What is health?
I have asked this question a lot_ in the beginning of many psychosocial trainings. 99% of the answers turn out to be “being free from illness” “being happy” or “being stress-free”. And only 1% says “having good social relationships”. Now why would that be?
Because all these are connected. A person who doesn’t get along with his/her family or social environment will not be happy inside. And we have this Burmese saying, “the body suffers when the mind suffers”, which means… a person whose health is delicate will not be happy as well. According to the WHO, health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being.
Having said that, we cannot detach our daily lives from money for our living and education, intelligence and knowledge for our brain, work and our faith or religion. These 7 aspects are also connected to each other.
If life is a journey, then these are the wheel. To make your wheel durable, these 7 aspects of your life need to be balanced and resilient. Nowadays, many professionals use wheel of life in different areas of work.
How is your wheel at present? Are the axes balanced? Let’s imagine together.
If you have paper and pen in your hands, draw 7 lines representing the 7 aspects of life. (You can do that in your imagination if you don’t have paper and pen.) Taking the middle point as 0 and each extreme as 100, give scores on how many percent of your time that you have allotted to each aspect of life.
Now it’s time to connect these marks. What have we got?
Unbalanced wheels are barely durable but easily breakable. You have money, good position, house and cars but you have to live away from your family. Your work hard and become rich but you are sick. Would you call it a happy and meaningful life?
A balanced wheel may be small but have more resilience compared to an unbalanced wheel… and in the long run, you can make your wheel bigger with time. This is taking care of yourself_ self-care!
So why is self-care important? Just as a mere drop of water can cause ripples, we ourselves need to know how to live happy and healthy and how to keep a balanced life so that we can transmit these good ripples to our loved ones.
As no man is an island, once we tie the knot with our partners, we commit ourselves to sharing one journey that moves forward on two wheels. Going on a journey with two unbalanced wheels or two differently-rotating wheels can spark marital problems.
Later on, as people start to dream of having their own family, how many of them prepare themselves mentally or emotionally before they become parents? Although most people make preparations for their physical health, they rarely tend to assess their mind and emotions whether they are ready to become parents or not. And it is questionable whether such preparations are important.
We may have heard these words from people who grew up in the midst of family conflicts and verbal violence.
“You are a dead loss. You eat the same stuff as everyone else but is this all you’ve got?” “Is that how you pay back your debt of gratitude? Giving birth to you is not worth it.”
People who didn’t receive love and people who didn’t become who they wanted to be… when they become parents… are very likely to pass on these experiences to their children one way or another.
As a mental health professional, I provide counseling to people starting from the age of 10 to the age of 50 or above.
Sadly, I’ve found that most of their mental health issues originate from their parents. I would like to highlight the cases of 4 clients of all the many clients I have counseled.
The first client is a 14-year-old teenager who came to me for frequent self-harm and attempted suicide. And he said to me, “Even though we live under the same roof, me and my parents hardly get to eat together or chat together. Home is just too cold and lonely.”
The second one is a 17-year-old girl who asked for her parents’ help to meet me as she can no longer swallow her depression. She pleaded with me to explain her parents what she had been suffering because they turned down her request with a mere “don’t be depressed”.
Now the third client, a 27-year-old archaeologist who went against her parents’ wish and followed her passion instead of becoming a doctor or a business woman, never got her family’s appreciation or acceptance however successful she became.
Finally, the fourth client is a housewife in her 50’s suffering from anxiety and depression. All her life, she listened to her mother… whenever it came to education or job or marriage or anything. Even though she wanted to get a divorce, she kept listening to her mother who claimed that it is indecent of a woman to give up her marriage.
So, what is missing in these cases?
All these clients have parents doing their best to support their living and education. They have parents who love them, long for their success, and try to fulfill their obligations. However, the children are suffering psychological difficulties.
The question is… “Is our love healthy and appropriate?”
Here’s what most parents say; their children’s success in their happiness.
Think about the happiness you gain from forcing your children to do as you wish or to become what you’ve never become. If that happiness means sacrificing your children’s dream and contentment, would you still want it for sure?
Just ask yourselves. Say you were in your children’s shoe, what would make you happy? How would you like to grow up?
The wheel of life needs to be balanced for an adult and the same goes for a child. In addition to shelter, clothing, materials, money, education and health, a child also needs love, family relationship, respect and support.
As the parent is the first teacher… the odds are that the children of a person who knows how to eat and live healthy and puts his/her knowledge into practice will grow up physically healthy. A person who makes effort to heal his/her sufferings in life and takes care of one’s own mental health will surely pay attention to his/her child’s mental and emotional well-being. Parents who learn how to get along with different people and manage to establish balanced relationships in his/her environment will not forget to teach their children about communications according to their ages.
From now on, let us start building happy and healthy lives where our love and generosity doesn’t inflict trauma on our children, I wish you can spread happy and healthy ripples to your loved ones starting with taking care of your own lives to be balanced.
Su Zar Mon