developing a positive, loving relationship with your children. (By the way, did you know your parenting style could be killing you?)
  3. Paternal neglect, neglect by a father, had a particularly strong relationship to problematic internet use. Dads, get involved with your children. If you need ideas for involvement in your children’s lives, check out the “cheat codes for Dads.”

Healthy Family Pandemic Tips

The pandemic lingers on. Even as vaccines become more readily available, cases rise and fall. Schools go in-person only to return to hybrid model before going back to in-person with every fluctuation in COVID cases. News of “variants,” “surges,” and “waves” keep us all vigilant. On top of it all, many of us are simply exhausted after having already spent a year struggling with pandemic related changes. Our children in particular struggle with this current environment of constant change and lack  of predictability. They may respond by engaging in risky behaviors. Or they may, like adults, experience an increase in depression or anxiety. Fortunately, we are not powerless in this situation. We can help each one of our family members survive this time. We can encourage and even assist one another in developing healthy coping skills through these turbulent times. Here are five suggestions to begin.

  1. Encouraging healthy coping during the current pandemic and its related stressors begins with conversation. Acknowledge your children’s current struggles. Talk about the struggles and frustrations. Speak about the boredom. Discuss the loneliness, the fears, and the losses related to the pandemic. Remember, everything is more manageable when we can talk about it with someone, and we can talk about anything within our families.
  2. Create healthy schedules. The pandemic has robbed us of the typical structures that provide predictable schedules. School, work, churches, community groups—they have all changed, closed, or gone online. Without a predictable schedule we tend to feel insecure. This is especially true for our children. Creating a schedule in your home can provide the predictability and security under which our children thrive. Ironically, a routine and schedule can add meaning and purpose to our lives and our children’s lives as well. Be sure to include mealtimes, school time, play time, and even game time and free time in your schedule.
  3. Build daily routines of connection into your family schedule. Online school is lonely. Online work provides less interaction. But humans are social creatures. We need social connection just like we need air to breath. Build daily opportunities for your children to connect with you throughout the day. This may involve mealtimes, play time, or free time. It may simply mean pulling up a chair to “check in” with your child or teen.
  4. Our children also need to socialize with peers. Parents cannot provide all their children’s social needs. Children and teens need peer interaction. So, create opportunities for your children to socialize with other children. Plan a time for your child to get together with their one or two of their peers at a park. Allow your children invite a friend over to play in your yard. Let your children go for a walk or a bike ride together. Any of these activities provide a safe way for our children to socialize. You can also set up opportunities for your children to interact with one another through zoom, face time, or some other social app.
  5. Although social media provides a way to build social connection, a parent also needs to monitor social media use to assure appropriate usage. Determine how you will monitor social media consumption in your house. Possible ideas include utilizing a common area to charge phones overnight, shared passwords to allow periodic review of incoming media, and tech-free times (such as dinner). Also, don’t let your children get caught up in FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) because everyone looks like they’re having so much fun without me on social media. Talk about the false images portrayed on social media as we all post our happy times and best face.

These five ideas can help you keep your family emotionally healthy during the pandemic. What other ideas do you have?

Laughter, the Pandemic, & Your Family

First, the bad news. A study from Flinders University published in January, 2021, found that 2% of their 1,040 participants tested positive for COVID and 5% reported have a close family member or friend who tested positive for COVID. More bad news, 13.2% reported symptoms of PTSD related to COVID. That’s over I in 10 people experiencing symptoms of PTSD in response to COVID and the stress it has created in our homes and communities.

I know we have all taken precautions to remain healthy and keep our families as safe as possible during this pandemic. We have done our best to avoid “catching” COVID or letting our family members “catch it.”  We also need to do everything in our power to help our families avoid experiencing symptoms PTSD in response to COVID. How can we do that? Here are 4 ways I believe will help.

  • Laugh and encourage your family to laugh. A study published in 2020 from the University of Basel (read a review here) revealed that the more often a person laughed, the fewer symptoms of stress they experienced in response to actual stressors in their lives. So tell a joke. Watch a comedy. Remember funny family stories. Joke around. Laugh. It may be just what your family needs.
  • Manage news media and social media…do not consume it. Think of the news media as food. Do not overconsume. Do not binge. Consume only what you need to maintain a healthy life. If you begin to feel uncomfortable, like you’re getting too much, turn it off. It’s ok—actually, it’s good—to turn it off and walk away. Watching too much news media or binging on social media can increase stress. Turn on a comedy and laugh instead. (Didn’t we say that before?)
  • Talk with your children and your spouse. Numerous studies show that secure relationships buffer the impact of stress and promote health. Give your family the healing benefit of your time, your listening ear, and your relational support through these troubling times. It may help your whole family escape the risk of PTSD.
  • Participate in your faith community. Make an intentional effort to grow in your faith. Personal growth and participation in a faith community contributes to a better ability to manage stress. Involvement in personal faith and a faith community contributes to better mental health in general. Take the time to nurture your faith as a family. Participate in a local faith community, even if it is on-line right now.

Four simple practices that can help your family not become one of the 13% suffering symptoms of PTSD in response to COVID. Practices that can help your family navigate the pandemic and manage the stress in a healthy way. In fact, these four practices can help you manage stress and grow even when we are in “better times,” when the pandemic is passed. Practice them now. They’ll benefit your family forever.

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