Category Archives: Exercise

Four Things You Can Do Today to Help Your Child’s Mental Health

Whether you live in India, Finland, Canada, Britain or anywhere else — we’re all feeling the sting of self-isolation. Here are a few important and relatively quick ways you can help improve your children’s mental health.

boy child clouds kid

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

  1. Move!

Sitting in a chair doing school work or on the couch using SnapChat all day isn’t healthy. Depending on their age, you can offer to sing silly songs or make up a song. You can do a TikTok dance, you can ask Alexa to play “workout songs” and do an indoor workout. This family has fancy outfits and a choreographer to design their dance but you can still make your own silly video!

And, if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you definitely know how I feel about the importance of going outside.

woman wearing red dress jumping

Photo by Godisable Jacob on Pexels.com

2. Connect!

We’re all missing our friends, colleagues and/or extended families. For single parents or essential workers, life isn’t necessarily boring but it can be stressful and lonely. If your kids are missing their friends, grandparents, or cousins, there’s always social media of course.

But if you’re trying to get them offline – you could show them how to write a letter or poem. Some parents are using this time to teach their kids life skills, like laundry, dishes, garbage, etc. Depending on the age of your child, you could do something more fun like writing a handwritten letter, write the address on the envelope, put a stamp on it and put it in the mailbox. It might seem funny to some of us, but many children and even teens have never written a letter!

happy birthday card beside flower thread box and macaroons

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

3.  Read!

Have you or your kids had a chance to read any new books (or re-read favourites) during the shut-down? Now that online school is on for many in different parts of the world, reading books may fall to the wayside.

I admit that even my reading has waned recently but I’ll get back at it this weekend. I am actually paying my kids (judge me if you must!) to read books during the pandemic. They have to be “real” books (not comics or magazines) but the topic and genre can be of their choosing.

Reading is an easy, low-cost, educational, fun way to pass the time – and increase imagination and comprehension at the same time.

couple reading books

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

4. Shut down!

Remember that it’s okay to shut down mentally, physically and literally (shut down your computer, your kids’ devices, the TV, etc.) at the end of the day or whenever makes sense) for you – and do something that takes your mind off of current events.

Sometimes the path of least resistance is best. So, if you and your kids like to ride bikes – do that (in a socially distanced manner of course!). If you prefer playing cards or listening to music, by all means! Maybe drawing or talking or just sitting quietly is best for everyone.

Whatever you do, remember that we don’t need to be watching the news online or on TV or the radio constantly; we can all use the time to sleep, dream and think.

What have you and your family been doing to stay healthy & sane? I’d love to know.

Yours in quiet solitude,

Lisa

Throw Your Hands Up in the Air Like You Just Don’t Care?

If you’re like me, you’re embracing the good but not ignoring the bad during this time of self-isolation/quarantine/physical distancing.

Sure, there’s been some lovely bonding time over card games, music and books – and walks – lots and lots of walks and hikes. In fact, my daughter and I have been making mini paintings for our “quarantine art gallery” which we display on our large back window. That has been a lovely side benefit.

Screenshot 2020-04-03 at 09.15.42

We’ve also had a few sibling/parent or full family card game and board game nights which included a few laughs and some friendly competition.

However, it’s not all been party games, cake-making (though I did make an amazing rich decadent chocolate cake!) and painting. For instance: my older teen was up until 6 am this morning. You read that correctly – he hadn’t gone to sleep yet at 6 am and thought that this was okay!

To me, even though this is a “break” (as he likes to call it) and school is not on, it doesn’t mean we do nothing and give up all semblance of a routine. For instance, I still need to work. I’m working from home most of the time but it’s been busy – and somewhat stressful. And, my partner still works on-site so we both need to get sleep (and food, and groceries, and exercise, and pay bills, do cleaning, etc.) Also, my kids’ online school starts on Monday so both will need to get assignments done and check in with their teachers.

woman in black long sleeve shirtusing a laptop

Photo by Vernie Andrea on Pexels.com

To me, being on quarantine/self-isolation doesn’t mean a free-for-all, let’s throw up our hands and give up. It does mean that I try to cut my kids some slack – let them sleep in a little, eat cake for breakfast once in a while, chat with their friends a lot on social media, etc. but I feel like self-discipline is an important principle and now is a good time for us all to motivate ourselves to achieve something.

