When we are busy and stressed, we tend to focus on what needs to get done, rather than what we want to do, or what we know might help. Engaging in meaningful and rewarding activities with our loved ones requires time and effort, but it has big benefits too. These activities can lift our mood, help maintain or even strengthen our relationships and ensure we have great memories to look back on.
Relaxation can be one way to take care of yourself when you are feeling stressed. There’s no one right way to relax but see below for some ideas. Many of these can be done with your partner or as a family.
Taking a break from technology for a set amount of time can have great benefits for the whole family. Encourage everyone to do something relaxing, e.g. run a bath, read a book, have a lie down, cuddle with a pet, or go for a walk. Whatever helps you step back from a stressful experience and calm the mind for a little while.
Getting outside and among nature can be a great way to take a break. Go for a mindful walk together in a local park or beach, noticing different sights, sounds and smells along the way.
If you can’t get away physically, you can always imagine yourself somewhere peaceful. Conjure up an image of a place you have been, or somewhere you have always wanted to go, close your eyes and immerse yourself in the details.
Put on some calming music, or play relaxing sounds such as gentle rainfall or crackling fire (YouTube is a great resource to check out). Alternatively, put together a playlist of the family’s favourite songs, and listen to it whenever you need a boost.
When we are stressed, our muscles become tense and tight. Try progressive muscle relaxation by tensing and relaxing the muscles, do some light stretching or book in for a professional massage.
Breathing is a tool you can use at any time, in any place, to calm the body and quieten the mind. A simple trick is to breathe in for a count of three, hold, and breathe out for a count of three. Try to breathe all the way into the stomach, rather than from the chest (you can rest your hand on your belly to see if it’s moving). See if you can do this for a couple of minutes at a regular time each day (e.g. when you get in the car to drive home, after picking up or dropping off the kids at school, or just before bed.
Get in touch with your artistic side by drawing, colouring, playing an instrument, baking etc. Anything that you enjoy that absorbs your attention. If you can do a family project together, even better. Try not to focus on the finished product, and instead on the enjoyment of creation and connection.
There are many guided relaxation or mindfulness exercises readily available on the internet or through a free app, such as Smiling Mind. Set up a family schedule to find times where you can all listen together.
Good communication is vital for healthy relationships.
Keep the lines of communication open, and try to share your thoughts and feelings with your loved ones daily.
Try to use ‘I’ statements, and avoid judging and blaming. Listen to what the people who care about you have to say. Remember that they are on your side. If there’s a big, or emotive issue you need to bring up, make a plan in advance about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Seek support if you think you could work on your communication skills.
Connecting with others
Spending time with friends and family can reduce feelings of stress and loneliness. You can join groups according to your interests (see meetup.com for examples) or look into school, sporting, or community groups that you can join as a family. As an Ambulance Victoria family member, you are also a part of our community. We will soon have a social calendar for events that you might like to participate in with people who understand all the challenges and rewards of ambulance work.
Make a time together to sit down and identify problems currently causing stress in your lives. Identify which are problems you can do something about, and which are hypothetical, or out of your control. Brainstorm as many potential solutions as you can, even if they seem outlandish at first! Identify which ones are realistic and achievable, and weigh up their pros and cons. Once you have settled on your top one or two choices, plan action steps to put them into place. Keep communication open throughout this process.
Understanding the work
The nature of emergency services work means our paramedics and volunteer first responders are more likely than the general population to be exposed to potentially traumatic events. This can greatly increase the risk of mental health issues.