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Below you will find a selection of the most recent entries from bloggers in our Family section. To view the entries from individual bloggers, click on the links below:

  • Birgit Suess is a Swiss-American who grew up between the US and Switzerland and speaks English, German and Swiss-German. Because of a worldwide shortage of Speech Therapists, she uses technology to connect special needs students around the world with English speaking Speech Therapists. With almost 20 years of experience as a Speech Therapist and 10 years experience with Teletherapy, she is a pioneer in the Teletherapy world. Her personal specialty is working on social language with high functioning children on the Autism Spectrum. Her passion is finding new and innovative ways to help children with special needs.
  • Dr. Irina Schurov is a Nutritional Neuroscientist with a PhD from Cambridge University (UK) and over 20 years’ experience in science and health-providing services. She created and founded LiveRight, an initiative to help others through nutrition and wellbeing strategies. By building an educational platform around healthy eating habits, by restoring the relationships between people and food, by supporting your individual circumstances and through personalized coaching in nutrition, she wants to help you and your family achieve the optimal balance between help and life.
  • Dr. Penny Fraser
    Dr Penny is a British-trained Emergency Medicine doctor, who lives in Geneva.  She is also the mother of two busy little skiers aged 7 and 8. Along with Dr Michelle Wright and her other colleagues at HealthFirst, she has a passion for delivering health education and First Aid training to the English-speaking community in Switzerland
  • Dr. Michelle Wright
    Dr Michelle Wright is a British-trained General Practitioner and Director of HealthFirst, providing physical First Aid training and Mental Health First Aid training, as well as Health Education, throughout Switzerland (www.healthfirst.ch). She also has a regular radio show about health on World Radio Switzerland. Believing that prevention is better than cure and that we should be treating the root cause of illness, Dr Michelle is also a Lifestyle Medicine enthusiast.

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By Dr Michelle Wright, HealthFirst

Every year on 10th October, the World Health Organisation observes World Mental Health Day. The aim of the day is to raise awareness globally about issues surrounding mental health, to get people talking, and to mobilise efforts to support mental health.

The latest World Health Organisation statistics reveal:

  • 1 billion people worldwide are living with a mental health disorder
  • 3 million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol
  • 1 person dies every 40 seconds by suicide
  • And now, billions of people all over the world are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having a further impact on people’s mental health

Never before have conversations about mental health and proactively looking after our mental health been so important. This year’s campaign for World Mental Health Day is calling for an increased investment in mental health – “Move for Mental Health: let’s invest!”

To acknowledge the gravity of the current situation and how it is impacting us all as individuals and as a global society, we are bringing the HealthFirst community together to mark World Mental Health Day 2020.

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By Dr Michelle Wright, HealthFirst

In Europe, around half of us will experience mental distress at some point in our lives, with depression and anxiety the most common diagnoses. But despite being so common, talking about mental health remains taboo and there is still a lot of misunderstanding, uncertainty, fear and stigmatization surrounding it.

Many people are not well informed about how to recognize mental health problems, how to respond to an affected person, or about the treatments available. In addition, because of worries about being perceived as weak, taking the step to open up to others about their own mental health isn’t always easy for someone.

To try to tackle these issues, the Pro Mente Sana Foundation, with support from the Beisheim Foundation, has recently launched the internationally recognized Mental Health First Aid program in Switzerland. Here it’s called ‘ensa Mental Health First Aid’, ‘ensa’ meaning ‘answer’ in one of the Aboriginal languages and being translatable in German, French, Italian and English. HealthFirst is proud to be recognized as an ensa Partner, providing certified ensa Mental Health First Aid courses in English throughout the country.

The program, originally developed in Australia, trains and empowers lay people to provide initial support to others who may be developing mental health problems, experiencing worsening of existing mental health problems, or who may be experiencing a mental health crisis. It’s essentially a First Aid training programme with similar principles to those for physical First Aid but this time for mental health.

Any interested person who wants to learn how they can support family members, friends or colleagues experiencing mental health difficulties can become a Mental Health First Aider. No healthcare background or pre-requisite training is necessary.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

By Birgit Suess, Virtually ConnectEd

As parents, we want the best for our children. We want them to develop on the same schedule that is hanging up on the doctor’s office wall, we want them to be happy, do well in school and have friends.

