Get Moving to Shirk the Mental Gremlins

What I Wish I'd Known Then

Get Moving to Shirk the Mental Gremlins

With all the hype surrounding childhood obesity, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that physical activity helps more than just the body; it helps the mind stay limber and healthy, too. 

My own gremlins set up shop when I was a teenager. Nobody has an easy time of it in adolescence, but for some of us routine moodiness goes one step uglier and becomes full-blown depression and anxiety.

The trouble is, people half expect teens to go around moping and wearing black every day. It's almost expected, par for the course. It took my own parents a while to notice anything was truly amiss. After all, I wrote a lot of very bleak poetry (typical) and spent a lot of time holed up in my room listening to the Cure and Morrissey (again, pretty typical). Fortunately I didn't cut myself, though I did shave all of my hair off one particularly low day. That was enough of a wake up call for the parents of any teenage girl! 

I was on and off antidepressants for years. But always, I loved dancing, the release that came from really letting loose in a nightclub with friends. Stone-cold sober. What I didn't realize then was how moving was a form of therapy in and of itself. Dancing was as good as what came in any little white pill. I only wish the good doctors I saw back then had prescribed a gym membership on that Rx pad. 

And I wasn't alone. According to an article in Science Daily, a recent study of 7,000 Dutch students between 11 to 16 years old has highlighted the crucial link between exercise and mental health. The physically inactive kids reported greater internal (depression and anxiety) and external (aggression, substance abuse) problems, while those who participated in organized sports held the lowest risk of psychosocial issues.  

No shit, you're probably thinking. But it has taken a long time for science to corroborate what a lot of depressives learned the hard way: that teens need daily exercise for mental health.

I know now that though I may bitch and moan beforehand, I NEED that run. Even if I'm not in the mood, I know that Zumba class will make me feel better afterwards. These days fitness is about much more than getting rid of post-baby flab; it's about keeping my mind in good shape.


Unvaccinating Movement: The Fallout

The Needle and the Damage Done

Unvaccinating Movement: The Fallout

It's one of those hotbeds of debate, up there in terms of parental controversy with formula feeding and circumcision. I'm talking about vaccines, of course.

It used to be that modern medicine was a thing to be venerated, a doctor's words regarded like golden nectar of wisdom. Now, not so much. As with the unschooling movement, many parents have grown skeptical and jaded with conventional medicine as others have with the education system. Once upon a time vaccinations were seen as miracles in a needle, warding off potentially life-threatening illnesses. 

The backlash started with a now-infamous study published in The Lancet in the late '90s linking autism with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. And even though the findings of that study were since refuted and thoroughly discredited, the bad taste has lingered in the mouths of parents.

In the States, the unvaccinating movement has turned epidemic, with as many as one in 10 parents refusing to vaccinate their children, and many more delaying the recommended vaccination schedule. More worryingly, unvaccinating parents tend to cluster in certain regions, leading to high rates of untreated children in some communities, thereby putting those communities at risk. 

In many practices doctors are lenient about protracting the vaccination schedule. Others drop recalcitrant patients like hot potatoes. Kids here can go to school, provided they sign an 'unvaccinated' waiver.

I'm no scientist, granted. I have no idea what caused my son's autism. Yet I can say for certain that if autism has been filtering throughout our family for generations, it's most likely caused by hereditary, rather than any environmental factors. 

To my mind, vaccinations are a necessary evil that have kept certain, largely avoidable diseases at bay for decades. It scares me to see some diseases like whooping cough and measles making a comeback, sometimes with fatal consequences. I hope that if parents choose not to vaccinate, they are making decisions that are right for their children and informed on concrete data rather than good old-fashioned paranoia or outmoded studies.

Do you vaccinate your children? Why/why not? What propels you to resist (or embrace) the needle? 


The Justin Bieber Tragedy

Why I'm no Belieber

The Justin Bieber Tragedy

Whatever happened to that unwritten golden pop star rule—best seen and not heard—circa 1990?

Justin Bieber has been at it again. In another ill-advised media stunt, our pretty boy and national treasure was snapped posing with a fake hand gun... Was he trying to toughen up his squeaky clean image and go more street on us? Were the low-riding jeans and earring studs not achieving the desired effect?

This, in a recent spate of idiocy that began with comments about his native heritage in Rolling Stone, in which Bieber claimed to be just ‘Indian enough’ to get free gas in Canada. Next he was openly jeering at Prince William's baldness. (Hair gods, if you're listening, please give this boy his comeuppance.)

I'm no monarchist, yet I find the Prince's attitude toward his receding hairline one of the few refreshing aspects about the Royals. Frankly, it's a nice change from Harry's Vegas antics. And Biebs has to go and diss Wills for being secure enough in his own skin not to care about his appearance. From one prince to another, man up and show some respect.

If he can't keep his foot out of it, Biebs ought to have the sense, as did Ashton Kutcher, to get a PR bod to manage his Twitter account. Or else do as his elders warned, and keep one's trap firmly shut if one hasn't got anything nice to say...

But back to the gun posturing. Even for die hard Beliebers, this latest faux pas surely takes the biscuit, given the tragic mass shootings that occurred in Colorado and elsewhere in recent months. How can anyone be that insensitive and disconnected from the real world?

For a celebrity with such reach (Bieber has 27 million followers on Twitter alone), the real tragedy is how he's failing to use his incredible influence to provide young people with the role model they so desperately need.

You can either grow up to be an inspiration or an ignorant twerp, Justin. It's your call.