We live in an age where sensory overload is a daily occurrence. iPads, laptops, smart phones, computer games/consoles, television and many other electronic devices are constantly stimulating our minds and, more detrimentally, our children’s minds.
Just driving down the street or doing the grocery shopping, we are faced with countless efforts to attract our attention – signs, billboards, ad banners, marketing ploys and other gimmicks add to our distraction. Most of our primary and secondary schools now have BYOD (bring your own device) and are equipped with wifi which is free for all students to connect to during school hours. Fortunately, some schools are now introducing meditation and mindfulness practises but the fact remains that many children are mostly “switched on” from the moment they wake to the moment they go to bed at night. Come bed time, many kids are not getting restorative sleep and rest because they have difficulty relaxing and switching off.
Busyness and busy minds seem to have slowly but surely crept into the daily lives of many people and families and I am seeing the effects of this more and more frequently in clinic. Mums and dads trying to juggle full time work, their children’s activities and schooling, social events and other commitments such as volunteering for sporting groups, at schools or in other areas of the community, not to mention trying to find time for their own health. This may present in adults as adrenal fatigue, insomnia, weight gain or loss, stress and feelings of disconnection from those around them, gut issues, cardiovascular problems and mood disorders.
For children however, it can present in other ways including anxiety, sleep disturbance, fears and phobias, issues with eating and appetite, impaired cognitive function resulting in poor concentration and memory, behavioural issues and problems with digestion.
Many children and teenagers are finding it difficult to disconnect from technology – they are more concerned about recharging their device battery instead of recharging their own battery. As parents and carers, we have a responsibility to set boundaries around children’s exposure to technology and stimulation. In addition to this, it’s important to ensure children are getting the right nutrition for their growing bodies and developing brains. Introducing healthy lifestyle habits are just as important as maintaining a healthy diet and it’s often easier to sustain these healthy habits if the whole family can adopt them.
Recently, we have seen a rise in the number of children struggling to stay focused in the classroom and finding it difficult to remember instructions and concentrate on a set task.
With the constant buzz of activity around us, it’s now more important than ever to prioritise downtime for children and teenagers. Having set times in the home where all electronic devices are powered right off can give people the space to disconnect to the outside world and reconnect with themselves.
Eating well and consuming nutrients that support the nervous system and brain health are essential for childhood and teenage development. Some basic nutrition guidelines for improving cognitive function and optimising brain health are:
• avoid sugar and sugary foods/drinks
• avoid additives, preservatives and artificial flavours and colourings
• increase hydration (filtered water is best)
• increase intake of a wide range of colourful vegetables
• choose whole food options instead of processed snack foods
• include adequate high quality protein and good fats in the diet
• include plenty of dietary fibre
• avoid stimulating foods including caffeine, soft drinks and energy drinks
Depending on presenting symptoms, specific nutrients such as zinc, omega-3’s, iron, magnesium and vitamins A, C and E may be required in supplemental dosages until balance has been restored. Nutritional supplementation should always be prescribed by a qualified health care practitioner with dosage tailored to specific conditions and based on weight/age groups.
Adopting healthy lifestyle habits are vital in optimising brain health and enhancing cognitive function. There are many ways in which we can introduce healthy habits into our lives but some of the basic ones are:
• sleep hygiene – keep a regular sleep/wake cycle, even on the weekends and holidays if possible • meditation – some people find meditating difficult because their mind wanders, but
meditation is a practise and may take some time and dedication just like any other
sport or skill to perfect
• exercise – regular exercise is required to detoxify the body of toxins which can
contribute to impaired cognition
• relaxation – schedule in time for rest and relaxation to enhance sleep and give your
mind, body and spirit the space it needs to rejuvenate
• disconnect from devices – turn off the television, tablets, computers, phones and
other electronic distractions at certain times of the day/week/weekend to open the
space for mindfulness and creativity
Learning how to switch off will nurture the nervous system and improve cognition. It’s now more important than ever before to put practises into place to ensure there is balance in yours and your children’s daily routine.
If you have concerns relating to poor concentration, impaired memory, foggy head, sleep disturbance, behavioural issues or mood disorders book an appointment with our Naturopath, Belle, who can provide a tailored health plan to address your concerns. Appointments can be made by phoning 0405 128 213 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org