Dr. Bhargava is a board-certified pediatrician, a certified CBCT Resiliency teacher at Emory University, and Chief Medical Officer at Medscape. She is the author of ‘Building Happier Kids’ which is being published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

355 Raising Resilience

Hansa Bhargava

Many of us are suffering from parent burnout right now and kids are also. Mental health challenges for kids have skyrocketed. How does our parenting affect kids’ mental health? We want to protect our kids, but too much protection is actually harmful. In this episode, I talk to Dr. Hansa Bhargava, pediatrician and author of Building Happier Kids which is being published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Raising Resilience - Hansa Bhargava [355]

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*This is an auto-generated transcript*

[00:00:00] Hunter: We’re hearing like frightening stuff in the news today about kids mental health and you’re a pediatrician. You teach resiliency at Emory university. What’s going on with our kids. Is it just the pandemic or is this exacerbating like trends that have been happening for a while?

We’re seeing like lots of adolescents with depression and anxiety what’s happening. Can you talk to us, identify that first?

[00:00:36] Dr Hansa Bhargava: Absolutely. And it’s such a good question, Hunter. And so many of us are facing this issue. I just want to say that for the parents out there, you are not alone. You are not alone.

And I think it was actually, we’d love to just point a finger at the pandemic, but honestly, this trend, these trends of increased anxiety, depression, even. suicidality were on their way up, even before the pandemic and the pandemic actually acted as a catalyst. Over the last two years it’s been really rough and that actually just catalyzed everything and certainly social isolation does not help mental illness.

And in fact can actually exacerbate it. So I know, of course, I’m not saying that the public health measures were not correct. I’m just saying that they did have these collateral effects. And now, basically we are seeing those, but I am hopeful Hunter that we have this opportunity to reset because we are talking about it and parents are paying attention.

That’s something we did not do before the pandemic. So that I think is a silver lining. Of the dark cloud.

[00:01:40] Hunter: Oh yeah. Yeah. That the pandemic is kinda I see it as rather than us being in a, like the proverbial frog in the pot with the slow boil, like we’re kind like tossed in a little bit.

We’re like tossed pretty quickly into hotter pot of yeah. Isolation and. All the things that, all these sort of challenges have brought to the forefront. And so we’re actually paying attention to it. So yeah, that definitely is good, but there’s a lot of good suffering from anxiety and depression, right?

A lot more than maybe, I don’t know. 15 years

[00:02:14] Dr Hansa Bhargava: ago or something, right? Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s, and so we have that question of why was there an upward trend before the pandemic? So even though the pandemic acted as a catalyst and that I think is because we have created a perfect storm for our kids and the perfect storm has been created by several variables.

If you look back over the last two decades, You will see that we are actually not only having an increase in screen time and I’ll just point out that 2007 is when we all had our mobile devices becoming smartphones. And therefore we could actually look at, emails and then there was the event of social media.

So there were more and more features on our smartphones so that you could actually access screens anytime, anywhere and all the time. And so that. An issue, but that is not the only issue Hunter. The other issues are really overscheduling of our kids. The culture of Parenting being a real factor in terms of the keeping up with the Joneses, the lack of fundamentals, like sleep, which is so essential.

And even nutrition and family dinners. And of course, Only the lack of unscheduled time. And the unscheduled time is really important for so many reasons.

[00:03:42] Hunter: All right. Wow. Awesome. That’s a lot of things. So I just wanna go over what Hansa said there, cuz it’s so important. Increase of screen time.

Overscheduling you know, that kind of culture of like keeping up with the Joneses that kind of feeds into the overscheduling lack of fundamental. Was like family dinner. Yeah. I remember like we used to talk more about family dinner. That’s something that we really have in our house a lot, but I’m hearing from my kids that like, that’s not that normal in their friend’s house, but then you talk about sleep as, as well and even nutrition, right?

So it’s is this, and we recently had Johan Hari on the podcast talk. Talking about his book stolen focus. And he talks about a lot of these factors when it comes to kids too. And yeah, this is so this all adds up to, why does it add up to it’s interesting. Like, why does that add up to anxiety and depression?

Sleep, I can definitely see not being connected to your family, but then I guess when you’re. You have that instability of not having enough sleep and not being connected to your family. And then you’re like have the stress of schedule and then you just try to, you’re trying to like maybe self soothe with the screen time.

Like I, I think that’s what I see. I see at least in my. Two, my daughters are 12 and 15. I see a lot of, they try to soothe with screen time, for sure.