All children face some sort of challenge at one point or another. It is not uncommon for children to have difficult with speech and language. If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, here are some things to look for.

Articulation:
Articulation is sounds in speech. The most common errors in English are /l/, /s/ and /r/. These sounds should start emerging around ages 4 and 5, although many children struggle with them until age 8. By age 8 a child should be able to say all the sounds in the English language.

Phonological Delay:
Phonological delays often get confused with articulation delays because the child is saying the wrong sounds, but it’s not that the child can’t say the sounds, it’s that the child doesn’t say them in the correct place. For example, these children often say “tup” for “cup” and “tat” for “cat.” The might also say “gog” for “dog.” For a 2 year-old, this is typical and nothing to worry about, but if your 5 year-old is still mixing up sounds, it’s a good time to bring him or her in to see your doctor or speech therapist.

Stuttering:
Also known as fluency, stuttering is a normal occurrence for everyone once in a while. When repeating sounds, words or having blocks (when there are moments of silence when a child is trying to ‘push’ a word out) become common and/or start to include eye blinking or leg slapping, it’s time to bring your child in for professional help.

Receptive Language:
How well can your child understand language? Does your child not respond to your requests out of defiance, or do they perhaps not understand you? Does your child have difficulties following directions or answering questions? Does your child point to objects instead of ask for them? These are all signs that your child may be having difficulty understanding language.

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Photo by Oliver Hihn on Unsplash

By Dr. Irina Schurov, LiveRight

I am sure you have noticed that our days have been getting shorter and that we now experience far less sun light exposure. At this time of year lots of people start to undergo a form of seasonal blues, lack of energy and emotional slumps. People who are especially sensitive to such changes of environment can sometimes be diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Of course, children who experience troubles with learning, concentration, sensory issues and emotional challenges will be even more susceptible to lack of day light. For example, it was shown that deficiency of sun light can potentially lead Asperger’s children to have low self-esteem, feel disappointment, isolation, mood swings and a lack of motivation. Consequently, while everyone feels the shortage of light exposure, we all tolerate and adapt to it in different ways.

From a biological perspective, as the seasons shift, our bodies experience certain biochemical changes, which are absolutely normal! Although humans aren’t as seasonal as animals and we do not hibernate in the winter, environmental changes have a clear impact on our biology!

Our master clock, located in the hypothalamus, responds to light by secreting certain hormones such as serotonin, which helps the body to feel awake, alert and satisfied. When it is dark, serotonin is converted to melatonin, making the body feel sleepy. It is for this reason that lack of day light causes hormonal imbalance, leading to many troublesome consequences, including sleep disorders, behavioral problems, hormonal imbalances and stress. To summarise; HUMANS’ ARE VERY DEPENDENT ON LIGHT!

Have you noticed that during the winter we try to compensate for our low levels of serotonin by reaching for comfort food and eating lots of carbohydrates and sweets? This gives us instant but fleeting satisfaction, which passes quickly and leaves us with long-term consequences such as elevated levels of blood glucose, extra weight, irritability and insulin imbalance.

Here is a quick check list of typical signs of SAD:
1. Depressed mood, low energy during the day
2. Anxiety or irritation, not handling stress well
3. Feeling lethargic and sleeping more than usual
4. Difficulty to concentrate and focus
5. Preferring to stay alone, less socializing
6. Craving for easy carbohydrates and sweets
7. Feeling a need for a sunlight
So, how can we prepare for this year’s winter? Here is a short list of changes you can implement into your routine, to ensure you experience a pleasant and energetic few months!

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By Hiba Samawi, Wiser Humans

Back when I worked in the corporate world, travel was a two week affair - and I time which I would wait the rest of the year for to finally go somewhere new and exotic that would allow me to feel alive.

To make this last longer,  I even took six months off to travel around the world nine years ago. It was a wonderful experience - and it actually taught me something very unexpected.

It taught me that travel can be an attitude. That travel doesn't have to be to a far flung exotic destination. It doesn't even have to be a time when we are away from our daily lives of work and family.

