When it comes to devoting time to the family, free of distractions, it may seem impossible. The bigger the family, the more challenging it is to find open time to spend together with so many varied schedules. Parents have work, meetings, volunteer associations, book clubs and more all while children have school, tests to study for, sports, plays and other extracurricular commitments. When free time does match across everyone in the family, it’s easy to want to retreat to a bedroom or a quiet corner to read a book, take a nap—simply relax.
Even though you might not put “family time” and “relaxation” into the same category, with the right activities, they can come to mean the same thing. Even within families comprised of varying ages, it’s possible for everyone to find joy and tranquility through finding similar interests. ELEOS Psychology Center can help children, teens and adults openly communicate and understand each other so that families can find the fun and relaxation they seek through unified activities.
Why Family Time Can Be Stressful
When you hear the word “relaxing,” a few implicit images might pop into your head. Some people imagine napping on a lounger in the shade of palm trees on a tropical beach. Others imagine curling up with a blanket and their favorite book next to a roaring fire. And some even fantasize about a Netflix marathon that goes for days or a never ending soak in a tub. Rarely does a relaxing activity include lots of other people—even your family members. Understanding what a relaxing activity can be is one place to start when it comes to planning them for the entire family.
Activities that aren’t relaxing are ones that induce negative stress. Positive stress is OK, e.g., you could start feeling stress before a roller coaster starts its ascent to the top or if you’re worried about your soufflé tasting good. Bad stress, however, can quickly turn a great family activity on its end. Bad stress, or distress, can lead to negative physical and emotional reactions to events. Distress can leave you feeling angry, frustrated or sad, and if you let it linger, it can turn into detrimental physical problems such as increased blood pressure, depression and anxiety.
It’s not uncommon for family members to feel stress before a full family outing. Some are stressed because they’re excited for the day and hope it goes well. Others, however, could be stressed for other reasons. Perhaps the activity that was chosen scares them. Maybe it involves something they aren’t good at. Or, maybe some people didn’t have a say in what the activity would be, leaving them feeling voiceless. Avoiding these stressors is key to a great family activity.
Stress-inducing activities include ones that may require a lot of attention or deep concentration. For example, tedious jewelry-making probably isn’t the most relaxing activity. Activities that introduce many new topics or require lots of learning could stress family members, making them reluctant to trying the new venture. Complex games or artful crafts that take a lot of time to perfect could cause unnecessary stress. Therapists trained in child, adolescent and adult psychology will help parents understand the needs of their families when it comes to planning new activities for everyone.
Find Something Fun for Everyone and Everyone Will Relax
Therapists aren’t just around for when you or a loved one have a problem. Whenever you need a conversation facilitated or a safe space where everyone can feel free to speak up, the therapists at ELEOS Psychology Center in Minneapolis are here. Therapists can help guide families toward decisions about what’s fun for everyone, what’s relaxing for everyone and what activities can join these two areas together.
Fun and relaxing activities are ones that don’t force people into uncomfortable situations, and they don’t cause a lot of pressure for someone to perform well. For example, a casual game of family basketball in the driveway will be more fun than a family race at the ski hill where people are expected to perform well. The most relaxing family activities are ones where no one has to be afraid of not succeeding, attention can be focused on one thing instead of many, and exercise is involved to slightly raise heart rates. Some pastimes that your family might love include:
“Something” could be anything—a snow house, a sand castle, a fort made from blankets and boxes. You can also venture into building something out of wood and even creating something useful, like a birdhouse. Activities that involve making something can reap lots of benefits. The satisfaction that comes from accomplishing something brings joy, while everyone focusing their minds on the task at hand (instead of work, phones or TV) can be relaxing.
Starting an Art Project
Starting an art project is an effective way to relax. Choose an art project where everyone is working together or where each person is working on their own project in the same space. You can all work on your own canvas if you’re painting, or you can work together on one big canvas. Art allows people to simultaneously focus and relax their minds as they immerse themselves in the project at hand.
Learning an Easy Sport
Learning an Easy Sport
Your family can have healthy competitive fun, too! Learning a new sport together could mean diving into the easy-to-learn worlds of badminton, H-O-R-S-E or Frisbee. Choosing a sport that everyone can play, regardless of age or skill, is key to staving off frustration. Getting outside will help everyone relax in the fresh air, and exercise will help reduce the stress hormone cortisol while elevating feel-good hormones like serotonin.
Baking a Family Recipe
Baking, much like building, can be a very relaxing activity for the whole family. Plus, you all get a tasty reward at the end of the venture. Baking is calm, organized and gets everyone involved. With a good, trusted family recipe on hand, there’s little chance for mistakes to be made, and it can make each member of the family feel important when given a specific role, e.g., cutting out cookies, mixing the ingredients, etc.
When It’s Time to Decide on Family Fun, Talk to Your Therapist
Activities that are engaging and fun for every member of the family can also be very relaxing. Not every family day has to be a hectic, over-stimulating trip to the amusement park. Instead, talk with one another to discover shared interests and create a list of options from there. Therapists at ELEOS can help facilitate open and empathetic conversation between everyone in the family—so all feel involved and heard when it comes to planning.
Whether you decide to get your heart pumping or build something together, there are countless ways for your family to have fun and feel relaxed with one another. Planning a family event doesn’t have to mean stress for you or anyone else. If you want to start the conversation with your family, send us a message or call today. The therapists at ELEOS are always here to help you find the middle ground of fun and relaxation through family time.