[00:05:06] Dr Hansa Bhargava: Yeah. And I think, our kids and I have two teenagers as well. They have a, they’re growing up with a different culture and yes, they do lean on their screens and their devices for self soothing because that’s just part of their culture.

So I’m not advocating that we should just take those things away. We can’t, they’re part of our culture, but what I am advocating is just paying attention to what they’re doing on it. It’s. I think about the quantity. It’s more about the quality of interactions with their screens. And, I think that it’s very important to know about that and be intentional about that.

But I’m just gonna go back to something else you asked about Hunter, and that is why is this happening? Like, how is it that these things can actually contribute to stress and anxiety? And as a physician, I’m gonna go back to the biology of us. And that’s including not just kids, but adults as well.

And that is the fact that we have two systems in our body that kind of. Balance and buffer stress. One is the sympathetic system, which is often alluded to as a fight or flight response when it’s overstimulated and the other system that balances it and buffers are, stress is the parasympathetic system.

And if you go back across thousands of years and across. Different cultures, no matter what part of the world you’re from or what religion you might be from, you’ll see that the common threads of humanity are to buffer those systems. And that is what we’ve abandoned.

[00:06:45] Hunter: So what would be those things that were in different cultures that did buffer the stress that fight flight or free

[00:06:55] Dr Hansa Bhargava: stress response?

Yeah. And so we are living like all those things we’re talking about, even lack of sleep, but especially screens where you’re seeing, you’re going scrolling through social media and you’re like being activated in terms of oh, FOMO or fear of missing out, or, wow. That looks beautiful.

That’s always like activating our sympathetic system. So we live up here, which is,

[00:07:20] Hunter: Waving her hands in the head, by the way.

[00:07:24] Dr Hansa Bhargava: Yeah, absolutely. So up here is where we’re living, but we, and we don’t wanna live up there or we don’t wanna live down here. We actually wanna live in the middle. And what has gone away is things that activate the other system parasympathetic system, and that is essentially connection. Hunter connection or what I call the three CS. The three CS are so important of, and have been part of every country’s culture, every religion and over thousands of years.

And the three CS are basically connection community compassion. And if you look. Everything across time and space. What is that, whether it was the temple or the mosque, the church, whatever it was, there was a community for people, right? When we lived in villages and we even lived in bigger centers, there was always like a central forum where people gathered and those people knew you.

And you knew those people and maybe it was the. Ancient version of cheers, like the cheers bar where everyone knows your name. And so that’s really important to calm us because we need to have community around us and feel like we’re part of something bigger. The second thing I talk about is connection.

Connection is so important. And that is not only because it’s really important to stimulate our parasympathetic system. When we call somebody, when we’re feeling stressed and we talk to somebody and we see people who are our inner peeps, are our inner circle of peeps. That’s important not only for that reason, but also for them to be there.

For them when they go through their life traumas. And lastly, for our kids to learn how to do those connections is so important because that’s what life is all about. So whether it’s professionally and you need connections to get you to the next level, or maybe you need to know how to connect with your boss, who you don’t really like that much, or the.

Colleague that you know, is, you don’t know very well or whether it is to, propel yourself further. Your career professionally connections are really important. Similarly, personally, even as adults, connections are really important. And that might be because you’re stumbling or you’re hitting a down in your life, or it might be because you’re hitting an up in your life and you wanna connect.

So connections are really important. And I feel like. Really a tool that we aren’t spending enough time on for our children. And lastly, the C was compassion and compassion is really important for ourselves and for others. And I can explain why for both of those areas.

[00:10:10] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah, I think please

[00:10:13] Dr Hansa Bhargava: do so

Yeah, absolutely. So let’s talk about compassion for ourselves. I talk about this a lot. because I think that right now we are suffering from parent burnout as well, Hunter, and there’s been a long list of reasons. And I do think that if we could go back and measure, like when the kid’s stress and anxiety and depression was going up prior to the pandemic, I bet you, if we go back, we would see that the parent stress, anxiety and depression was also tracking along the same lines, right?

Yeah. And of course, just like the kids were catalyzed by the pandemic. So where the parents were forced to put their kids on online school, oversee online school shift, back and forth from online school to physical school masks, vaccines. That was a lot more than your usual. Plate right. And some of us as parents had to leave our jobs to oversee our young kids and make sure that they were online school.

So it was at very, it was a very mentally draining time. So that also catalyzed, probably the parent burnout. And so I’m gonna go back to the compassion. So what parents need to. Potential possibly do to help their kids is actually to be compassionate to themselves. And that means not just like taking bubble baths, cuz that’s what we think about when we say self care.

