Feelings & Wellbeing at School: The link between mental and physical health, 2022

mental wellbeing
How to teach your student’s the link between mental and physical health? Try out some of Guide to Life’s activities and tips in your school/classroom.

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Table of Contents

Mental & Physical Health

In the past mental and physical health have been seen as separate, however, in recent years, this has started to change as more and more schools take on a holistic approach. Ofsted already has this reflected as part of their inspection framework.  

It is to be said that physical health problems significantly increase the risk of poor mental health, and vice versa. Around 30% of all people with a long-term physical health condition also have a mental health concern, most commonly depression or anxiety-related. 

Mental health issues can seriously exacerbate physical illness, affecting outcomes and the cost of treatment. The effect of poor mental health on physical illnesses is estimated to cost the NHS at least £8 billion a year. 

People with severe mental illnesses also have significantly higher rates of physical illness-with a dramatic effect on life-expectancy. 

Because of this, it is important that schools promote pupils’ self-control and ability to self-regulate, and strategies for doing so. This will enable them to become confident in their ability to achieve well and persevere even when they encounter setbacks or when their goals are distant, and to respond calmly and rationally to setbacks and challenges. This integrated, whole-school approach to the teaching and promotion of health and wellbeing has a potentially positive impact on behaviour and attainment.  

Effective teaching should aim to reduce stigma attached to health issues, in particular those to do with mental wellbeing. Schools should engender an atmosphere that encourages openness. This will mean that pupils feel they can check their understanding and seek any necessary help and advice as they gain knowledge about how to promote good health and wellbeing. 

Healthy Eating

Healthy eating is essential for young children’s good health, growth and development. Healthy eating in childhood means they have less chance of developing chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers. It will also mean they feel better, look better and enjoy life more. 

physical health

What are the current government regulations on healthy food in schools? 

According to www.gov.uk, food served in schools and academies in England must meet the school food standards so that children can have healthy, balanced diets. The school food standards apply to all maintained schools and academies founded before 2010 and after June 2014. 

They must provide high-quality meat, poultry or oily fish, fruit and vegetables, bread and other cereals and potatoes. There cannot be drinks with added sugar and crisps, chocolate and sweets in school meals or vending machines, with no more than two portions of deep-fried, battered, or breaded food served per week. 

What are the current government regulations on healthy food in schools? 

According to www.gov.uk, food served in schools and academies in England must meet the school food standards so that children can have healthy, balanced diets. The school food standards apply to all maintained schools and academies founded before 2010 and after June 2014. 

They must provide high-quality meat, poultry or oily fish, fruit and vegetables, bread and other cereals and potatoes. There cannot be drinks with added sugar and crisps, chocolate and sweets in school meals or vending machines, with no more than two portions of deep-fried, battered, or breaded food served per week. 

The following action plan ideas are provided to help with addressing the topic of healthy eating at school.  

Curriculum, Teaching and Learning 

    • Teaching tools for healthy eating – primary school 
    • Encourage cross-circular opportunities to increase education related to healthy eating (e.g., Maths, English and Art) 
    • Use experimental learning approaches (e.g., visiting a farmer’s market, cooking activities) 
    • Consider using non-food rewards for student recognition. 
    • Encourage teachers to avoid using junk food as a teaching tool (e.g., jelly beans in maths) 
    • Create a school cookbook 

School and Classroom Leadership 

    • Find creative ways to make classroom celebrations healthier, either without food or with healthy food choices. 
    • Consider using non-food rewards for student recognition. 
    • Encourage positive role modelling by staff, students and parent volunteers. 
    • Engage school councils and fundraising committees in adopting healthy fundraising initiatives. 
    • Encourage student-led initiatives to promote and improve canteen food and the social environment. 
    • Develop nutrition policies for classroom celebrations, fundraising and special events. 

Student Engagement 

    • Involve students in creating and maintaining a school/community garden or greenhouse. 
    • Involve students in school-wide programs or student nutrition programs. 
    • Engagement students in school-wide campaigns. 
    • Organise a theme week during nutrition month (March). 
    • Involve the student in the use of fresh produce for canteen. 
    • Engage students in peer-led social justice initiatives about food industry marketing or household food insecurity. 
    • Encourage students to advocate for water promotion in the school and installation of hydration stations.  

Social and Physical Environments  

    • Ensure food choices comply with the government standards. 
    • Establish guidelines for healthy classroom celebrations and school events.  
    • Offer Student Nutrition Programs that provide safe and healthy breakfasts, snacks, and lunches based on student nutrition program nutrition guidelines.  
    • Create safe, clean and pleasant eating areas that are peanut/nut safe. 
    • Encourage families to pack litter-less lunches to support healthy eating and eco-schools’ initiatives.  

Why is Sleep Important?

Recently, the question of healthy sleep has become very relevant. The tension is constantly increasing, all processes are faster and people are pupils are faced with stressful situations more and more often. This problem becomes urgent during the pandemic, especially amongst children and students who need to quickly adapt to remote or mixed models of studying. Against this background, most experts correlate sleep deprivation with academic failure. For this reason, teachers need to educate students and their parents about the importance of sleep. 

Teachers can help their students understand why healthy sleep is so important. Here are some important points to convey to every student regarding sleep: 

  • Lack of sleep can lead to decreased immunity 
  • Lack of sleep and a chaotic schedule can lead to later on in life, the teenager’s psyche becomes less adaptive to stressful situations. 
  • Lack of sleep decreases the concentrations of attention. 
  • It is more difficult for a student to assimilate information in a sleepy state. The student’s academic performance decreases. 
  • Lack of sleep can lead to decreased physical activity, which can lead to weight gain. 
  • Good sleep can help to fight stress more effectively and support good mental health. 
  • In the absence of healthy sleep, many hormones are not produced.  
mental wellbeing

Here is how you can promote healthy sleeping habits among your students.  