That might mean learning to cook, doing push-ups every day, learning to play the piano, to paint, to learn a new language, practise your musical instrument, sing, make videos, write poetry…something!

I’ve been insisting on family walks/hikes every day and doing some chores or reading physical books rather than sit around looking at devices 24/7.  I have to admit, most of the time, both of my teens go on the hikes without complaint. I don’t know if they’ve given up arguing with me about it or they have learned to enjoy it. (: So, I guess that’s a win.

What do you think? Have you thrown up your hands during this time? Let your kids throw up their hands? Doing the home-schooling thing? Teaching them new skills? I’d love to hear your tips.

Yours quarantinely,

Lisa

How are you feeling? You’re Not Alone.

These are crazy times, no doubt about it. I don’t use the word “crazy” without putting thought behind it but, right now, I think this is the perfect time to use such a term.

person in coveralls holding spray bottle

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

How are you and your kids dealing with the pandemic, social (now called physical) distancing, self-isolation and/or quarantine?

Just think: only weeks ago were most of us out and about, living our lives, travelling, going to any stores we wanted, dining out at restaurants, having play-dates or hang-outs, going to the park, the playground, the airport – with no other thought other than making sure we had our car keys, wallets or phones with us.

I’m sure many of you are vacillating between peace, panic, anxiety, depression, calm, laziness, thoughtfulness and boredom. That’s normal. I myself am feeling all of these things and more. My teen children are presently with their dad but I’m sure they’re starting to feel like the walls are closing in on them.

To me, getting outside for fresh air and exercise EVERY DAY has been so important. The blast of non-recycled air, blood moving, and enjoying some outdoor scenery and nature has been life-changing.  See the tweet below from Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health giving the okay to go outside (taking normal precautions):

Screenshot 2020-03-23 at 12.34.32

I know people with younger children are having a lot of trouble finding ways to keep them occupied. One of my colleagues with two young boys (one a toddler, one about 5 years old) has been doing LEGO/Duplo, making crafts, having the kids go outside and splash in the puddles/play in the snow and helping them make cookies and cakes.

Many people still have to work from home (or work outside the home if they are deemed essential services and/or their employer is making them come to work or they have their own businesses). I hope that your employer and your customers are being understanding – especially if you have children or parents to care for. We all need to be mindful that this is NOT business as usual – and are working outside of normal parameters to get things done.

While my two teens were here at my house, I implemented a few hours of no-screen time. During this time, they had to read a physical book, play cards, draw, go outside, do homework or help with chores.

Here are some other ideas and resources that I’m finding helpful as I cope with working from home, co-parenting two kids, taking care of a sick cat and dealing with bouts of panic and anxiety:

What efforts have worked well for you? Have you been able to maintain some kind of normalcy? I’d love to hear from you. Please write or comment below. Also, if you like this article (or any of my other posts), please remember to share on Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook or by email.

Keeping the peace in pandemic times,

Lisa

What is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?

Have you heard of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD)? Many people with ADHD also have RSD which means they are more sensitive to things like smell, touch, taste and sound – even criticism.

group of people gathering at party

Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

This type of response can be both a blessing and a curse. While none of us want to be immune to the excitement of the world around us, being “extra” can be overwhelming for many people. Imagine being in a big city and being bombarded by every sound around you: Every car zooming by, every honk of the horn, every snippet of music blaring from a car window would feel heavy, stressful and suffocating. For highly sensitive people and/or those with RSD, the world can literally be unbearable at times.

What is RSD?

According to WebMD:

“When you have ADHD, your nervous system overreacts to things from the outside world. Any sense of rejection can set off your stress response and cause an emotional reaction that’s much more extreme than usual.”

Because people with ADHD often perceive ideas, situations and experiences differently, it can be frustrating for them to not “jive” with others who are in the same situation. What they perceive as reality is often not the reality of those around them. Add RSD to ADHD and life can become extremely debilitating and frustrating for someone already sensitive to criticism.

