Have you ever felt overwhelmed? Probably! The task of balancing work, caring for a child, and maintaining relationships can generate a great deal of stress. Stress is a state of emotional or mental strain resulting from demanding circumstances (Potter, Perry, Stockert, & Hall, 2014). Stress is something that many people experience making it important to ensure that you properly care for yourself and manage your stress. Developing strategies to manage and reduce stress can be a part of a healthy lifestyle for you and those that you care for. One way to manage stress is through mindfulness.
It is a practice that involves focusing on the present and being aware of yourself and things around you. Mindfulness can assist in understanding personal feelings, values, and situations by exploring thoughts, emotions, and physical events (Weare, 2013). Using mindfulness has been shown to help decrease feelings of stress or anxiety (Kinser, Robins, & Macho, 2016).
Mindfulness based practices is a part of a variety of therapies known as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). It has been shown to decrease anxiety, mental health, improve academic performance, and enhance self-regulation (Weare, 2013).
Easy ways to incorporate mindfulness:
Brown University has three tips to easily include mindfulness into your everyday routine:
“Walking: Be aware of the sensations of walking, like the quality of the pavement under your feet and how your body feels. Notice when your mind wanders and, without judgment, come back to awareness of walking.
Taking a shower: Notice how the water feels on your body and the movements of your body as you shower. This can be a good time to focus on your breath as well.
Brushing your teeth: Pay attention to all of the sensations, tastes and movements involved. Since we begin and end the day with this task, it can also be an opportunity to give yourself compassion or lovingkindness” (Brown University, n.d )
Mental Health in Children and Adults
The mental health in children and adults can benefit from mindfulness practices. Common mental health problems that adult and children could experience are anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and PTSD (Charach, 2016). Mental health signs and symptoms change depending on your age and developmental stage but are just as serious if they are experienced by a child or an adult. General signs and symptoms for children vary depending on developmental stage but some signs:
may be change in sleep
change in appetite
a difference in activities
A comprehensive summary of mental health issues can be found at: http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/.
Infant and child mental health is related to adult mental health. It has been shown that caregivers mental health is directly related to their child's (Akter, Colonnesi, Majdandzic, & Bogels, 2017). Finding support and resources is a necessary step in order to improve an individual’s mental health. Mothers and fathers can experience changes to their mental health after the birth of a child, with high rates occurring within the first year of a child’s birth (Bennett & Indman, 2015) (Giallo, D’esposito, Cooklin, et al., 2013). This is a time where there are a lot of new experiences, responsibilities, and a significant role change has occurred which can lead to high levels of stress and other mental health disturbances such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, or other mental health issues (Bennett & Indman, 2015).
Finding support through SRCPC staff, family physician, or the other resources below can assist in improving your mental health. Improved mental health can help make meaningful connections with your child(ren), people around you, and can make you feel happy and healthier (Akter, Colonnesi, Majdandzic, & Bogels, 2017) (Bennett & Indman, 2015).
Resources for infant, child, and adult mental health
Walk in clinic that has 5 locations across the GTA, the closest one to the Centre is at Church and Wellesley. They provide counselling to children, youth, young adults and their families, and families with an infant. It is a free service with no health card or appointment required.
Regent Park Community Center located 17 minutes away by walking from the SRCPC. They offer parent and child groups that teaches new skills, provide social support, and assist in finding resources such as psychological support, and other resources that could help to reduce stress in your area.
The South Riverdale Community Health Centre located at Queen and Carlaw, offers a variety of parent and child programs in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.
Information on the rates of mental health issues, risks to paternal perinatal depression, an online screening tool for fathers and additional web resources
Offers resources for those who need immediate help, links to resources in your area, and information on male mental health
Resources on milestone development, parenting moments, and on online bulletin board for common questions
Information on infant mental health
Phone numbers for immediate mental health assistance
How does Nutrition fit into the topic of Mental Health and Stress Reduction?
Nutrition is of great importance for healthy brain development ! I can say it no better than the Association of UK Dietitians “A well fed brain is more likely to lead to good mood behaviour and learning” (Rex, 2017).
How can we do this?
We should start by having regular meals.
We tend to skip meals, or delay eating when we have a lot going on during the day. Yes, ironically, when we have a lot on our plate, we tend to skip eating. We are probably all familiar with the cranky feeling you get if you have not eaten for a while. Indeed long bouts of time without eating is found to worsens one’s mood and concentration (Rex, 2017). For our children this is equally important as regular meals provide them with the energy they need to think effectively (Rex, 2017).
