We have all heard that our bodies and our minds are closely connected. From an athlete training for the Olympics to a chef trying to prepare the perfect meal; the right kind of mindset will make such a difference. As much as you train for someone, again, using the athlete analogy, training will only get you so far. You have to be in the right headspace in order to succeed. In fact, you might have even looked at something like a body diagram that shows the different parts of the body that get ‘activated’ when we experience different emotions.
However, when it comes to the relationship between physical and mental wellbeing, parents can tend to be experts, whether they know it or not. Simply because when it comes down to it, they can often see what mood or behavior is going on in their child before they even say anything about it. Children might become grumpy, sad, or argumentative, and they won’t be shy about sharing how they feel. We as adults have been there and have done that as well, except now we might hide more of how we are feeling; children just tend to let it out. But as a result, we know that there are some basic things that we need to start doing for our physical well being, and they have such an impact. Things like being active, sleeping, and eating well all play a part and have a positive impact on our mental wellbeing. Getting the balance right is somewhat crucial to help us feel better in ourselves and helps to give us a focus on what we want and should be doing.
The connection between mind and body
Exploring this connection, and the basic things that can help us can have us to then understand some more serious and complex issues. For instance, children who struggle with anxiety might start to show some symptoms or signs that we might normally associate with a physical illness, like the stomach flu or needing to use the toilet in excess. But as children don’t have the right words to tell us exactly how they are feeling, or they can’t describe it, if you’re a parent, you almost need to spot it first. Don’t just presume they have a sickness bug if they complain of stomach ache. They could be trying to tell you that they feel nervous or anxious about something.
As a parent or anyone that is around young children and teenagers, it has somewhat of a responsibility to look after yourselves, as well as looking out for those children. The pressure to do so might seem like a lot; there is no getting away from that. But looking after your family, as well as yourself, doesn’t need to be something that is complicated or involves a strange routine.
You can simply start by beginning to have a simple chat with your child around the types of things that you do for your mind and for your body so that you can keep yourself healthy. From just taking a walk on your lunch break to switching off your phone each evening, or whatever you choose to do, share the things that help and make a difference to you. It can set a good example and will show that you can relate to them and how they are feeling. If you feel able to share that at times you have felt anxious too, or have struggled in some way, then it can bridge the gap between families, especially between parents and children. As children get older and become teenagers, that gap between them and parents can start to get much bigger. And if you don’t keep clear and honest communication open, showing your vulnerable side too, it could lead to needing treatment for out of control teens later down the line. So talking about it all really is a must.
From there, it could be a good idea to do something regularly with your child that is something positive and healthy. Of course, we all have busy lives and at times, life can be really stressful. But something like taking a walk together, cooking together, or sitting down at the table for dinner together, can make a difference. It helps you to stay connected, as well as to have fun.
Things like positive reinforcement are something that is important to emphasize too. Being able to praise your child is an important step, and if you emphasize and praise the things that they are doing to look after themselves, it can go a really long way. If you have a child or teenager that feels quite anxious a lot of the time, then they could record their feelings in a journal, for example. If you know that they are doing this, then it could be a positive thing to praise, in the hope that they continue to do so.
Time out from screens and devices
If you have ever found yourself that you are feeling low or down, because you’re not looking like or living like the people on your social media feed, then imagine the impact that this kind of thing can have on teenagers and even children? If they look different, or wear clothes that aren’t considered stylish, or just don’t go on trips or vacations as much as everyone else is making it look like, then it can be something that impacts mental health. So taking some time out from devices and screens is really important for mental health, as well as overall wellbeing.
Again, having open communication with your children is important, and it can make such a difference to how you all feel if they are able to share what they’ve seen and the impact that it has had on them. It starts the conversation off that there is no such thing as having a perfect body or mind. And at the end of the day, no one is going to be perfectly healthy. Someone could on paper be the picture of health, but be struggling with crippling anxiety or depression; we just don’t know. Everyone’s bodies, including their minds, are different. It is an important message to share with our children, as well as it is important to celebrate those differences.
We live in such a busy world, where everything is different and everything is instant. People are starting to have very little patience with things, and as a result, it is easy to see why more and more people are feeling stressed, under pressure, or anxious about things. So being able to take some time out, as adults, and then to teach our children is something that can really make a difference. But what is mindfulness all about?
Being mindful is about not rushing around and really listening to yourself. If you find that you are eating breakfast so quickly, at the same time as listening to the news on TV, and while scrolling through your Instagram feed, then your mind is just so busy. In this example, the only thing you should be doing is eating breakfast. Then you can focus, take time to think about your day, without all of the overwhelm that can come from living in such a busy state. So things like this, as well as meditation, yoga, and breathing techniques can be a good idea. For children, yoga and breathing techniques are definitely an option, as well as things like taking time out for a hobby, where all that they are doing is the chosen hobby. This can make such a difference and help to clear their minds of everything else.