Instead, we can also apply the aspects of travel we love to our everyday lives.

We can start building a life we already love, that is filling with alive-ness, instead of seeing travel as an escape from an un-alive life.

Here are five suggestions to start bringing travel as an attitude to every day life.

1. Travel as an attitude means embracing discomfort as a necessary path to growth.

Travel is often about taking a small step - or many steps - away from our comfort zone. This moving out of our comfort zone is where magic can happen - where we discover aspects of ourselves we didn’t even know existed.

Everyday life provides plenty of opportunities to push past our fears - from moving away from a situation or relationship that is no longer working to standing up for ourselves, signing-up to a dating app or even opening up a little bit more with someone we care about.

Travel as an attitude embraces all forms of discomfort as a path to growth - not just the physical discomfort of travel, but also the emotional discomfort that comes from personal growth.

2. Travel as an attitude means being open to new experiences wherever we are.

Travel enables us to experience new things — both man made and natural. Seeing kangaroos on a beach at sunrise, taking a helicopter ride or experiencing Angkor Wat at sunset?

Definitely awe-inspiring.

Yet daily life also provides plenty of opportunities for new experiences IF we create them. These can be as small as trying a new café or restaurant in the city we live in, taking a new class, learning a new language, reading a book or buying an unknown vegetable when grocery shopping.

We can make time to watch the sun set after work or take a different path to work. We can always create new experiences.

3. Travel as an attitude sees differences as enriching rather than threatening.

Travel opens our minds to different ways of doing things. It gently, and sometimes not so gently, reveals that other ways, beliefs and attitudes exist - and that they, too, are valid and even fascinating. In doing so, it provides the opportunity to re-examine our own beliefs and habits.

In everyday life, we are faced with different beliefs and attitudes all around us, yet we often don’t choose to see these as intriguing - annoying is probably a more apt description!

Yet we can always choose to be open to differences in opinions and values that come from our family or co-workers - with appropriate boundaries, of course! Accepting them with the same openness and curiosity we show ‘foreign’ cultures can be a novel experience.

Instead of seething with resentment, we could become curious about this difference:

I wonder why my colleague / family member / boss is reacting in this way? How do they see the world differently to me? What is it about their reaction that triggers me?

Perhaps we will notice what Carl Jung wrote - that "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves."

4. Travel as an attitude means being open to connection.

Away from the cocoon of our known lives, we are more vulnerable and open, both with people we know and people we don’t. And while we don't always stay in touch with those we meet, for a brief moment, we have walked along the same path, and this interaction leaves us all the richer. It can act as a humble reminder, as Maya Angelou wrote, that "We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike".

We don’t actually need to physically travel to connect with people or be just a little more open and vulnerable with people around us. We can choose to put our phones down in public places and connect, even if this is just a brief moment of connection.

5. Travel as an attitude means taking distance from life.

Being able to briefly press the pause button on everyday routines provides a bird’s eye view of life. Travel enables us to assess what matters most, to re-evaluate our priorities and what we want or need to change in our daily lives.

A physical change in environment is helpful - yet when this isn't possible we can also explore other ways of gaining a little perspective such as journaling, meditating, yoga, going into nature, therapy/coaching or simply leaving more space to just BE instead of overbooking the week.

Of course, nothing can nor should ever replace real travel. Yet what I have found by bringing travel as an attitude into my life as much as possible is that I no longer see travel as an escape from life. Instead, I see it as a way of enhancing a life I already enjoy.

One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. - Henry Miller

Author's bio

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Hiba Samawi is a Psychologist and Coach working in Geneva, Lausanne and online.

A Swiss-Jordanian mix, she has a Masters Degree in Psychology from the University of Lausanne and is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). She previously ran Healthwise.ch, a health coaching business where she also created healthy recipes.

Hiba uses mindfulness-based behavioural approaches such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT). These are more active forms of therapy where, more than just talk, you learn skills for living.

She specializes mostly in difficulties around relationships, emotions, making healthy change and eating, and also offers group sessions, both in-person in Geneva/Lausanne and online.

www.wiserhumans.com
fb.me/wiserhumans

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