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As the air becomes cooler we begin to think about the first day of school, the sounds of buses, children squealing and laughing and busy grocery stores. Before we even have time to adjust to new routines and schedules, tree leaves begin to turn and the seasons change.

While transitioning back into a school schedule, it is important to consider a few important things that will help keep "the balance" in your life and your children's lives. Mental health can be influenced by many factors throughout our day.

Healthy Diets

Mental health can be affected by the types of foods we eat. Research shows that food can be a contributing factor in the prevention and management of mental health issues including but not limited to depression and ADHD.

Balancing our meals with recommended fruits and vegetables including healthy proteins and carbohydrates can help balance our mood. It is beneficial to consult your doctor or nutritionist to create an individual plan that works for your body and schedule.

Preparing meals as a family can assist with learning and following direction while promoting positive conversations and interactions. In addition, research shows that sharing a meal with family provides many benefits. Simply, it is quality time with the family away from distraction and electronics that evokes conversation and sharing. Some research has shown lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem for children who have regular meals with family.

Daily Exercise

As the temperature begins to become cooler, getting outside to walk or exercise becomes more enticing. This is not only great movement for your body, but it can be quality time with family. Time walking through the neighborhood can evoke conversation with your children while in a peaceful environment. Children are more likely to talk and will get a sense of validation that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Exercise can be a great outlet for all members of the family through weight management and reducing mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Exercise increases chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and norepinephrine and releases endorphins which helps control the brains response to stress and anxiety. Regular exercise can also reduce pain and assist with healthy sleep hygiene.

Healthy Sleep

People often underestimate the importance of getting an adequate amount of sleep daily. Sleep is a contributing factor to our mental health and ability to function daily Lack of sleep can take a toll on cognitive and mental health. Sleepiness slows down thought processes, lowers alertness and concentration and impairs judgment. Lacking in sleep can also make it more difficult to understand and retain information which is crucial in a learning environment for children and teens and in a work environment.

A poor sleep schedule can alter your mood significantly leading to irritability, anger and difficulty coping with stress. It can also lead to hyperactivity in children. Below are suggestions to improve sleep hygiene.

  • maintaining a regular sleep-wake schedule
  • avoiding caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep
  • making your bedroom a comfortable sleep environment
  • establishing a calming pre-sleep routine
  • going to sleep when you’re truly tired
  • limiting light exposure in the evening
  • exercising regularly - but not too soon before bedtime


In the midst of busy schedules, homework, meal preparation and work it is also equally important to schedule time for play and relaxation. This can include relaxation techniques such as meditation, guided imagery and deep breathing exercises or doing something fun or that the family enjoys. Utilizing relaxation techniques or engaging in fun activities can contribute to decreasing anxiety and depression. It can also assist children and individuals with other mental health issues including impulsivity.

Structure and Balance

Most individuals especially children are afraid of the "unknown". However we are all confronted with change daily. Although it poses an opportunity for growth, it can be stressful as well. Balance and structure offers children a sense of security and control and helps create healthy habits for a life time. Having a balanced routine teaches children to constructively control themselves and their environments. It can improve cooperation with children while reducing or eliminating power struggles. Children who come from chaotic homes risk being more disorganized and struggling to complete tasks.

Structure and balance allows us to internalize constructive habits. Adults and parents demonstrating balance for their children at a young age can promote healthy adults with healthy lifestyles. Laying the ground work of our lives each day through budgeting time to maintain sufficient eating and sleep habits and life style habits such as exercise and relaxation can lead to a healthy balance in your life that will benefit you and your children's mental and physical health each day and for a lifetime.

Carrie W. Matthews, LCSW
Senior Clinician
Family Guidance Centers

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