Back to Work and Back to School: It’s the Perfect Time to Focus on Well-being

As kids are returning to school and many parents are returning back to work, it is the perfect time to prioritize well-being, at home, at school and at the workplace. 

While we are still in the midst of the pandemic, there is a shift and a movement towards the “new normal” that has been talked about that is now becoming the new reality. 

And the reality is that as we move forward, we need to do so with a healthy mindset and a clear intentional focus on our overall well-being. 

Whether you are vaccinated or not, wear a mask or don’t, the healthier you are, the better you are able to protect yourself and/or fight against COVID-19 or any illness.  Also, with the many challenges that we have had to face during the pandemic, our mental well-being is now more important than ever. 

As kids return back to school, parents can take action to ensure the health and well-being of their children at home and at school. Employers can take action to ensure and improve the health and well-being of their employees working from home or in the workplace. 

And since many parents are employees/employers, and many employees/employers are parents, all can benefit from actions to improve overall health and well-being. 

One essential component of health and well-being is prevention.  The best way to fight any illness is to try to prevent it from happening in the first place.  Annual exams and screenings are effective tools for prevention. 

Well-child visits, annual physicals and routine screenings are great ways to prevent illness and/or identify illness or disease in earlier and treatable stages. 

  • Parents, schedule your child’s well-child visit and make sure they receive all age-appropriate vaccinations and don’t forget to schedule your own annual physical exam with all age-appropriate and gender related screenings. 
  • Employers, remind your employees of the importance of annual physical exams and screenings to decrease health related costs that negatively impact your bottom line.  Promote health now with health challenges and events during health months throughout the year. 

It is also important to create environments that support healthy lifestyle behaviors.  It is a lot easier to be healthy and make healthy decisions when your environment supports your healthy choices and actions. 

  • Parents, create a home environment of health with healthy foods and healthy routines.  Keep an assortment of healthy food items such as whole fruits, vegetables, easy to grab healthy snacks, and balanced meals.  Encourage physical activity and regular exercise through engagement in sports and/or exercising as a family. 
  • Employers, create a work environment of health with healthy food options in employee lounges and encourage employees to consume foods and beverages that improve mental clarity, cognitive thinking and increase production and performance.  Also, encourage movement during and between meetings.  Integrate stretching exercises and simple calisthenics as a significant part of meetings or have employees perform a series of stretches and exercises after meetings before they proceed to the next meeting, task, or work activity. 

And don’t forget that mental health is a significant part of overall well-being.  “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.” 

We will all face mental challenges throughout our lives and just as a healthy body is better able to fight off illness, a healthy mind is better able to deal with and overcome mental health challenges.  Just as we can take steps to improve our physical health, we can also take steps to maintain a healthy mind and improve our mental health. 

  • Parents, model for your children healthy ways of dealing with stress, anxiety, and difficult life situations and circumstances.   
  • Demonstrate stress reducing strategies such as meditation, relaxation and breathing techniques; anxiety minimizing strategies such as pre-planning for the next day, e.g., setting out clothes, pre-packing lunch and school bags, and creating a realistic and achievable schedule.   
  • Share how you have effectively dealt with a difficult situation and help your children openly share their difficulties and guide them through the process of achieving their desired outcome. Children that have tools and examples of healthy ways to deal with challenges have higher self-esteem and self-efficacy.   
  • Employers, stress the importance of mental health through mental health awareness, resources, and support. 
  • Encourage your employees to talk openly about mental health and provide mental health supportive services.  Historically, employees have felt the need to hide their mental illness from their employers and fellow co-workers however, there has been a definite shift towards talking openly about mental health needs and acquiring mental health supportive services.   
  • Provide mental health days in addition to sick days.  Supporting mental health proactively will prevent or lessen the likelihood of mental health crises.  It is better to learn how to deal with issues instead of waiting to seek help when stresses, anxieties, and/or symptoms of mental illness become overwhelming and unmanageable.  Employees that are able to develop healthy ways of dealing with stress, anxiety and other mental health issues will ultimately be more stable, dependable and better employees. 

It is important to strive to be well each and every day and throughout the year, however we often need a special event or a pivotal time of year as motivation to get started. Let’s use getting back to school and getting back to work as motivation to start getting well. 

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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