Worriers to warriors

By Lynda Shadbolt

Published Nov. 28 2017

I can remember sitting in my high school math class and being so excited as the teacher introduced the ideas of computers. We were given Fortran cards to fill out and they were sent off to the big computer 100 km away and processed. We’d get them back and either celebrate or start over again.

We thought the idea of a computer the size of a huge room was incredible. None of us had any idea how computers and technology were going evolve and impact our lives. That was in the 1970s.

Here we are in 2017 with cellphones that act like computers – being a phone taking pictures accessing the internet working as a GPS responding to voice commands etc. The technology has come so far and has given us all kinds of new possibilities and opportunities. There are definite benefits to all of it and I’m not going to list them now. We know what they are. But there are also the unintended consequences of technology.

People developing the technology and social media programs were not thinking about the amount of anxiety depression isolation bullying etc. that would be created – intentionally or unintentionally. I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the rise in mental health concerns in the past few years which is being caused by many things including technology. I recently read an article in the Toronto Star on Nov. 16 that suggests that 50 per cent of our young people miss school due to anxiety and depression. This past weekend I listened to a podcast on the CBC show “Spark” that talked about designing social media for better mental health.

On a Sunday morning in Haliburton I have conversations with five different moms whose kids are struggling at school or being home schooled or even in the hospital. I am pretty sure these mental health issues are in many families. And the stress on parents and our schools is huge. Every kid is different and needs their own plan. Finding the right supports takes time money and the luck of finding a good match to help the person who is struggling. It takes involvement from the family the medical doctors therapists local agencies the school and friends. And every kid is different in terms of their outlook on life their interests and their resiliency.

It is a complicated issue. As a parent one thing I have learned is that I need to take really good care of myself and manage my own stress. I need to role model what I want my kid to do. In Chinese medicine they talk about turning being a worrier into a warrior. The idea is that we need to get out of our heads and into our bodies to quiet the mind and strengthen our coping abilities. Specifically feeling our legs strong and grounded and stable is essential to calming our minds and feeling grounded. Perhaps we all need to get outside and walk or run or bike or garden more. Perhaps we all need turn off our computers and phones and instead go and connect with people nature and support ourselves. This whole technology/mental health situation is like a huge ship that is going to take a lot of effort to turn around.

We each have to start turning it for our own kid(s).