KINGSTON, Jamaica — The month of May, although celebrated as Child Month, is also often a stressful time for many children, particularly those who sit exams during this period.
It is against that background that May is also observed as Mental Health Awareness Month to bring awareness to various stressors and the need for people to carefully manage life’s challenges - even children.
In a release on Monday, licensed associate counselling psychologist, Jhanille Brooks, noted that given the realities of life, practising mindfulness can help relieve stress and health-related illnesses, especially for students.
“The whole concept of mindfulness speaks fully to being engaged and immersed in a moment and in the present. Not too much in the past and not so much in the future,” she said. “It means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the surrounding environment."
Brooks was speaking as a guest at the recent JN Foundation’s Parent and Child Empowerment Seminar.
Citing some benefits of therapy, Brooks said children who are less stressed are better focused. She also indicated that indulging in therapy can improve physical health, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties. She also highlighted that mindfulness also helps to treat mental health problems especially those associated with anxiety and depression.
Asking parents and teachers to pay close attention to children under their care, the counselling psychologist said stress can manifest itself in different forms including frequent stomach upsets, headaches, muscle tension, trouble sleeping, feeling tired all the time, feeling burnout and being impatient or irritable.”
Brooks also used the opportunity to advise students who attended the session that it is important to develop a self-care plan, which can be useful to address issues of stress before examinations. This plan, she said, entails reconnecting with a spiritual source, exercising and doing physical activity, and feeding one’s mind with positivity and humour.
“Unhealthy junk food all the time is not ideal, having a healthy diet is better. Spending quality time alone is also important. The meditation that we spoke about and staying positive and having a sense of humour is also important,” she said, informing the audience that there are free apps that can assist with relaxation, such as Headspace, Aura, Breethe and Calm.
“There are many apps out there, so find one that works for you. It is best to have it on your smartphone so when you feel stressed in a moment you can plug in your headphones and listen to the app, which will help to keep you calm,” she said.
The seminar was the first of several sessions being organised by the JN Foundation. Parris Lyew-Ayee, chairman of the JN Foundation, said the sessions are aimed at empowering both parents and scholars.
“This session has been specifically designed so that you can take away educational information, but also so that you can acquire life skills and specific aptitudes, such as developing a financial mindset, ways to set and achieve your goals, and skills to manage stress,” he said.
The more than 50 students who were in attendance were also exposed to goal-setting strategies and techniques and financial literacy with a focus on money management.