  • Survey your students.  
    • Before the start of class, you need to determine the magnitude of the problem. To do this, survey your students. Offer them to answer the questions anonymously so that students can answer trustworthy. 
    • Find out what time students usually go to bed and wake up. Ask for an assessment of sleep quality. Find out how students feel at school, especially in the morning and afternoon. Find out how long it takes students to complete their homework.  
    • This data will be the starting point for the creation of educational material. 
  • Organise a Lesson. 
    • Teachers need to prepare an educational lesson that will reflect not only the importance of quality sleep but also, the consequences of its poor quality. Try to make the lesson simple but engaging and showcase not only facts and stats but also live examples so that students understand the importance. 
    • Think about the presentation of the material. It may be easier for your students to perceive information with visualisation or in the format of questions and answers and lively discussion. Also, support the lesson with videos and storytelling elements – they are more memorable and engaging.  
  • Create a Guide for Students 

    After the lesson, it is necessary to provide a visual guide for students, include the following points to the guide.  

    • Go to bed at the same time every night 
    • Ventilate your bedroom before going to bed 
    • It is recommended that you stop using gadgets or watching TV an hour and a half before bedtime 
    • It is recommended not to eat high-calorie food three hours before bedtime. 
    • It is necessary to ensure absolute darkness in the bedroom. You can use a special sleep mask 
    • Don’t leave gadgets next to your pillow 

    In addition to general guidelines, you can help your students create a daily schedule with which they can learn to go to bed at the same time. Prepare some tips on time management using modern mobile apps, for example, time trackers, planners and schedulers. 

  • Encourage Students to Write the Sleep Diary 

    Both lessons and guides might not be enough for some students. Encourage your students to keep a sleep diary, and don’t forget to offer some appropriate rewards. Ask them to note the next points: 

    • What time does the student go to bed? 
    • Wake-up time 
    • Feeling after waking up 
    • Total sleep duration 
    • Description of the state of health after the first lesson and after the end of the school day 
    • How long does it take to complete homework? 

    After a week of keeping such a diary, it is necessary to discuss the results with the students and make sure that the students are convinced of the importance of sleep. 

  • Inform Parents about Healthy Sleep Importance 
    • To achieve the maximum effect from all of the above methods. It is worth informing parents. Some parents don’t care about their sleep schedule and allow their children to go to bed after midnight on weekend or during vacations.  
    • It is enough to conduct an educational lesson for parents to provide them with the basic data and also give specific recommendations that they should follow. There is also a need to talk about the importance of bed quality. An orthopaedic mattress and pillows play a key role in not only posture, but also healthy sleep. 
    • Teachers can notice which students have sleep problems. After the lesson, it is worth talking to parents of these students one-on-one.  

NOTE: Helping students with developing healthy habits is one more task modern teacher’s face in the background of the pandemic and changed learning methods. While most students have more tasks than they can actually cope with, teaching them to manage their time and prioritize their health is also important.  

It is also essential to talk to parents and attract their attention to the problem of unhealthy sleep one more time. You may also consider getting back to this topic, especially before upcoming exams, to make sure your students are on the right track. 

Exercise

Like adults, children need to be physically active to stay healthy. But only 50% of boys and less than 34% of girls aged between 12-15 are adequately fit, reports the centre for disease control and prevention. And unfit, children are at risk for cardiovascular and chronic diseases, as well as psychological disorders.  

Plus, research shows 80% of overweight children become obese adults. “Being obese puts a person at risk of many cancers, including colon, breast and endometrial cancers.” say Carol Harrison, a senior exercise physiologist at MD Anderson.  

She says children are spending too much time in front of the television and behind computer, phone and electronic screens. 

Research had revealed a significant relationship between added electronics usage and depression, behavioural issues and weight gain.  

mental wellbeing

Getting children excited and enthusiastic about exercise is essential in order to set them up properly for maintaining a healthy lifestyle as they grow up. It isn’t just about getting children to run around and get rid of their excess energy. Exercise needs to be made fun and enjoyable. 

Education is also very important. Children need to understand that whilst at school they are exercising their brains, and this should go hand-in-hand with exercising the body. By teaching children that exercise will help make them feel energised and refreshed, and will leave them with a rush of endorphins, they will soon enjoy working out.  

Varied PE Timetable 

If the children are made to do the same sport every week for a month, they’re likely to get bored with it. Mix up the sports that they do within their PE time and ensure both sexes will enjoy it.  

Use Music for an Extra Boost 

Children and older years always seen to be glues to their headphones these days. Incorporating music into PE lessons can really help to motivate the children to run faster or dance more.  

Orienteering 

That is a great way to get children outside and away from their desks. Group the children into teams and get them to find markers within the school grounds. The first to get back to the classroom wins a prize! 

Jump Around 

Children need regular breaks when they’re learning new skills in the classroom. A great way to increase the levels of oxygen to their brain is to regularly make them jump from their seats and move around.  

Join in with the Children 

Yes, you! By joining in with the fun and games the children are having, they will see it less as a punishment or boring form of exercise. Show them how it is done and have a laugh with your class. Whether you have a game of catch or a walk around the school playing field, do it together! 

If you want more tips to get your students into more physical activities in and outside the classroom, click here

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