IN BALANCE — Back to school, healthy routines

September 1, 2016

By Sheri Lee

HEADSHOT SHERI LEEGoing back to school can be a difficult transition for everyone. Teachers, students, and parents may each struggle to find their groove in these first few weeks. After months of enjoying late nights, spontaneity, and summer fun, it can be a struggle to settle into a new schedule. Therefore, it is important to develop healthy routines to bring a sense of peace, predictability, and to reduce emotional and physical vulnerabilities.

Vulnerability makes us more susceptible to illness rather than the exposure itself. There seems to be an assumption that schools offer greater risk for illness. Schools and daycare centers are often referred to as germ factories. We have come to believe our children will be exposed to germs and bring them home and everyone will fall victim to illness. It is unhealthy habits that compromise vitality and weaken the body’s ability to fight exposure to pathogens. We are often physically burdened by prolonged and recurrent illnesses because we are missing the mark when it comes to preventative healthcare and wellness.

Starting the year off on the right foot will help keep everyone healthier. I’d like to share some healthy routines to remember when adjusting to a new schedule.

Make sleep a priority. Lingering longer daylight hours in fall keep us up later so it can be hard to get back to an early bedtime routine. Adequate sleep allows our bodies time to heal and missing out on it puts us at higher risk for physical and emotional stress. The National Sleep Foundation suggests kids between the ages of three and five get 10 to 13 hours of sleep a night; ages six to 13 need 9 to 11 hours of sleep; and teens 14 and older should get eight to 10 hours of sleep a night.

If your child is waking up at 7am, they need to be asleep before 8pm, unless they are over the age of eight. Ten to 12 hours of sleep per night seem like a lot, but for growing minds and bodies it is a must. Going to bed with a full stomach can disrupt quality of sleep. Remember to eat at least two hours before bed.

Eat healthy meals. Kids tend to get plenty of grains and fruits, so try to encourage more vegetables. Recognize the impact food plays upon health because a lack of good nutrition can be detrimental. Sugar, along with greasy foods and excessive amounts of dairy, can create congestion and inflammation. Avoid sugar. Kids are especially sensitive and react negatively to overly processed foods, so skip the junk food. Pack a lunch, have healthy snacks handy, and most importantly, always make time for breakfast.

Whole food supplements can be a great way to provide nutrients that may be missing from the diet. They are absorbed like food and help meet the gaps missing in the average diet. I recommend only a high quality multivitamin and omega-3 fish oil to create a good foundation for people of most ages. Talk to your care provider to see what is best for your child.

Spend time outside. Go for an evening walk or bike ride to help limit after-school screen time and increase opportunities for conversation. Remember school is a new stressor. The changes in routines, environment, people, relationships, sleep, and meal times — these can all add up.

Children, like adults, are sensitive to change so make sure to take time to relax and ease into these new routines. Be aware of the effects that stress has on our health. Talk about feelings, concerns, and try to reserve time to offer additional support during this transition. Make time as a family every day to reflect and converse at dinner or as a ritual before bed.

Sheri Lee, MSOM, C.Ac, LMT operates 8 Branches Chinese Medicine, where she and her colleagues provide holistic health care for the whole family. More information at: Disclaimer: The information provided in this column is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or care.

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