No, absolutely not. It’s actually to carve out time for ourselves to whether it’s making connections to your sister, your friend, your partner, whoever that might be, or it might be to just be nicer to ourselves and not have negative self talk. That is self-compassion, which is such an essential part of, feeling calm and stable and resiliency.

[00:12:04] Hunter: Yeah. Yes. Yeah we talk about self-compassion a lot here on the podcast. I couldn’t agree with you more. We talk about it in Mindful Parenting it and. I agree. These three things, connection community and compassion. It’s interesting when I think about it, because like at least here in the us, right?

This is the most individualistic culture in the world. It’s like weirdly individualistic, cuz all the like super individualistic people from all the other lands came here. And then we are held up as. Model an example yet it’s that idea of that you can just do it on your own and pull yourself up by your bootstraps and you don’t need, anyone is a really dangerous idea.

It really goes against that idea of connection really goes against that idea of community and even compassion, right? Because it’s always the way that individualism is presented in our culture is like, Yeah, tough. Not at all compassionate with ourselves. And so it’s almost like these, this kind of individualist worldview run amok that’s hurting us so much because that is when we think about the.

The lack of community and the idea that so many parents hold, like I should just be able to do it all on my own. I should just be fine by myself with a nursing baby and three other kids under the age of five for days and days like that should just be normal because I’m maybe because I’m a mom and I’m a woman and it’s natural for a woman to that’s all, like we have these ideas in our heads that are.

That. Are feeding into what you’re saying like that anxiety and depression, because we’re missing these incredibly important pieces. Yeah,

[00:14:08] Dr Hansa Bhargava: absolutely. And I think that’s negative self talk right there. Hunter I should be able to do it all. No, actually, no human can really do it all without help.

And without their safety net and without their people. No, absolutely not. And I think. The reason I’m stressing this so much right now is because yes, we’re in a crisis mode, but the truth is Hunter that, life has its ups and downs and each and every one of us has to face adversity and that’s just life.

I talk about that in my book. I talk about the story of the mustard seed, where you know this couple in this village who are battling with infertility they can’t have babies and part of the villagers are saying, why don’t you have babies yet? Why don’t you have babies yet? And they don’t know what to do.

And they go and see the medicine man. And they try all these things and they can’t, no one can help. And then these this group of monks come in are coming from another village and they think, oh, wow, like maybe. These people are known to help people. So maybe these people can help. And so they go to the, when the monks come, they go to the head priest and say to them to say to him we have this issue with infertility and can you please help us?

And he looks at them and hears this, their story. And he says, oh yeah, absolutely. I have a solution for you. And they’re like so happy. And he. So we’re gonna do a ceremony tomorrow. I’m gonna do mix up this potion. These are the ingredients that I need. And one of the ingredients is mustard seeds. And because this couple lives in Asia mustard, seeds is, are used very much in cooking.

And so they say, okay, no problem. And he says, oh but here’s the thing. When you go and get those mustard seeds, wherever you get them from, you must make sure it’s a house or a home or a store that has suffered no tragedies, no difficulties in their life. It must be from a pure household. And so they said, oh yeah, no problem.

There’s 5,000, a hundred homes here and we know them all and we’ll just go get them tomorrow. So thank you very much. And they leave. And so they start their task that day and they go to the first house and the neighbor says, oh yeah, absolutely. Let me just go back and get you some mustard seeds.

And they said, oh no but we have to ask you a question like, Have you ever had problems with health or, somebody lost a job or, something happened in your household and he says unfortunately my son was just diagnosed with a really terrible disease and we’re trying to cope with, so they go to the next house.

Next house. They basically ask the same question and the person says, oh my goodness. Yes, actually I just lost my brother. He was run over by a train and this happened and that happened. And they said, oh no. And they keep going to houses. And after about 25 houses, they’re just really upset and stressed because they have not found one single house.

And then they go to another 25 and they cannot. So they go to the priest the next day and they said, here are the mustard seeds. And he asks is it from a home that has suffered no harm or disease or sickness or issues. And they said, they look down at their feet and they say, no. Unfortunately we went to every house in the village and no one had any life where there was no problems.

And he looks at them and he. And that’s the whole thing. Everyone has their issues, every single person. And that’s what we forget, Hunter. We forget about that. And that’s perspective, right? To know that. And we also need our community and our inner people to help us when those times are rough.

