Balanced Living

Back to School – The Mental Health Variable

Posted by Arja on September 3 in Holistic Health

September is back to school time for people all over North America.  As children gear up for new adventures and teachers head back into the classroom, it’s hard not to feel like it’s a new year, even if you don’t have children.  New years, and new beginnings, can be exciting, but for people who struggle with mental health issues it can stir up feelings of fear, anxiety, and even depression.

Change is hard.  It’s scary, and can make you either want to turn and run backwards towards safety, or just stand there, paralyzed, waiting for it to pass without sweeping you along with it.  It doesn’t matter whether mental health is a factor for you or not, change can challenge the best of us.

My little guy is an anxious type.  This isn’t something new, and it presented itself even when he was very little.  But now, even though his confidence has grown in other ways he still tends to fall apart when doing new things without the security his father or I, or any of his grandparents.  The thing is, I know exactly how he feels.  I am constantly pushing back against the fears that threaten to keep me from moving forward, and I find it hard to watch my kiddo fight the same battle.  I had hoped that my legacy to him wouldn’t be a lifetime of anxiety, and I’m optimistic that as he grows both in age and experience, his confidence will grow right along with him.

Becoming a parent has forced me to step way outside my comfort zone, as I tackle many new situations alone with him, all in the name of family fun and adventure.  But now, as my son starts SK at a new school and we are forced to relive all the drama of starting school over again, I’m working hard to keep my own anxieties in check in order to help him through this transition period.

Everyone is different, and what works for me may not work for you, but here is what is in my good mental health tool kit right now:

Bach’s Rescue Remedy – this is more for me than for my little guy as it works well for adults and older children, but it’s a must for keeping calm during stress and combatting anxiety.  I started using it when I wanted to ease up on anti-anxiety medication and now there is always a bottle in my purse and briefcase.  It’s easy to use, has no side effects, and really works.

Outdoor time – spending time in nature is grounding.  The fresh air and sunshine are good for your brain (and your heart!), and you always end up feeling calmer.  The petit and I started doing little morning day hikes/nature walks this year and it’s been lovely.  There are so many great trails and parks within a reasonable distance from home, so we don’t need to spend half our day just getting someplace.  We pack a snack and a camera and go explore.  He loves it, and it makes me feel like the kind of parent that I really want to be – calm, relaxed, and active.

Whole foods – it may seem like an obvious one, especially since I’m a nutritionist, but I cannot stress the importance of good food for mental health.  Sugar and refined carbohydrates will leach minerals out of your body, and send your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride that doesn’t end well.  There’s also something to be said for the kind of energy you put into the food that you cook, and when I want my guy to feel loved and safe, I make sure that he knows I’m making special meals and snacks just for him.  Whole grains, berries, seeds, and high quality protein (animal or plant-based) are my focus, and I make sure to support good gut and brain health with probiotics and essential fatty acids too.

Homeopathic remedies – You may need to reach out to a health care professional to assist you in choosing the right one for your symptoms (homeopathic remedies can be very specific in what they are treating), but there are also some good general formulas out there.  I’ve had good luck with the 0-9 product line for other things and am trying their calm formula with my guy right now along with a more specific remedy for both him and I.

Herbs – Relaxing herbal tea formulations (with passionflower, oatstraw, hops, chamomile, and/or lavender), or tinctures can be very effective is calming the nervous system and dialing down anxiety.  Chamomile is particularly gentle and effective for kids and adults alike.

Chiropractic care – My kiddo and I both get regular chiropractic adjustments and it has had a positive effect on both of us, especially in our mental health.  All your nerves extend out from your spinal column, sending signals and communications throughout the body.  Imagine how this all can go awry if things are pressing in the wrong way.  It’s not that I don’t still get anxious, it’s that I feel more resilient and bounce back faster. 

Along with all these other tools, my husband and I make sure that we don’t brush off his fears as silly or inconsequential.  We listen, and give as much information as we can to prepare him for the things he cannot anticipate.  But above all else, we let him know that everyone gets nervous and scared sometimes, but that it’s important not to let these fears get the better of you and stop you from doing new things. 

I’m doing my best and trying not to show my own fearful tears as he turns his sweet face towards mine looking for love and encouragement.  The best way to face anxiety is to just tackle whatever it is head on, and prove to yourself that there’s nothing to be afraid of. 

So, hand in hand, my little guy and I will keep moving forward.  I’m grateful to him for showing me that I have a reserve of strength that I didn’t even know existed.

Sending all of you strength as you face your new challenges and fears.  You’ve got this, and so do we.

I'm spending lots of time sharing pictures and anecdotes on Instagram these days.  I'd love it if you'd join me there!  I'm @balancebodysoul - drop by and say hi!

arja pennanen lytle c.n.p. n.n.c.p certified nutritional practitioner

Arja is a Holistic Nutritionist with a passion for balanced living. She loves to help people sleep better, think better, feel sexier, and just generally feel better by putting the focus on eating foods that make you feel good. Arja uses whole foods, lifestyle adjustments, herbs, and some supplements to help people feel their best and achieve their health and wellness goals.