While some may be able to slough off small doses of negative feedback or criticism, those with rejection sensitivity dysphoria feel negativity more deeply and often have a very difficult time sloughing it off (if ever) or feel the presence of that criticism weighing on their shoulders for a long period of time.

black and white black and white depressed depression

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)

I’ve written about HSPs before. While I’m not a psychologist, social worker or counselor, I have researched and written a great deal about mental health and ADHD. I can see that  there are many links between the two mental health facets.

If you are interested in the life of a highly sensitive person, I’m a fan of Dr. Elaine Aron and her HSP blog/site and resources. Please check it out if you wish – there is a tremendous amount of useful information available on her site.

Of course, there are good things about being sensitive to the world around you. While others might not notice a beautiful sunset, a favourite song playing in the background, a tiny animal hiding in tree or the way someone reacts in a crowd, those who are highly sensitive are more astute and will take note.

How Can We Help Those with RSD?

For both RSD and HSP, the following things may help:

  • Medicine – Some children, teens and adults use pharmaceuticals which can be helpful. See an MD, psychologist or psychiatrist for more information.
  • Yoga – Practicing yoga and meditation are highly encouraged for everyone. Both practices can relax the body and mind and make us more serene and resilient.
  • Talk therapy – Speaking with a social worker or psychologist can be extremely rewarding if the right connections are made. Ask for referrals from guidance counselors, doctors, friends or neighbours. If possible, see the specialist first for an informal chat to see if you (or your child) and he or she hit it off. Even if the specialist is licensed, experienced and professional, he or she may not be the right fit for your family.
  • Proper sleep and rest – I may sound like broken record here but regular, sound, healthy sleep is key to managing one’s life in a productive and positive way. If you or your child is exhausted, managing stress and criticism is going to be that much harder.
  • Exercise – Like sleep, daily exercise (whether it’s running, ballet, yoga, hiking, biking, karate, gymnastics, dancing or something else) is critical to a healthy, happy life. We may not always feel like it, but getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day is important for our and our children’s mental and physical well-being.

Do you or your child have RSD or HSP? I’d love to hear about your stresses and successes managing these complex challenges. Feel free to write to me or comment here.

Lisa

 

Summer Daze

As a warm breeze blows through the window and birds chatter happily in the backyard ravine, I am wondering where the school year has gone.  Wasn’t it just the first day of school for my newly minted ‘tween and teen? Weren’t we just making plans for Christmas and then March break?

colorful umbrellas

Photo by Katelyn on Pexels.com

In our region, there is approximately one more month left of school. I can tell that my children are looking forward to having a break from the seemingly-endless days of early wake-ups and constant assignments as well as the periphery of peer drama; (one or two) ineffective teachers and constantly being told what to do, when and where.

Breaking Bad

Summer can (and should) offer a break for kids but what about parents? In days gone by it was the norm for mothers to stay home and enjoy summers off with their kids. I always imagine picnics in the park, swimming at the local pool, soccer with the neighbours and play dates galore. These days, though I know some people who are teachers or stay-at-home parents, I don’t know many who have the luxury of taking entire summers off.

sea sunset ocean relaxing

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Is it so bad to take two months off to rest and relax? Of course not – in theory. As most people know, constant deadlines and over-scheduling puts undue pressure on children and teens (and adults).

But what’s the grey area between idleness and helicoptering? As much as we want our kids to have a break on weekends, holidays and in the summer-time, sometimes this just isn’t possible or can lead to chaos in the household. I like this post I wrote about this same topic back in 2015: Idle Hands? I also enjoyed this funny and honest New York Times portrayal of after-school scheduling in the age of working parents.

The point is that too much “on time” can cause depression and anxiety in children. All human beings need to have quiet time with no deadlines, no rushing from Point A to Point B, no “end game” in mind. I think we’ve lost sight of the fact that idle time isn’t always a bad thing: It can actually lead to improved mental health, better sleep, more happiness and even creative insights on how to solve a problem or write a song. Our brains need time to breathe.