[00:17:55] Hunter: I think this is really poignant because you’re pointing to this idea that we have that is implanted from our culture that we should just always be happy that we’re not gonna as long as we do things right.

That we shouldn’t have any issues. And then we look in social media in different places and we don’t see any issues. We see that nobody has any issues and there’s something wrong with me. And so we’re having this idea that something is wrong with me. And that increases that isolation increases that depression increases that anxiety.

I just wanna pause here to remind the listener. We’re talking about increasing resilience in our kids, right? Because we want, and we’re talking about ourselves because as we lower our stress response, as we increase our parasympathetic nervous system response, increase our ease, increase our groundedness, increase our joy, increase our ability to have perspective in.

We are then able to give that some of that to our kids, but also I’m thinking, I’m wondering like, in some ways, like their lives have all these challenges, right? There’s too much screen time, too much over scheduling. Too much like less sleep and things like that. But in some ways also can it also be, is part of the problem that their lives are too comfortable in some ways, like they’re not having enough exposure to different stressors

so for instance, a Mindful Mama mentor team member her daughter is 9 and has been dealing with anxiety. Just lots of like her tummy hurt. She thought she had digestive issues cuz her tummy’s been hurting and she didn’t wanna go to school in morning. Didn’t wanna, and so one on a Friday, so she’s oh, maybe she’s sick.

I better keep her home kids fine. When she’s home, she’s obviously not got a tummy issue at home, but then Monday comes around. She’s her tummy hurts again. She doesn’t wanna go to school. So her mother. It says, sorry, babe, you gotta go to school this time. And so she’s seeing, oh, maybe this is anxiety.

And realizing that part of the answer to that is yes, being compassionate to our children, acknowledging their challenge, but also holding that boundary of, and yes, you can do the hard things. So I’m wondering, in sharing this, that. You know is part of this. They don’t have enough, like life is with all the screens and stuff.

Everything’s like too comfortable for them. Is this part of the

[00:20:42] Dr Hansa Bhargava: problem too? Yeah, I think you hit something really interesting and I think that It’s both. So I think that yes, in some ways it is too comfortable. And what does that mean? That means that we don’t necessarily allow our kids to fall.

We don’t allow them. We just want them to just, if they fall, we’re like, oh, here we are. Like here you go. And we plug them into all these things and schedule them into all these things, but we don’t allow them. Face to fall. So those those lazy summers are gone. The, see you at sunset, go play outside is gone.

All of that’s gone because we’re always around them. So they don’t have the capacity necessarily to actually be able to make decisions themselves because we’re not allowing them. So yes, it might be too easy by some parents stand standards. But also I would argue that maybe it’s hard. In a different way because we’ve not allowed them to actually grow their own critical thinking skills and grow their own decision making skills.

And that’s gonna be a problem when they actually leave the nest. I think that’s really important. The other. The other thing that I think that’s really important Hunter that I just wanna point out is that and I don’t know if the moms or the parents or the caregivers actually go and exercise at the gym and if we have some athletes in our audience, but I’m just gonna point to athletics for one minute.

And that is because, people who are athletes and people who are coaches and athletics, certainly know this to be true. And that is you can push the body really hard. But you better let it rest as well. So there’s that dichotomy. And I really I actually really like high intensity interval training and I do spin a lot myself.

And this is a little bit funny, Hunter maybe you might relate to this, but I have a favorite instructor on Peloton who I was just. Listening to a lot during the pandemic, cuz we couldn’t go anywhere to do, to do my stationary bike. And she was, she was doing the American thing that we all do, which is go, keep going.

You can be better and stronger and everything else. But the thing is that. After the workout, she was like, go listen to our stretch app and go listen to our and make sure you rest tomorrow. So we know in athletics that the body needs to rest. Why do we think that cognitively and emotionally, we don’t need to rest.

That’s the question right there. And if that’s true, I would say that we might think we’re cuddling our kids, but we’re not allowing them to rest. And I think the rest needs to be scheduled. Family dinner may be like, quote, unquote rest, but actually there needs to be space that is created just like in that Maria Kondo tidy up, she actually creates space so that more nice things can be enter your home or your closet.

We have to create that space. We must create the space, both for emotional resilience, but also for them to learn the tools of life.

[00:24:00] Hunter: This, I love that analogy of athletics, cuz you’re right. That’s true. It’s like there’s the push day. And then there’s the rest day. And we tend to be in that push mode and you really.

