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Medic warns against factors leading to poor mental, physical health

Published:Sunday | July 11, 2021 | 12:06 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston - Sunday Gleaner Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a lot of families having to make adjustments to deal with the stress of navigating their way through online classes and having children at home instead of them being in school, which results in the food and utility bills being sky high!

The ‘new normal’ has taken a toll on families mentally, emotionally and physically. It is enough to drive some crazy, while others neglect their own self-care.

Family and Religion reached out to paediatrician Dr Annette Bartley for tips on how to remain positive and optimistic while holding things together in this pandemic.

She questioned whether enough time is being allotted to relaxing and renewing the mind, body and soul.

“Are we just going, doing, working, juggling, multitasking and taking care of everyone and everything else but ourselves?” she quizzed.

Stating that your health is your wealth, Bartley pointed out that good health is not just the absence of disease from the body, but rather it is the complete physical, mental, social, as well as spiritual well-being of an individual.

She said that wealth is useless without good health to enjoy it, and that being in good physical and mental health can allow you to gain wealth. To achieve this, Bartley stressed the importance of getting enough sleep.

“A proper night’s rest sets us up to function well throughout the day and definitely makes us more productive, not to mention driving safer if we are well rested. Anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep is adequate for adults, with six hours being appropriate and less than six hours definitely not recommended,” Bartley informed.

When it comes to children, she said that they need far more sleep, and suggested that 10 to 13 hours for younger children and nine to 12 hours for older kids is necessary to promote optimal growth and developmental health.

For those who suffer from insomnia, the doctor said their minds may be too preoccupied with thinking about all they have to do that it is making it hard for them to finally settle down to sleep.

Bartley also cautioned about the possible reason sleep is proving elusive.

“Watch out for the negative inducers of sleep – anxiety, stress, caffeine, substance use, excessive alcohol intake and depression.”

Living in an age where the family has several gadgets in the home, Bartley stressed the importance of not allowing them to take pride of place in your lives.

“Watch out for other distractors like cell phones, social media and TV. This is not just for children, but for us adults too. Sometimes we need to unplug, unhook and detach ourselves from our devices, which can be tough in today’s electronic world,” she said.

Acknowledging that it is hard to unwind and relax, thus preventing burnout, fatigue, anxiety and stress, Bartley suggested that you should admit to these emotions and muster the courage to seek help.

“Mental health is real and many people are suffering in silence. It’s under-diagnosed, under-treated, and many of us are in denial. No one wants to talk about it. We think it’s taboo, we feel ashamed or just that people may think we are ‘crazy’,” she said.

For Bartley, the perfect solution is for everyone to have either a pastor, a therapist, counsellor, a friend or just a trusted person to talk to.

“We all have experienced something along life’s journey that is worth talking about … in our lives, with our families, on our jobs/careers, with our children, death, divorce, separation, marital problems or even our health ... . And check in with our children too. If we don’t ask and start the communication lines with them, we may never know what they are feeling and internalising,” she shared.

Bartley encourages families to “meditate, worship, take early morning or evening walks, listen to music, read, have quality family time or just do a crossword puzzle to help to relax”.