Mental wellness can be a family affair

Mental healthHealth TipsOctober 26, 2023

The world can be stressful, so it is increasingly vital to learn healthy and effective ways of coping with daily pressures.

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Living life under constant stress and tension can have significant consequences on our overall mental health. Juggling responsibilities like taking care of children or ageing parents, keeping up with academic studies, and balancing the pressures of a demanding career can take a real toll on our wellbeing.

With the world as stressful as it is, it’s important to learn healthy and effective ways of coping with life’s daily pressures.

Why mental health matters for everyone

Mental health concerns continue to rank highly among global health concerns. In a United Nations News post, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that one billion people suffer from “some form of mental disorder” worldwide, and that this “includes around one in seven teenagers”. WHO also warn that “around 20% of children and adolescents have a mental health condition” and that suicide is a resultant “second leading cause of death in the 15-29-year-old demographic”.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains: “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act [and] also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices”.

The CDC further notes that mental health is “important at every stage of life – from childhood and adolescence through adulthood”. As a result, poor mental health can ultimately affect all areas of life, including our ability to work, learn at school, and navigate personal relationships.

Several factors can contribute to poor mental health. The CDC and Mind – a UK mental health charity – list some of these as “Adverse Childhood Experiences (like trauma), ongoing chronic medical conditions, biological factors, feelings of loneliness or isolation, and chronic stress.” Mind notes that “stress can cause mental health problems…and mental health problems can [also] cause stress”.

Stress and your family

No family is immune to stress and the mounting pressures of daily living. Many situations can cause stress in the family unit, and each family handles this differently. Stress – even on one family member – can disrupt and affect the whole unit. US Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Organization SCAN lists some of the most common effects of stress on families as “arguments (including poor communication skills), fatigue from busy schedules, and more dependence on substances”.

Learning how to cope with stress in the family can be helpful for you and your family’s health and wellbeing.

At LiveWell we’re constantly working to provide digital solutions to these kinds of problems. That’s why we released our latest digital content series, Connecting Generations: Guiding teenagers through their formative years. Developed in collaboration with Z Zurich Foundation and based on materials developed and being field tested by UNICEF, Connecting Generations is our toolkit for helping caregivers to reconnect with their families and help fight the stigmas around mental health.

Learn more about Connecting Generations

Foster mental health for you and your family

Ways to help mitigate the effects of stress on our mental health include nurturing healthy habits that maintain our mental wellbeing. Use these tips to help turn your home into a mental health haven.

  • Recognize triggers or stressors: Mental fitness platform BetterUp describes stress as the body’s “natural response to real or perceived danger” and stressors or triggers as “the cause of stress”. The American Psychological Associations suggests monitoring your state of mind (and mood) throughout the day and finding ways to address these, like managing your time better and delegating and prioritizing tasks.
  • Rest and practice mindfulness: The mental health platform HelpGuide encourages us to get enough sleep (seven to eight hours of sleep recommended) and practice relaxation techniques that focus on breathing and muscle relaxation. These include yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises to help lower stress and calm the mind.
  • Connect with loved ones: HealthGuide notes that spending regular quality time with loved ones triggers hormones that act as “natural stress relievers” and helps us feel safe and understood. Building and maintaining a close care network improves our resilience to life’s stressors. To strengthen these relationships, we can:
    • Reach out to loved ones often.
    • Volunteer in the community.
    • Invite a friend for lunch or coffee.
    • Accompany our children to the movies or a concert.
    • Go for walks with our partners or kids.
    • Schedule weekly dinner dates.
  • Get moving: Physical activity relieves stress by releasing endorphins (feel-good hormones). HelpGuide suggests getting regular 30-minute workouts or doing “small activities that add up over the day”. Easy ways to keep moving and connected include:
    • Pairing up with a partner for workouts.
    • Playing ping-pong or activity-based video games with a friend.
    • Putting on music and dancing around with the family.
    • Taking the dog out for a walk.
  • Eat well and together: The APA notes that a balanced and healthy diet enables our brain to function well and “fosters better mental health, while poor-quality diets diminish it”. The best foods for a healthy mind are "fatty fish, fruits, leafy greens, nuts and whole grains”, says the American Society for Nutrition.

Family medicine specialist Dr. Patricia Landry says in Focus on Families that “food brings families together” and enjoying mealtimes together “is one of the best ways to improve mental health”. She suggests preparing a meal that enhances family bonds, creates memories, and allows everyone to share their thoughts around the dinner table. “Discussing our internal conflicts…and challenges helps us connect in ways that re-establish our bonds, reaffirm our sense of belonging, and refute negative thoughts. It also reframes the way we see situations and allows us to discover viable approaches to life’s challenges, which is great for improving mental health,” she adds.

Don’t forget that the first step towards progress is getting started. Whether you’re taking care of teenagers or not, Connecting Generations has a number of exercises designed to help you look inward and consider the impacts of your childhood on your adult life, techniques for resolving conflict and reducing the impacts of stress, and breathing and mindfulness exercises to help keep you calm.

Give Connecting Generations a try in the app

Consider seeking help from a health professional if these strategies don’t help improve overall mental health for you or your family.


The content in this app was created by LiveWell, on the basis of materials developed by UNICEF, which are currently being field tested with the advocacy support and financial contribution of Z Zurich Foundation. UNICEF does not endorse any company, brand, product or service.

The published material is being distributed without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. The responsibility for the interpretation and use of the material lies with the user of the LiveWell App. In no event shall UNICEF be liable for any loss arising from the use of the LiveWell App.