I really wanna go there and talk about simplifying and creating that space. But I also wanna point go back to what you were saying about this idea of kids having chances to fall and having moments. And I would love this. If you wanna dive deeper into that dear listener. Lenore Skenazy has been a guest on our podcast twice.

The most recent episode is episode number 2 83, promoting kids’ independence. This is so important when I was a kid, I went all over my town all over all the time. And part of the problem is the other kids aren’t around either. And yeah. And it’s fascinating. There’s, I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but there’s like a TV show on Netflix right now called.

Old enough. Have you heard about this? No. Wow. No. It’s like a jazz. Interesting. It’s a Japanese TV show, really? That is it’s like their episodes are like 15 minutes long and they follow tiny children going on, like their first errands. Wow. And the very first episode has a child who. Two years old and nine months going with a little flag and a little bag to the grocery store to get something for his mom.

It’s amazing. It’s amazing difference in that the culture, right? Of and part of it is having these conversations. So I always wanna, like parents let’s do this. Let’s get together with other parents and. Kick our kids outside till sunset. Yes. Yes.

[00:25:47] Dr Hansa Bhargava: absolutely. Absolutely. And I do wanna say I look, I’m a mom too, and I have two kids and I talk about this in my book.

Look I, my, my daughter said to me, this is really funny Hunter, but she said one day when she was 14 she was really mad at me because she had made friends with all these. Kids whose parents were, what she called tiger moms. And we were driving back from one of her get togethers and she was just in a bad mood.

And I said, why are you in such a bad mood? And she says, because I don’t know why you can’t be more of a tiger mom. And then

she says, you used to be a tiger mom. What happened to

[00:26:28] Hunter: you?

[00:26:31] Dr Hansa Bhargava: That’s hilarious. And anyways just going back to I, I just think that it’s really important not to be a tiger mom. The reason is that they have to become purposeful themselves and to find those things themselves. When your kid falls when, and for me right now, the falls are more academic cuz they’re, they’re teenagers and they’re in high school, so they’ll come home and they’ll say, oh, I gotta see on this or whatever.

I’ve really changed the way that I deal with that. It’s, I’m like, okay, That’s fine. So what, so you gotta see a big deal. So what did you learn from that? Because every time you fall, that is an opportunity for you to learn every time something bad happens. It’s an opportunity for us to grow in our lives.

It really is. If you can, if we can change our perspective to that for ourselves and for our kids, the whole world opens up cuz gosh, every time. And that’s true of athletics too. I’m just gonna go back to athletics. There’s a great book written about tennis. And in that book it says, don’t be mad at the opponent that beats you on the tennis court.

Be grateful. That is your teacher. That’s the person who’s allowing you to grow. Every time you fall, it’s an opportunity to learn how to get.

[00:27:51] Hunter: Definitely. Definitely. I agree. So in this perfect storm, we’ve got overscheduling yeah, let’s talk about this because this. Pervasive. It’s really like a big thing and continues to be a big thing.

When my, or, I remember when my 12 year old was little, I’d take her to swim class. And like the parent next to me in swim class is hurry up. We gotta get to clean up and go to tumbling class. We gotta go to this and that we kids are in like back to back activities when they’re.

Little, and there’s a sense also with sports of feeling like I have to start my kids young in sports, whereas from what I understand, right? Kids need a little kids, especially need a lot of. Free unstructured play. And then when you get into adolescents and teenagers, then they need some structure cuz their brains are all bananas.

Then tell me about what’s going on here. Am I right?

[00:28:56] Dr Hansa Bhargava: Yeah. You’re absolutely right. No, I think we overschedule our kids when they’re young. We absolutely do. And I really think part of it is that culture, as you alluded to Hunter, like keeping up with the Jones’ you hear about the mom down the street, who’s doing this and this.

And it’s even like you see it in the social media firms. And the kids are like a year old or two years old or three years old. And I would have Parents coming in saying my child’s not talking or my child only has this many words and the child down the street has that many. And it’s that like fear and competitiveness and the truth is like every child is on their own trajectory and it’s okay.

What we wanna do as parents is. To somewhat follow the child’s passions, right? To give them a purpose that they wanna do something and they won’t, they wanna be better at it and let them lead. And that is hard to do. So there’s parents probably are like, okay my kid wants to do this, that eight years old.

It’s true. You have to try several things before you find out what your child might wanna do or. Might he, or she might want be good at, so yes, you will have trial and error, but be Mindful about it and be intentional about it. And at some point, figure out where the energy and time and resources should go and what should fall off that calendar.

