“Wellness, is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – World Health Organization.
Wellness is an active process. A process of becoming aware of what is good health and making choices to achieve it. For most people it’s easier to focus on physical health. Problems with physical health are more obvious than poor mental or emotional health. It’s important though that you pay just as much attention to your emotional health. The mind-body connection is a powerful one and should not be ignored. Problems with physical health often have their origin in poor emotional health.
People who are emotionally healthy are:
- Able to cope with and adjust to the recurrent stresses of everyday living in an acceptable way.
- They handle their emotions appropriately and control their behavior.
- They build strong relationships
- They have a positive outlook to life that allows them to bounce back from adversity.
This ability to recover is known as resilience.
War and disasters have a large impact on mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. Economic downturns and difficult life events can also affect emotional health. For much of Sub-Saharan Africa, daily life is stressful. There is a lack of the basic services, benefits and rights that the developed world takes for granted. Political instability, insecurity and economic recession worsen the situation. All these conditions cause an increase in anxiety, depression, substance abuse and community violence.
We all need to be resilient!
Good mental or emotional health allows you to cope with difficulties. You feel good about yourself and find meaning and joy in life. It helps you to remain focused, and work productively. You’re able to maintain good relationships whether times are good or bad.
Research shows some key factors for improving mental and emotional health and building resilience:
- Connect with others– “share your burden”. The best way to reduce stress is by interaction with people who care about you and are supportive. Your situation may not change but by talking about your problems, you lighten the load. Avoid social media “relationship building”. It is only a temporary distraction and is not a substitute for the real thing.
- Get active. Exercise not only boosts your mood by releasing endorphins in your brain but it has direct benefits for your physical health. It improves memory, alertness and productivity. 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily is all it takes!
- Manage stress. Deep breathing relaxation techniques are helpful; meditation; get enough sleep; spend at least 15 minutes daily on something you enjoy such as reading, playing a game, singing, playing with your children; Drop activities that waste your time and don’t improve your life in any way; make time for relaxation.
- Healthy eating. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary snacks and other forms of stress eating. Choose healthy stress-busting eating options instead. Green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, beans and fish are all good choices.
- Help others. Research shows that people, who help others feel enriched, have greater self-esteem and are happier. It also takes the focus off your problems for a while.
Tips on dealing with your emotions:
- Express your feelings in appropriate ways – Share them with people close to you. Before they become overwhelming and difficult to control.
- Think before you act – Take a deep breath, count to 10 or even 20; leave the room and get some fresh air; go for a walk.
- Strive for balance in your life –Make time for activities you enjoy. Everyday, write down something that you’re grateful for. Focus on the positive things in your life.
The ABC’s of child health are the health basics you need to pay careful attention to at home on a daily basis. Never mind the academics, if your child is unhealthy he or she can’t learn.
- Healthy Nutrition
- Dental Health
- Emotional Health
Get them moving…moving…
Studies show that if you get your child interested in any form of exercise activity when they are young, exercise and fitness are more likely to become a habit that lasts a lifetime. An hour daily of exercise should be the goal for your child. For younger children, playing outside with siblings or other neighborhood kids is all the exercise they’ll need. More structured exercise such as formal sports activities is a good way for older children to get their hour a day. Participating in sports also teaches them useful life skills like teamwork, discipline, and strategic thinking. Give them a choice and whatever type of activity you settle on, make sure it’s fun. If they enjoy it they’re more likely to stick with it.
Useful fitness tips:
- Make time to be active as a family.
- Exercise together with your child
- Limit sedentary activities to less than 2 hours per day – television, computer and video games
- Be a role model
Good Reasons to Smile
Like other aspects of health the road to good dental health for your child is prevention. It starts with teaching good brushing habits and avoiding certain foods.
- Brush twice daily - you’ll be surprised how many adults don’t even practice this
- Avoid candy, juices, soft drinks
- Soft baby brush once baby teeth are in
- Only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is needed for 2 to 3 year olds
- Brush for them until 8yrs - let them brush in the morning, you brush for them at night
- Dental checkups at least once yearly from age 2 – 3 (whenever they can sit still)
In African culture, the emotional health of a child is an area that’s often neglected. African parenting style is usually authoritarian, not because it works best but because it’s the only way that’s been modeled for us. This translates into a society with authoritarian leadership in every sphere that does not tolerate dissenting views, differing opinions or encourage “out of the box” thinking.
If 50% or more of your interaction with your school-aged child consists of scolding and correction, it’s time to re-evaluate your parenting style. If you’re often raising your voice when you talk with your child, perhaps it’s time to do things differently.
There are 5 Love languages – something every person needs to make them feel loved – Words of affirmation, Quality time, Receiving gifts, Acts of service, and Physical touch. For most people, one of these is primarily what makes them feel loved, and to a lesser extent one of the other four.
All children need to be affirmed – “that’s great honey”, “you did a great job”, “mummy loves you”- many times throughout the day. Your child needs quality time with you and lots and lots of hugs and kisses regardless of age. The occasional gift won’t hurt either!
Tips for parents
- Be expressive of your love & acceptance as often as possible
- Remember your child has pressures
- Doing 15 minutes daily of an activity your child enjoys can reduce their stress level
- Keep marital conflicts out of sight and hearing of your child
- Listen and listen some more!
- Don’t overreact
Children who have a clear sense of personal competence and feel loved and supported generally do well. Remember that children’s temperaments vary in their ability to cope with stress and daily hassles, learn to be very patient.