By Kris Ewing
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
- Charles Darwin
One month into the school year and with significant change on the horizon, it is important to consider the state of health and well-being of our children and youth, and their ability to reach their full potential and stay resilient through change.
Self-care is a foundation of resilience and must be considered as an essential part of the learning journey. The 2016 ParticipACTION Canada Report Card on physical activity for children and youth has identified sleep as a major piece of the health promotion puzzle. Sleep deprivation is an epidemic amongst today’s youth and the negative impact on their health is significant.
Poor sleep habits are just the start of a cycle that is affecting children and youth today. Being in a sleep-deprived state causes changes in certain hormones, such as insulin and cortisol, and this in turn leads to greater fatigue and a reduced desire to be physically active.
The title page of the 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card is “Are Canadian Kids Too Tired to Move?” To feel more energetic, children and youth often consume more caffeine and sugar. They also experience an increase in hunger from hormonal changes, which can lead to greater caloric consumption, followed by more fatigue, hormonal changes and sedentary behaviour.
Young people experience greater stress both socially and psychologically as a result of this cycle, and a busy mind ensues that in turn affects the quantity and quality of their sleep. Our students are high achievers that can, and often do, fall into the trap of doing too much at the cost of their sleep, mental health and school-life balance.
This image of success is not sustainable for the long run. As a school community, we want to impress upon our students that taking care of health and well-being is essential to staying on the road to success and being resilient to life’s curveballs. Our focus on 21st century core competencies this year ties in well with our health promotion focus. To fully develop in character, citizenship, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication it is critical to be healthy and well in mind, body and spirit. Our goal is to ensure that our school culture includes a full appreciation of the role of health and happiness in long-term success.
To do this, we are embarking on a whole-community approach to health promotion, which involves four supporting pillars: school policy, teaching and learning, social and physical environment, and community partnerships and services. Wellness is part of our school’s strategic plan. We are asking our staff and UTS community to speak about health and well-being to keep the “self-care” message consistent and sustainable. Our student wellness team continues to work on the social and physical environment of the school, and with the addition of our parent community and various student teachers joining our wellness initiative, we are already seeing the many positive benefits of a holistic approach to health promotion.
Self-care habits that lead to greater health and well-being are the roots of our community tree. Whole-community support will provide the nourishment needed to help our students reach their full potential, be resilient amidst change and be happy and healthy in the process. We look forward to the year ahead where we celebrate not just our academic achievements but also our growth in the area of health and wellness – and building 21st century readiness in this world of constant change.