So not only prioritize, but then also. Remember to put in blocks where there isn’t anything. So what I suggest is, looking at your schedule and just like you block in, that activity block in the free time. And during that free time, it could be don’t. I do this myself, actually, Hunter I’m just like I, it’s so hard in our culture, not to wanna schedule everything that I literally have a voice in my head saying, create the space.

no, don’t say no. Say no, don’t say yes, don’t say, and we do say yes to a lot of things we just do. And it’s almost intentional where you have to say no and create the

[00:31:05] Hunter: space. Yeah. And with our kids, with my kids for a while, when they were younger, it was like, okay, pick one thing, right?

Yes. One thing per season. And if that thing interfered, especially when they were younger with our family dinners, like we would think long and hard about that, because that was important to us in that space. I love this idea of create the space. I think we’re afraid of. Letting our kids be bored, but this is when they there’s so much creativity that blossoms.

This is when we have an opportunity. If we are not, I invite you to imagine this dear listener. If you’re not, if you have a day where you have a whole day open, some of us are like, oh crap, what will I do? Oh my God. It’s so scary. But imagine if you just have a whole day open, then you have time.

Take your child. Who’s curious about what you’re doing and really take the time to involve them in making breakfast, or really involve them in making lunch. You can involve them in folding laundry. Like you can involve them in cleaning the house. If you want. Like then maybe they have time where they do a bunch of free play by themselves.

You, you don’t have to be. I invite you to reconsider the idea that a whole. Day is scary with your kids, because that actually gives you the space to bring them into your adult world and let them give them the message that the, like, when we. Have our adult world and we say, oh, you’re, you go watch this TV show while I make dinner.

We do that again. And again, we’re giving our kids a message that this is not for you. Yeah. Cooking, cleaning. Those things are not for you. You have a special VIP status of being entertained in the household. And it’s safe for them to be bored. It’s SA it’s good for them to be bored.

It’s totally the precursor. Of creativity and helpfulness. I think

[00:33:14] Dr Hansa Bhargava: absolutely Hunter, I can’t emphasize more what you just said, and that is to bring them into your life. Have them help you make dinner, have them set the table, and they may push back because remember it takes three weeks to change a habit.

It takes 21 days. So you will meet resistance. Okay. So if you decide to go this way and prioritize and create this, create the space, you will meet resistance. So don’t worry about it. Yeah, it’ll be it not, it’s not gonna be easy initially, but 21 days later, it will be easier and they will understand, a different type of life.

The other thing I’ll point out, which you just said is like the VIP status is a bad thing. , it’s just a bad thing in general. Cause do we wanna raise many adults who thinks they’re VIPs? Is that what we want? And maybe we do want that, but let me just say, go deeper into that. When somebody thinks they’re a V I P generally that affects every facet of their.

And most of us are not gonna be VIPs. And even if we are, it’ll be for a very small period of time. So across your life, you really wanna have humility and the ability to relate to other people and to help when help is needed. And if that’s not part of your life toolkit, then you’re gonna have a lot of problems getting along with other people.

And that’s personally. And professionally in all spheres of life. So we don’t wanna create VIP. So let’s pull them in and have them do what they used to do, which is yeah. Like I used to do chores all the time when I was growing up. I wasn’t allowed to sit and watch TV. Heck no.

[00:34:54] Hunter: yeah. It’s interesting how things have shifted so much.

And I also like what you said about when we’re thinking about. We’re really basically inviting you to your listener, to take a step back and look at the big picture of your life with your child. And what are your values? Can you interject this? So if you want kids who are gonna be resilient, if you want kids who are resilient from the anxiety and the depression that is rampant, to take that to simplify your life, to.

To have that open space to create the space. But you also mentioned following the child as far as their activities. I think that’s such a, I love that. And follow the child was a thing that was a statement of Maria Montessori right in she and that incredible. And I just found out last night that Maria Montessori was, my kids are really involved in Scouts, BSA they’re oh, wow.

Often a girl’s boy scout. And I found out the person who founded Scouts worked with Maria Montessori and Maria Montessori with heavily influenced Scouts, with the idea of kids being the leaders, kids, taking the lead kids, doing all those things that they do, that is so empowering. And that is so interesting.

It’s this is a shift towards. Towards openness and curiosity, like a balance of needs, a balance of the parents’ needs and a balance of the kids’ needs and not, I think our culture is too heavily fun. The kids.

[00:36:35] Dr Hansa Bhargava: A hundred percent, a hundred percent.

