The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Our Mental Wellbeing

by dR Christina Liang-Boguszewicz

Mental health problems are one of the main contributors to overall disease burden and disability worldwide. One in six individuals are estimated to live with mental illness globally. 264–300 million individuals worldwide live with depression;284–300 million live with anxiety-related disorders; 46–60 million live with bipolar affective disorder;20–23 million live with schizophrenia;16 million live with eating disorders (Source: https://ourworldindata.org/

In the fourth industrial revolution, where almost the entire world is connected through the internet, mental health plays a great role. Cyberspace, driven by information systems and the Internet, is changing our world in unprecedented ways by facilitating economic development and creating innovative ways for people to communicate, engage, negotiate and collaborate with one another. There is almost no aspect of human endeavor that has not been domesticated in the realm of cyberspace. Personal and societal changes are brought on by cyberspace. The number of human events that have shifted from actual, face-to-face meetings to interactions facilitated by remote, distant connectivity has increased dramatically, changing human behaviour, goals, governance, parenting, and so on. The wellbeing of cyberspace, like public health, has an effect on about every area of contemporary culture.

Excessive reliance on digitalization is affecting the human brain, with relentless working regimes blurring the lines between work and private lives entailing over exposure to screens and, consequently, over stimulating the brain, leading to serious clinical and psychological disorders. This is particularly affecting children as their brains are in their early developmental stages where neural connections are formed, aiding in the development of various parts of the brain in a healthy way, a process which is now being impeded by the relentless and sustained intrusion of digital devices in their lives.

In the fourth industrial revolution, there are a number of aspects which matter and jointly impact the general mental health of an individual. Especially, children and young adults who have easy access to social media and the internet as an integral part of their lives, both for entertainment and for studies and research etc. This in return has raised serious concerns for both, the parents and teachers, as open access to the internet and social media can and has had many psychological effects on the mental health of children and young adults.  The association between screen time and poor health outcomes has been well-documented. It has also been observed that during the critical periods of brain development, if the brain is overstimulated it can have massive impacts on the brain development resulting in children having sleep disorders, depression, and anxiety. Studies have also shown that an overstimulated brain, at the time of its critical development, can lead to adverse effects including hyperactivity in adults. Limiting screen time can help to reduce loneliness and depression.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, people have been seen working from home and connecting through the internet for work, shopping, schools and even appointments for doctors including psychiatrists. With this evolving cyberspace regime, cybercrime has also been observed to evolve in tandem – the ensuing stress has had serious impacts on the mental health of individuals.

In 2020, there were 4.14 billion social media users in the world. Social media usage continues to grow alongside internet expansion, and if the rate continues, the extrapolation indicates there could be more than 4.2 billion social media users by the end of 2021.

With the billions of people on social media, and this figure rising, we now have a digital social landscape where all variations of minds are online. Cyber bullying is amplified exponentially as the target online audience is available in vast numbers. The variations of attacks are one aspect of cyber bullying that has caused major depression, alienation and a rise in teenage suicides, as depicted by various statistics.

Fresh Flower

Understanding how our brain and body are connected

Our brain and body are connected through neural pathways made up of neurotransmitters, hormones and chemicals. These pathways transmit signals between our body and our brain to control our everyday functions from breathing, digestion and pain sensations to movement, thinking and feeling. While mind and body connection are determined from the interaction of psychological, social and biological factors

 

Understand Stress

Stress is a multi-dimensional syndrome that can engage the entire human organism. Viewing health as a balance, an intertwined relationship between the body, mind, and spirit makes it is easy to see the impact that stress creates in our everyday lives.

Stress has become #1 killer in today's world, affecting our mental, emotional, and physical well- being. Its effects on behavior can range from depression, irritability, aggression, and the loss of sense of humor. Mentally, long-term stress may affect a person’s ability to concentrate and lead to chronic depression. Physically, this can manifest as headaches, indigestion, aches and pains, heart palpitations, heart attacks, allergies, colitis, high blood pressure, PMS, eczema, autoimmune diseases, IBS, insomnia, lethargy, or a general breakdown of good health. People, who continually push themselves beyond the warning signs of fatigue and pain, often will not stop to rest, relax, and take the time to heal until there is a major breakdown of health.

Stress can be defined as “a negative differential between a series of demands and the inability to cope with them.” The body’s response to stress will depend on the individual’s experience and coping ability. There are several factors that will gauge this outcome; level of health at the time, comfort level, hormone balance, and social and intimate support; all of these are inherent in the coping mechanism.

