Updated: Oct 4, 2021
Over the last few years we have seen more and more awareness around mental health. The government as allocated more money towards it, schools spend more time educating kids around it and society as a whole is starting to understand that it is more normal than we ever believed.
First, lets start with the facts - all facts have been pulled from https://cmha.bc.ca/mental-health/mental-health-information/
In any given year, 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness.
By age 40, about 50% of the population will have or have had a mental illness.
Mental illness affects people of all ages, education, income levels, and cultures; however, systemic inequalities such as racism, poverty, homelessness, discrimination, colonial and gender-based violence, among others, can worsen mental health and symptoms of mental illness, especially if mental health supports are difficult to access.
How does mental illness impact youth?
When it comes to mental illness, youth is a critical period: most people living with a mental illness see their symptoms begin before age 18.
Approximately 20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder
Between 2008–2009 and 2018–2019, among youth there was a 61% increase in emergency department visits and a 60% increase in hospitalizations for mental disorders.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth and young adults between 15-34 years.
In Canada, only 1 out of 5 children receive appropriate mental health services.
Now, there's a lot more information on the CMHA website linked above but I wanted to share a few facts that really felt powerful to me.
Here's the part that we can have an impact on. Its true that some mental illness is genetic, however, it is also true that there are things we can do to not only prevent certain mental illnesses, but also support your mental health.
Again, I will start by linking CMHA so that you have a place to dig deeper on specific mental health related topics should you chose to.
Ways to support our physical health have been engrained into us for generations. Take the stairs, drink your water, eat healthy...
But we still have some work to do to help encourage and support your mental health on a day to day basis.
Here are a few ways to help support your mental health and the mental health of your children
1. Healthy bodies equals Healthy minds
Those practices I just mentioned to support your physical health also support your mental health. It has been researched and proven that the more we exercise, eat healthy and support our physical health the more our mental health can thrive. Why? We now know that exercise is a stress reliever, It reduces muscle tension, improves blood flow and floods your body with feel-good hormones (endorphins). People who exercise often report having less anxiety and it has been shown to reduce symptoms of mild depression.
It's important to chose the right foods often, and this is a way we can really help support our children. There are foods out there that have been proven to support our mental health like salmon, chicken, whole grains, avocado, spinach, yogurt, nuts, olive oils (and more). By having breakfast along with other consistent, healthy snacks and meals helps stabilize our energy and improve our mood. Drinking water also helps replenish brain cells and fight fatigue, as well as limiting caffeine can help support healthy sleep patterns.
Are we going to be perfect all the time? Absolutely not but when we know better we do better which is why I wanted to talk about this. Mental health is a life long journey and you might go through different waves of how you are doing so having some tools you can use to stabilize the waves and support this life long journey we are on is number one.
Now of course, sleeping is on the CMHA list, but anyone who is a parent likely knows that this often isn't in our control. So here's your permission slip, ask for help, take a nap, sleep when the baby sleeps... seriously, the laundry can wait. Exercise when the baby is awake - they will be okay in the swing for half an hour (even if they don't love it), or go for a nature walk while they're strapped onto you or into the stroller... Make it happen while they're awake so you can maximize the time you do have to sleep. Especially since I have become an entrepreneur, I catch myself in this routine of working from 8pm-1am. Silence, no distractions, emails can be programmed, I can enjoy my show in the background... but having a toddler who didn't sleep through the night once until he was well over two years old, my body would shut down. I started noticing when I was more easily triggered. I started. feeling how I would be reactive instead of responsive and how my productivity had declined. So, although I did not eliminate this habit completely, I do make a point to literally schedule in certain days in the week to go to bed early... like 830pm early, because my mind and body need it. So just do a check in, where are you at? How are you feeling? What can you do to improve your sleep so that you can support yourself better?