But the thing is if we step back, like you’re advocating Hunter and I would encourage parents and caregivers to step back and say, what do we want for our children? Do we want to give them a toolbox? Do we want them to be rich? Do we want them to be successful? Do we want them to be happy? Because happy is a different thing.

And the ability to be happy is what is really my definition of success, right? And I think most parents do want their kids to be happy. So then how do we build that happy? And that is really to give them a toolbox, right? It’s not just to hand them. This is, this is your brand new bed and this is your brand new, this, whatever.

It’s actually to give them a toolbox to build that happy themselves, that they can actually. Carry into life. And I think it’s really important to look at it that way. For two reasons. One is we want our kids to be happy, but two is, we want our kids to be healthy and mental health manifests itself in physical health.

Absolutely a hundred percent. So we have not been talking about that enough out there, actually, Hunter, I will say that. So two things, I feel like we’re not talking about enough, which I would, invite your thoughts is number one prevention of mental health illness. Just like you’d prevent diabetes and prevent cardiac disease and prevent this and that.

We should be talking about prevention of mental illness as well. Like why do we want our kids to get there? If we can reduce the chances of them getting there. So that’s one thing. The second thing we’re not talking about enough is once you get mental illness, it absolutely impacts your physical health.

Absolutely. A hundred percent. And so we want our kids to be healthy and happy. If those are our north stars, then we need to shift our thinking. It’s time for a.

[00:38:29] Hunter: Yeah. Okay. I love this. So prevention of mental health, which is problems, which is amazing, and that how that affects our physical health. What are some of the ways that like anxiety and depression affect kids’ physical health?

[00:38:44] Dr Hansa Bhargava: Yeah. I had a great conversation with a research over at Emory university who runs holistic health and she was looking at cortisol levels in people’s hair. And yes. So she was looking at cortisol levels in people’s hair. And what she found was the greater, the cortisol level in the hair. The more likely there was plaques in the arteries that feed the heart, which means the more likely there would be heart attacks.

Our heart disease. Absolutely right. And what she also found, which is really interesting was that the people who are most resilient were least likely to have that cortisol actually affect the heart. So people who have resilience and those buffers, we talk about activating your parasympathetic system.

The three CS that I talk about creating the space to breathe. And I’ll talk about the other tools to activate the parasympathetic system, which goes back to biology. Those are the people who are actually not only gonna be better emotionally and mentally, but they will probably have less risk of cancer, less risk of rheumatoid arthritis, less risk of heart disease, less risk of diabetes.

Why wouldn’t we want that for ourselves and our children? Why.

[00:39:59] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. And a lot of these things we have to do preventatively, it’s maybe you can take some drugs down the line once it’s already there, but you, we need to do this stuff preventatively. Okay. This is awesome. Hansa, what are the tools that we can, what are the tools, the mental health toolbox for engaging that.

[00:40:20] Dr Hansa Bhargava: Parasympathetic nervous. Yeah. And absolutely. We need to build that into every day, if possible. So some of those tools to engage is actually deep breathing. So in fact, deep breathing physiologically helps us calm down. So teaching your kids as a tool that as a tool and yourself, just walk away. Take really deep breaths for five deep breaths.

That’s what I tell my kids and then go away and then you can deal with the issue that’s bothering you right now. So that activates the parasympathetic system sleep activates. The parasympathetic system hugs can really help, like the closeness actually releases oxytocin. Which is a good, like a happy hormone, right?

So and I think it’s 20 seconds, maybe 15 seconds of a hug, connection and

[00:41:10] Hunter: compassion right there.

[00:41:11] Dr Hansa Bhargava: Connection. Absolutely. You’re with your community and your friends that activates your parasympathetic system. And nature, let share

[00:41:19] Hunter: this Though with you, when you talk about hugs I love that this is like one of my favorite things to share the Zen master Han in that community.

They, she talked about hugging meditation and he, one of the tools is like a three breath hug. And so you hug and you just take three deep breaths. So you combine a couple of those tools. I love that. Okay. So deep breathing, sleep hugs. What else did you say? I think I talked over you a little.

[00:41:44] Dr Hansa Bhargava: No, no worries.

Nature. Nature. Yes. Connection, like having your inner people around. I love taking Machan by the way. I just, I love his teachings and I’ll just say a lot of what I talk about in the book, Hunter is from his teachings. And from the course that I took at Emory university and I teach it’s called cognitive based compassion training.