Long-term stress can deplete the ability to cope with even the simplest of life’s tasks and challenges.

In the Chinese medicine perspective, worries deplete the earth energies of the spleen, stomach, and pancreas. This affects the ability to think clearly, and digest nourishment properly. Since the spleen is the largest lymph node in the body, this may also indirectly affect the functions of the lymphatic and immune systems.

An emerging science called Psychoneuroendoimmunology (psychological-nerves-endocrine-immune system), examines how thoughts and emotions change the kinds of messages and chemical responses experienced by the nervous and endocrine system.

 

Psychoneuroendoimmunology demonstrates that emotional states dramatically change the heart rate and function, the health of our arteries, and our immune response. Stress elevates cholesterol levels, which causes atherosclerosis, a disease in which cholesterol plaque builds up in the arteries, especially the coronary arteries. Stress also changes the hormonal balance, increasing norepinephrine and other hormones that increase the heart rate, causing the heart muscle to require greater amounts of oxygen.

 

Homeostasis is the body mind process of maintaining a state of harmony. This process happens on many levels, some of which are unseen and unfelt by us consciously. Homeostatic functions are primarily governed by the nervous and endocrine system, under the guise of nerve impulses, hormones, and enzyme actions. An example of homeostasis is thermo-regulation, the body’s ability to maintain a consistent temperature. It is somewhat like having a built-in thermostat. Other examples are hunger, which functions to keep us from starvation and fatigue, which keeps us from exhaustion

The chemistry of stress has a deep physiological impact. It is known as the “fight or flight response,” triggered by the sympathetic response of the autonomic nervous system. The fight or flight response is designed to get the body moving and out of danger. During the fight or flight response, there is an increase in the heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and sensory reflexes. When danger is identified by the senses, the hypothalamus secretes a corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF) into the blood stream, which then triggers the pituitary to release a second chemical known as adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). As soon as the blood carrying the ACTH reaches the adrenal glands, they release adrenal hormones, principally adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream.

All of these chemicals precipitate a large number of specific changes in neural activities, tissues, and behavior. This is fine if we find ourselves in a situation where these responses are beneficial for our safety and well-being, which may include an athletic event, sports, or any situation that strength, endurance, and physical output is necessary. What happens when this fight or flight response reflexes while we are sitting in a traffic jam, workplace, talking on the phone, receive a stressful letter in the mail, or eating a meal? If accompanying physical exertion, in the resulting physical confusions, cannot safely diffuse the natural responses of our body there may be an expression of exertion on a mental or emotional level that turns to anger, fear, or other detrimental emotions.

Image by Sarah Dorweiler

How do we counter stress and live a healthier lifestyle?

Creating a healthy and balanced lifestyle can help one cope and adjust to life’s stresses. Some of the ways of creating such a lifestyle include development of a positive mental attitude, choosing nourishing foods and liquids, adequate exercise or physical activity, time in the sunshine, and fresh air, deep breathing exercises, self-care, adequate rest, relaxation, meditation, and time for self.

Build Positive Emotions

Emotions are powerful forces and it can determine our outlook on life based on the events occurring around us. Building positive emotion can decrease the stress hormone cortisol and increase feel-good chemical messengers in the brain (such as dopamine and serotonin), helping one feel physically and emotionally safe, thus boosts feelings of safety and trust, which helps to build better bonds with those around them.

Positive emotions can enhance our survival over the long-term by giving us greater coping resources, clearer thoughts, increase creativity and enable us to see the "big picture" by stepping out of survival mode. Positive emotions also allow us to empathize with other humans, perhaps to share in joy or in pain.

Practice of positive emotions such as empathy, compassion and love on a daily basis can increase healing from emotional traumas, but also lower cortisol levels, increase immune capacity, and pave the way for happiness and optimum health.

Sustaining Vitality thru Natural Therapy such as Essential Oil

Aromatherapy, also known as Essential Oil Therapy is a holistic healing technique that encourages health, equilibrium and wellness by using natural plant extracts. It uses essential aromatic oils to improve, enhance and heal the body, mind and spirit. It improves both physical and emotional health. It is both viewed as an art and a science. The therapy has recently gained greater recognition in the fields of science and medicine.

 

Essential oils are extracted from grasses, leaves, flowers, fruits, bark, wood, needles, twigs, roots, and resins shrubs from all over the world. Each essential oil has its own unique medicinal qualities, characteristics, and therapeutic effects.