Despite not having scheduled one single activity at this point, I am still confident this summer will be one for the memory books. If you’re a parent, what plans do you have for your children this summer? Are they going to camp? Hanging with grandparents? Going to summer school? Traveling? Volunteering? I’d love to hear your thoughts on scheduling and plans for the season.

Please note: I will be taking a short medical leave of absence soon so please excuse any related absence from this blog. Thank you for your understanding.

Kids & Exercise

man wearing blue crew neck t shirt holding girl near mountains

Photo by Josh Willink on Pexels.com

Hello! I am happy to include a guest post from the tenacious and talented Sarah Maurer of Miss Adventure Pants. I recently wrote a guest post for her site about hiking with kids and am thrilled to include her expert tips here.

Yesterday, I wrote a similar post about how I may not be the perfect parent but I am really good at getting my tween and teen outside and active as I believe it is so important for everyone’s mental health. Unfortunately that post was lost in the great unknown (most likely because I forgot to save it as a draft!) so Sarah’s helpful list has saved me and will hopefully inspire you & your family as well.

Seven Surprising Facts About Kids and Exercise

If you have a hard time getting your kids to put down their phones and play outside, you’re far from alone. Raising active kids in the information age is a challenge for almost all parents.

Research by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids spend an average of 7 hours a day interacting with devices and screens. That’s about the same amount of time you spend at work — and they also do it on weekends.

However, even when it feels like pulling teeth, motivating your kids to exercise is almost always worth the trouble. If you need extra motivation to persevere, consider what the research says about kids and exercise:

1. Being active at a young age helps to prevent chronic disease in adulthood.

People who were active as children have a lower lifetime risk of many chronic illnesses, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and coronary artery disease.

2. For kids, the health benefits of exercise are mental as well as physical.

Active children ages 6–17 are less likely to develop depression than their sedentary peers. A two-year study involving 4,600 middle school kids found that the exercisers among them scored lower on measures of depression like anxiety and fatigue. While the study didn’t look specifically at the effects of exercise on childhood depression, the authors posited that young exercisers probably experience the same mood-lifting benefits as adults.

3. Exercise helps kids learn.

Schools, think twice before you cut your physical education programs any further. Active kids ages 6–13 score higher on measures of cognitive function, thinking, and memory skills than their less active classmates.

4. Kids need a surprising amount of exercise.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services currently recommends that children and teens engage in 60 minutes of physical activity a day, including vigorous activity on at least 3 days a week. That may seem like a lot when you think in terms of aerobics or spin classes. But keep in mind that for kids, this can include active recreation like walking, skateboarding, biking, and ball games.

5. Kid athletes are surprisingly mighty

Until fairly recently, experts warned parents about the dangers of too much exercise during childhood. They posited that activities like weight lifting and long-distance running might harm growing bodies. However, research hasn’t borne these concerns out. Weight training in particular has been shown to be safe and effective for school age children, so long as they avoid maximal effort and explosive movements (no power cleans!).

people wearing backpacks walking on pathway near green leaf plants

Photo by Kai-Chieh Chan on Pexels.com

6. Active kids tend to become active adults.

Experts lament the fact that so many sedentary children are growing into sedentary adults who are at increased risk for chronic illness. However, the opposite is also true. Kids who enjoy exercise and physical activity will tend to maintain these interests as adults, reaping many health benefits along the way.

7. The best way to raise active kids is to be active yourself.

What’s the number one predictor of physical activity in kids and teens? It’s having an active role model in their lives, whether it’s a parent, a sibling, or anyone else they look up to. That’s a great reason to be active as a family — even when the kids would sometimes rather be playing video games.

For some excellent tips on hiking with kids, check out this blog post by Lisa. I’ve also written a 4-week walking workout plan that you can enjoy with children and teens.

Hopefully, these tips will motivate you to get active with your kids, whether you’re walking the dog together, doing exercise videos, lifting weights, or just monkeying around at the playground. And if you hit some resistance from the kids, rest assured that the lifelong health benefits will be worth it.

###

Sarah Maurer is a fitness coach and hiking enthusiast who blogs at missadventurepants.com. She previously worked as a school counselor to elementary and middle school students.