And it’s really a resiliency course. We talk a lot about that and we go back to the biology and that. So if anyone’s ever interested. At Emory university and online. So yeah, but anyways, yeah. So those are some of the parasympathetic Activators whatever you wanna call them. And I would also say I think one thing Hunter that we talk about and we’re like, okay, now the parents, who might be listening to this podcast are like, oh great.

Now I have another list of things to do. Please don’t feel that is what the case is. We are not trying to add more things to your list. And if there’s a day where you can’t do something, that is totally okay. So I go back to self-compassion like, forgive yourself. And I talk about a story in my book and it’s basically my sister who was trying to do 5 million things and got into the car and told her seven year old son to get into the car, cuz they were late for guitar lesson.

And she was talking to someone because there’s a leak in the house. And she was like, oh my. All this stuff, probably we can all relate to this kind of story. And then she basically so she’s backing out of her driveway and all of a sudden she heard a crunch and she was like, what’s that? ? So she got outta the car and she looked, and there was a guitar crunched into a thousand pieces.

Oh. But the story is not necessarily about that. The story is about what she did to herself three for three days afterwards. She beat herself up about. She was like, oh my God, how stupid am I? And how horrible and this and that. But when she called me what I said to her was like of course that happened.

You’re managing all these things and it’s fine. Yes. Okay. It’s, it’s a guitar and you’re gonna have to buy another one, but gosh, these things happen. So that’s what I’m saying to her, but what she’s saying to herself is not what a friend or a sister would say to her, she’s doing self bullying.

We’ve got to let that go. So going back to the parents and caregivers who might be listening totally. Okay. If you don’t activate the parasympathetic system, it’s okay. Or you don’t have the thinner family dinner. It’s okay. It’ll be all be fine. But please forgive yourself and move on.

[00:44:17] Hunter: Yes. Yeah. Yeah.

We cannot give what we do not have. And if we can’t have that compassion for ourselves, we, we’re gonna be, not be able to give it to our kids even but yeah, what’s a, I know we’re so hard on ourselves. It’s really another symptom of our culture.

[00:44:39] Dr Hansa Bhargava: And they feel our stress Hunter.

Yeah, they do. They really do. They’re like little sponges. .

[00:44:45] Hunter: Yeah, indeed. Absolutely. I love this finally final question. If your, a parent suspects, their child is experiencing depression or anxiety, obviously we wanna maybe engage some of the, nature, hugs, connections, sleep, all of those things. We kinda look at the stress levels, all the things we talked about, but.

What would you say to that parent? What might their first steps take to what their first steps be to help their child there? Great

[00:45:20] Dr Hansa Bhargava: question. And Hunter, look, there’s like a whole gradient in medicine that we talk about for every disease and illness, and that is prevention then mild disease, moderate disease, severe disease.

And so you have to be able to identify where your child might be there, but here’s the thing. If they are worried, They should trust their gut and they should seek help. And I think pediatricians are good places to start because unfortunately in this country, we also are having access issues to mental health professionals.

Right now it is a real thing. So I would say, start with your pediatrician. The pediatrician can help guide you in terms of, what may be going on, but also. Prevention is really important. So we talked about a lot about prevention. The one thing that I also would advocate for prevention is also talking to your.

About mental illness so that they know that, if things, if they’re sad for a long period of time or they’re anxious for a long period of time, or, whatever’s happening, that could be something that’s, they need help for. And, I think for us as parents, one of the many north stars and I’ve call talked about a lot of stars, but one, I would say this is the biggest north star.

Of all across physical and mental health disease, and that’s communication, you have to keep the communication lines open with your kids because they will fall as all our kids do. And when they do, you want them to come to you? So keep those, that is like the biggest priority of all.

[00:46:53] Hunter: Definitely. I love that so much. This has been such a pleasure talking to you. I’m there’s so much valuable information here. I can’t wait for, to hear the feedback from the listener. I really appreciate your. Time and your expertise and bringing this to us and sharing your time on the Mindful Mama podcast. Where can people find of the book is building happier kids, where can people find out more about you?

[00:47:18] Dr Hansa Bhargava: Yeah, absolutely. And the book is listed on Amazon and in all stores you can find more information about me on my website, hansabhargavamd.com. I also am Chief Medical Officer at MedCAP. And and a contributor to web MD. And then also you can find me on social media at @hansabhargavaMD for Twitter @drhansaMD on Instagram, and then I am on LinkedIn as well. So feel free to reach out to me. And honestly, Hunter, thank you so much. It’s such an honor to speak to you and to your audience. And I really, truly hope that I can help families get better.

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