You might want to consider
- investing in a baby monitor that allows you to see that your babe is safe to reduce anxity while you are trying to sleep
- prioritzing a sleep routine for yourself by putting the technology away 2 hours before bed and creating rituals that encourage a deeper sleep once you are in bed
- maybe its time to look at how you can support your babe better so they start sleeping more at night. The birds payaya recently was talking about how she had to change the language from sleep trainning to sleep supporting to feel comfortable at looking at how she can help Lemmie sleep through the night better. Maybe a small shift in languaging will help you do that with your babe!
It's going to look different for everyone, but starting with awareness will help subconsciously move you towards more rest.
2. Practice healthy thinking
Mindset is so important. We need to talk nicer to ourselves, we need to purposefully limit negative talk, and start practicing gratitude and affirmations, you can do this with your kids as well. Grab a journal and everyday, make time to go through 3 things you're grateful for and 3 affirmations. Mindset will be what takes you to that next milestone in all aspects of your life.
Let's talk about healthy thinking and kids. Our words and actions have a bigger impact on our kids than we could even imagine. Making comments about how clothing looks on you, or simply about having a bad hair day informs our kids that looks matter, that there's a "good" and "bad" way to dress or that some bodies might be "better" than others. So it's time to start being more mindful of the ways we talk about ourselves, to ourselves, and to others. We are our own worst critics and we don't want to create that foundation for our kids as well.
3. Create a support network
This might be filled with friends and family or professionals, but make sure you aren't alone if this journey. It is so important that we have the love and support around us on a regular basis. Don't do this alone.
Play programs and how they support Mental Health
Each of our classes are designed off the foundation of how we can support positive mental health. We do this by encouraging and celebrating each human as an individual; in our programs - it is important that you look different than your friends. We never want kids to copy each other, try to be someone else, or think that the way one persons body moves is better than the next. We encourage play and laughter, working towards a healthier mindset. We practice positive affirmations; this shows up in a few ways, including the instructor reminding the class participants that they "can't get it wrong " or that "you look awesome", and by reinforcing the celebration of themselves, others and each other.
Five ways to encourage positive mental health in the home
Tell kids what you want the to do, instead of telling them what NOT to do... there's few different reasons for this, but for the purpose of todays blog here's how it goes; by focusing on what we want kids to do, we are reinforcing the positive. If all they hear is no no no you cant, don't do that - they start to question if they can get anything right and feel that impact of being told no on their mental health, so instead, an easy flip is to enable them and empower them with the right decisions.
Compliments that go deeper than the physical body. Ie. "you were do kind to your friend when you did that", "thanks for the help, you are so great at helping me with the chores", "You are so good at math!" ... get creative. .Again, telling kids time after time that they look beautiful or that their hair is cute is just reinforcing that there is a right/wrong, good/bad way to look/be.
Set kids up for success. Take away the temptations, remove those things that are causing issues within the family dynamic, give them a fair chance to succeed.
Make social connection. A big piece of this is to have dedicated times off of technology. Be available to your kids when they need a friend to talk to.
Encourage healthy moving as a family, go for evening walks, do yoga as a family... know that this is something that the kids might "help with" instead of just trying to get a workout in when they're not around.
Now, here's the thing. My kiddo is 2.5yrs old, and since I had him, no one has ever talked to me about how I could be promoting his positive mental health nor have I truly been asked directly about my mental health except when I brought it up first. (how are you doing does NOT cover it.) My ECE education really didn't deep dive into this, and it never came up in baby groups or classes I have been apart of it. Unless you go searching for info, it's likely not being shared with you. Which is why I've intentionally chosen to make it one of our brand pillars, something we are going to continue to talk about over and over. Can it be heavy? yes, uncomfortable? sometimes, triggering? perhaps. But the benefit of long term mental health support and normalization will always outweigh the discomfort of talking about something that we, as a society, have avoided for far too long. Let's work on finding a balance of healthy conversations, looking at the positive side of knowing better means doing better, and creating happier, healthier families - together.
Although I am not a mental health expert, the right information is out there when we look for it. Be proactive, start working on your mental health NOW, and keep in touch with your kids mental health the best you can! Comment below and let me know what you think and how your family is making space to priorate mental health!