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Foster Mental Health During the Global Pandemic

With constantly shifting Government SOP’s and the threat of COVID-19, Raffles American School has often been at the whim of this changing environment and has always placed the safety and protection of our children as our first priority. In an ever-changing and stressful world, especially since the arrival of the global pandemic, for many individuals and families, it has been an emotional rollercoaster. However, for our children, the magnitude of the effects of COVID-19 has been unthinkable. With online schooling, disrupted social interactions, cognitive and visual stimulation, these inexorable circumstances can affect mental health. “The containment measures like school and activity centers closures for long periods together expose the children and youth to the debilitating effects on educational, psychological, and developmental attainment as they experience loneliness, anxiety, and uncertainty.” (Singh et al., 2020) 

 What can we do to alleviate these potential issues? 

Fostering healthy, holistic activities and habits such as practicing basic yoga and breathing techniques may be a simple way to help reduce these effects. “According to the Health Ministry in Malaysia, mental health problems are on the rise among Malaysian students. Mental health disorders affected one in ten individuals in 2011, but that number has risen to one in five in 2016, the same rate as in the United States. It has been revealed that anxiety and depression are the main kinds of mental health problems among students.” (Nanthakumar, 2017) 

Observing behavioral changes in your child could be the first step in discovering any potential concerns. Mood swings, lengthy sleeping hours, and antisocial behavior are common in teenagers, as their hormones are in full swing. It’s important to be mindful that these issues are common in hormonal teens regardless, though it could be a cause for concern if it’s affecting their social interactions outside the home too, and these changes may become more prevalent.   Children are often known to hide their distress from their parents, as they do not want them to worry. This is why it is important to be aware of mental health issues in a child, as early intervention can help prevent long-term effects. Exercise is an effective way to help alleviate some of these issues. If you notice your child is down a lot and is exhibiting signs of anxiety, depression, or stress, here are some yoga exercises and activities from Raffles American School that can help.

Yoga is an ancient Indian practice that has been used for centuries all over the world by people of all ages, and it has been shown to promote a healthy mind and body. It has proven to promote awareness, self-reflection, mindfulness, and a reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression. “Self-regulation has been proposed as one of the key mechanisms through which mindfulness practices influence positive psychological and emotional change in children.” (Shapiro et al. 2006; Zelazo and Lyons 2012 )

Yoga consists of breathing techniques, meditation, and poses. Its positive impact has been established in ancient and contemporary literature as well as in recent scientific research proving its benefits to mental and physical health, especially in children. 

 

Breathing techniques are a great tool to practice at home and are an easy way to help with self-regulation and an introduction to mindfulness. It can be used as a way to unwind, relax and declutter your mind and bring emotional balance. 

Here is an exercise you can do with your children: 

  1. Basic Pranayama Yoga Breathing 
  2. Sit on the floor (preferably on a yoga mat) with your legs crossed and close your eyes. 
  3. Sit with your back straight and relax your shoulders. 
  4. Close your mouth and inhale deeply while expanding your diaphragm and hold your breath for a few seconds, then exhale while allowing your stomach to contract. 
  5. Once you are used to the expanding and contracting of your diaphragm, try holding each breath. 
  6. Inhale for 4 seconds while expanding your stomach (you should feel your lungs expanding) 
  7. Hold your breath for 7 seconds. Then contract your stomach as you exhale for 8 seconds. 
  8. This exercise can be done for 10 minutes a day, multiple times. 

Simple, easy yoga poses at home are a really great way to allow your child to find some clarity in their thoughts and just take some time in a day for themselves. Other activities that could help

your child includes baking, journaling, coloring, or painting by number kits. Find activities you can do with your families, like bike riding or game nights. But an important factor is to try and add one physical activity a day which can help boost serotonin and endorphins, especially if it’s outdoors, as sunshine will boost vitamin D intake, which can play a major role in emotional regulation. Through helping your child, you may even find these activities beneficial for yourself.

If you have any concerns about your child’s wellbeing, you can contact our school counselor David Norman. 

counsellor@rafflesamericanschool.org

 

References 

Nanthakumar, Chandra. (2017). The benefits of yoga in children. Journal of Integrative Medicine. 16. 10.1016/j.joim.2017.12.008.

Viner R.M., Russell S.J., Croker H., Packer J., Ward J., Stansfield C., Mytton O., Bonell C., Booy R. School closure and management practices during coronavirus outbreaks including COVID-19: A rapid systematic review. Lancet Child Adolesc. Health. 2020;4(5):397–404. doi: 10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30095-X.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/should-yoga-be-made-a-compulsory-subject-in-schools-and-colleges/articleshow/69824472.cms 

https://www.ecoleglobale.com/blog/compulsory-yoga-in-schools-pros-and-cons/ 

https://www.firstpost.com/india/yoga-to-be-a-compulsory-subject-in-govt-schools-heres-what-the-plan-is-2306796.html 

Bogels, S., Hoogstad, B., Van Dun, L., de Schutter, S., & Restifo, K. (2008). Mindfulness training for adolescents with externalizing disorders and their parents. Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 36, 193–209.

Burke, C. A. (2009). Mindfulness-based approaches with children and adolescents: a preliminary review of current research in an emergent field. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 133–144.

Carboni, J. A., Roach, A. T., & Fredrick, L. D. (2013). Impact of mindfulness training on the behavior of elementary students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Research in Human Development, 10, 234–251.

Nanthakumar, Chandra. (2017). The benefits of yoga in children. Journal of Integrative Medicine. 16. 10.1016/j.joim.2017.12.008. 

https://cosmickids.com/cosmic-kids-teacher-survey/

https://www.thegoodbody.com/benefits-of-yoga-for-kids/

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/education/covid-having-devastating-impact-children-vaccine-won-t-fix-everything-n1251172

Singh, Shweta et al. “Impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on mental health of children and adolescents: A narrative review with recommendations.” Psychiatry research vol. 293 (2020): 113429. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113429

1 Comment:

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    […] Besides playing video games, encourage children to do other activities during their free time to relax their body and mind. These can include taking some time to meditate, exercise and playing sports outside the house, and reading as well. It is key to balance between recreational activities and work to have a healthier and livelier lifestyle that could also benefit each other. For an informative article on the benefits of Yoga, visit our article here.  […]

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