A recommendation from the Association of UK Dietitians is to incorporate fiber-rich foods in the diet as these foods are digested more slowly, and are longer lasting energy supplies.
Bring color to your plate! This is through a including a variety of foods in the diet.
You do not need to know what each food is good for, the mere fact of including a variety of different foods is making you more likely to get enough of what nutrients you need. Remember to think of nutrient packed foods, fruits and vegetables; limit the sugary drinks and high-fat and highly sweetened treats.
Certain Nutrients are of particular interest in brain development
Iron: meat, fish, poultry, dried beans, peas, lentils, some fruits and vegetables, fortified pastas and cereals.
More examples of food sources:
Magnesium: Legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, whole grains
More examples of food sources:
Zinc: Seafood, meats, seeds, cooked and dried beans, lentils
More examples of food sources:
Omega-3: vegetable oil, walnuts, flaxseeds, soy products, fish, seafood, fish oils
More examples of food sources:
These are associated to brain development. Although I will not go into the complexities of how these nutrient play a role in brain development, note that they each have their particular associations with attention, concentration, anxiety and sleep.
Early Life Nutrition
During the early stages in life, it has been found that dietary quality influences the risk of mental health illnesses, depression and anxiety in adults (Jacka et al., 2013). As well as links between maternal nutrition and the child’s neurodevelopment and immune system (Jacka et al., 2013). So, that being said, remember to try your best to explore children to a variety of food, so they can make the most of the nutrients available to them.
Let’s take a minute to go back to mindfulness!
Have you heard about the Mindful Eating? This is the idea of exploring food through your sense. Take a second to feel the graininess of rice before you cook it, the crunchiness of peanut, the pleasant smell of vanilla, the sourness of a slice of grapefruit. As you know, infants and toddlers explore and learns by touching and tasting, so having them in the kitchen or around food, will have them appreciate the differences in food.
During the Workshop, we had you make Energy Balls. A great breakfast snack, or snack during whatever time of the day. This was a great sensory food activity, as the children can explore the texture of the ingredients such as oats, wow butters, coconut shreds, etc. The following link provides you with the recipe to this hit snack.
RECIPE to the Crispy No Bake Energy Balls, by Bren
American Dietetic Association. (2009). What should you know about Mindful and Intuitive Eating?. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 110(3): 1982-87.
Aktar, E., Colonnesi, C., de Vente, W., Majdandžić, M., & Bögels, S. M. (2017). How do parents' depression and anxiety, and infants' negative temperament relate to parent–infant face-to-face interactions? Development and Psychopathology, 29(3), 697-710. doi:10.1017/S0954579416000390
Bennett, A., Brewer, K., & Rankin, K. (2012). The association of child mental health conditions and parent mental health status among U.S. children, 2007. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 16(6), 1266-1275. doi:10.1007/s10995-011-0888-4
Bennett, S., Indman, P. (2015). Beyond the Blues: Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression & Anxiety. San Francisco, CA: Untreed Reads, LLC.
Charach, A. 2016. Behavioural Disorders: Signs and Symptoms. Retrieved from:http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/En/HealthAZ/HealthandWellness/MentalHealth/Pages/behavioural-disorders-signs-symptoms.aspx
Jacka, FN., Ystrom, E., Brantsaeter, AL., Karevold, E., Roth, C., Haugen, M., Meltzer, HM.,
Schjolberg, S., Berk, M. (2013). Maternal and Early Postnatal Nutrition and Mental Health of Offspring by Age 5 Years: A Prospective Cohort Study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 52(10): 1037-48.
Kinser, P. A., Robins, J. L. W., & Masho, S. W. (2016). Self-administered mind-body practices for reducing health disparities: An interprofessional opinion and call to action. Evidence - Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1155/2016/2156969
Giallo, R., D’Esposito, F., Cooklin, A. et al. (2013). Psychosocial risk factors associated with fathers mental health in the post natal period: results from a population-based study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 48(4), 563-573. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1007/s00127-012-0568-8
Potter, P. A., Perry, A.G., Stockert, P.A., & Hall, A.M. (Eds.). (2014). Canadian fundamentals of nursing (5th Cdn. ed.) (J. C. Ross-Kerr, M. J. Wood, B. J. Astle & W. Duggleby, Cdn. Adapt.). Toronto, ON: Elsevier Canada.
Rex, D. (2017). Food Fact Sheet: Diet, Behaviour and Learning in Children. British Dietetic Association.
Weare, K. (2013). Developing mindfulness with children and young people: A review of the evidence and policy context. Journal of Children's Services, 8(2), 141-153. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1108/JCS-12-2012-0014