 

Essential oils have been known to have a positive effect on all the major physical systems of the body including the circulatory, lymphatic, digestive, eliminative, reproductive, endocrine, muscular, and skeletal. Modern day research has confirmed their therapeutic and medicinal qualities of being anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti- venomous, anti-depressive, anti-neuralgic, stimulant, nervine, digestive, diuretic and more.

The effect of essential oils on the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual is extraordinary: from healing, uplifting depression, anxiety into clarity, stress into calming and scattered into grounding. Essential oils are known to be sedative or stimulating in nature, addressing the autonomic nervous system to produce the desired effect. 

In a clinical trial, the use of therapeutic lavender oil have an equal effect of reducing anxiety to popular anti-anxiety drug Lorazepam

Fostering the Wisdom of Resilience

Build resilience through the 4 domains - Emotion, Physical, Mental and Spiritually

Resilience has most frequently been defined as positive adaptation. Resilience is the ineffable attribute the helps life to knock down some people and come back stronger than ever before. Some may associate resilience with mental toughness, but it requires experiencing emotional pain and discomfort to show resiliency. Resilience isn't a fixed characteristic. Flexibility , adaptability , and perseverance by modifying those thoughts and habits may help people tap into their resilience.

Resilience is an ability gained, and the skills can be developed at any time in life. Building resilience is important as it gives people the necessary strength to process and resolve hardship. Those who lack endurance are easily overwhelmed and can resort to unhealthy strategies for coping. In order to solve obstacles and work through difficulties, resilient people tap their abilities and support networks. For a good reason, you hear a lot about rising and improving resilience—in ourselves and children alike.

Why resilience is a great trait:

  • Greater endurance leads to better learning and academic attainment.

  • Resilience is linked to a reduction in work or school absences due to sickness.

  • Those with more endurance tend to engage more in group and family events.

  • Increased resilience is related to lower death rates and increased physical activity.

  • It helps minimize risk-taking habits like binge drinking, smoking, and substance use.

Meditation

 

Meditation is basically a simple process of conscious relaxation. It is a combination of processes and postures, which involves human brain to achieve state of pleasure and tranquility. Meditation can produce a deep state of relaxation, allowing you to focus on your attention and help to reverse your body stress response. Thus, this enhance physical and emotional well-being

Numerous health specialists revealed that patients of stress and anxiety, can easily overcome such problems by bringing into play any of the best suitable meditation technique. Meditation has been proven as successful cure from years to reduce depression and anxiety. It is also the best solution to prevent you from panic attacks.

Meditation is nothing but an enjoyment of flow of positive energy in your body.

Eating healthy

 

A healthy diet is essential for good health and nutrition. It protects you against many chronic noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Eating a variety of foods and consuming less salt, sugars and saturated and industrially-produced trans-fats, are essential for healthy die

 

Diseases flourish in an acidic environment. The human body is designed to be slightly alkaline instead of acidic, although the body is acidic by function (breathing, digestion, dealing with acid foods and drink). Plant based foods, which are mostly alkaline foods, are the principal ingredients that keep us healthy and work well in this slow moving human digestive system.

 

Benefits of eating healthy can improve heart and brain health, memory, mood and energy levels. It build strong bones and teeth and of cos, it also helps with our overall weight management. Blue zone diet is a good choice to consider.

Eliminate white sugar

In recent years as the battle with white processed sugar has been well researched. It is now evident that Sugar is indeed addictive and a poison to the human system. The developing case against sugar was also manifest in the 2003 version of WHO's "Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases", which recognised that there were good reasons for restricting sugar intakes to less than 10% of total calories, not just because of dental caries, but “on nutritional grounds alone”. 

 

Sleep well

Sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind and body, characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, reduced muscle activity and inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Sleeping well directly affects both your mental and physical health. Fall short and it can take a serious toll on your daytime energy, productivity, and emotional balance. Unhealthy daytime habits and lifestyle choices can leave you tossing and turning at night and adversely affect your mood, brain and heart health, immune system, creativity, vitality, and weight.

How can I get a better night’s sleep?

Keep in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle

Control your exposure to light

Exercise during the day

Be smart about what you eat and drink

Wind down and clear your head

Improve your sleep environment

Learn ways to get back to sleep

 

 

Mental health is extremely important for the sound functioning of an individual. With ever-advancing technology and the pace at which cyber space has occupied center-stage in our lives, it is extremely important to for us to take extra precautionary measures to ensure positive mental wellbeing