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Published on November 2, 2018

What Happened to Family Dinners? Why We Should Bring Them Back

What Happened to Family Dinners? Why We Should Bring Them Back

Do family dinners still exist? As a tradition, it’s certainly dying off. This is largely thanks to hectic modern lifestyles and an abundance of new technology. You’re far more likely to stuff a high fat, high calorie takeaway into your system than sit down and catch up with your family over a carefully prepared dinner.

But today we’re championing the family dinner and why you should bring it back into your lives. There are some surprising reasons with room for an inspiring outcome.

Fighting for the Family Dinner Cause

It may seem like something not even worth considering, but sitting down to eat, talk, and bond can have a far-reaching affect on your family.

I can look back and see when my typical, dysfunctional British family ditched eating together in favor of watching Frasier on VHS. That was around 2000 – it solved a few issues, but in the long-run did more damage than good.

Why? Well, strangely enough there are science-backed reasons for taking up family dinners. And many of these benefits are particularly important for your kids.

At a young age, they’re impressionable and in a habit forming phase. And modern technology isn’t helping – many young people struggle with anxiety and depression due to the likes of social media. And they’re addicted to their devices – in 2015, a Common Sense Media census found they spend at least a third of their day glued to their smartphone.[1]

In a Psycom piece about the issue, it concludes:[2]

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“Connection is key when it comes to parenting teens in a modern world. The single best thing you can do for your teen is make time for face-to-face connections and simply be present.”

Additionally, from 2014 there was another revealing study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In Who are the school truants?[3] it found youths who didn’t eat (i.e. bond) regularly with their parents were:

  • Far more likely to miss school.
  • More likely to suffer from obesity.
  • And suffer from alienation to a greater extent.

Benefits of Family Dinners

Okay, so I feel I’ve made a convincing argument in the name of family dinners. But it’s worth taking a closer look at some of the key benefits of eating together.

1. Improve development

Simply put, if you have young ones around, then sitting around at a meal having a discussion helps them to develop. They can improve their language skills, social interaction, and etiquette (i.e. not chewing with their mouth open – as a misophonia sufferer, that’s an all-important one!).

They’ll improve their manners, patience, and even cultural knowledge. For instance, sure you can use a traditional knife and fork. But you can also try out other dishes and get them skilled up with chopsticks. There’s a skill they can show off to their friends.

2. Better mental health

As mentioned above, with mental health issues growing amongst young people, one way to alleviate this is with family dinners. It may sound like an ineffective, if not outright strange solution, but the scientific research backs up the claim.

A 2012 study from the Center On Addiction found that:[4]

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“Parental engagement in children’s lives is fundamental to keeping children away from tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, and that parents have the greatest influence on whether their teens will choose not to use substances.”

So along with various other family bonding exercises, a family meal is an excellent way to engage with your children and help them develop.

3. Better physical health

The more control you have over your child’s diet, the better food they’ll eat. If you leave your kids to their own devices, the chances are they’ll head off and gorge on fast food, takeaways, unhealthy snacks, and fizzy drinks.

If you eat at home, you can make better food choices. You have total control over what’s going into your meals – even at restaurants, a healthy option may continue unexpectedly high amounts of sugar or salt.

But not only does it allow you to add more vegetables to your meals (the cornerstone of any healthy diet!), it also enables you to talk to your kids about eating healthily.

This is particularly important in an age where it’s bizarrely easy to consume a vast amount of unhealthy produce for little cost. Eating healthily takes a little more effort, but the dinner table is a great place to make this clear to your young ones.

4. Grow your family bond

This is an obvious one. But the more time you spend together, the more you’ll grow your family bond.

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Don’t restrict this to family meals, of course. We recently ran the following piece that can add to a busy schedule of activities: 25 Super Fun Things to Do With Family to Strengthen Your Bond.

5. Cut costs

If you’ve fallen into a habit of hiring a takeaway more or less every day of the week, then you’re losing a lot of money.

Family dinners are often much more cost-effective. The Simple Dollar found:[5]

“The average American spends $232 per month eating meals prepared outside the home.”

From its research, it then found:

“The average American would save $36.75 per person per week by moving all of their meals from restaurants to home-prepared meals.”

Of course, eating out is also a great way to bond with the family. But when it’s costing a lot of money, then turning your attention back to family meals is a great way to save some cash, as well as improve your relationships.

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Conversation and Meal Ideas

So, what to cook? You can serve up beans on toast for every meal, or you could focus on preparing some more extravagant meals.

While here are 15 Flavorful and Healthy Family Meals that are perfect for picky eaters, you can also consider these:

  • Green Kitchen – An ultra-healthy and excellent app. Pick from a wide range of tasty vegetarian meals that will provide you with a health boost, as well as help you enjoy healthy food.
  • Pinterest – Always a brilliant source for creative inspiration, this family meal specific board provides some immediate visual stimulus for what to cook next.
  • Fork It – Another clever app that will help you cook up a storm. It helps your creativity as a chef to flourish. It’s also designed to encourage people to cook more at home (if you’re lacking motivation to make it a consistent habit).
  • YouTube – As with Jamie Oliver above (who’s championed healthy eating amongst kids over the last decade), YouTube is a rich source of free ideas.

It’s also important to remember a family dinner isn’t a case of getting around a table and sitting there in stony silence. It’s an opportunity to connect, not endure awkward silences:

To set a talkative mood, you could have some background music, and you can discuss the day’s news, what you’ve all completed during the day, your plans for the weekend etc.

Drinking heavily in front of your kids to create free-flowing conversation isn’t a great choice, either. Your vices can easily pass on to your kids. If you’ve had a few glasses of wine and seem positively elated, it’s only natural your kids want to experience the same thing. So you could stick to non-alcoholic drinks and, of course, no smoking.

But above everything, enjoy the occasion! It’s about good fun and spending some time with the people you love.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user rawpixel rawpixel @rawpixel rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Common Sense Media: The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens
[2]PsyCom: Is Social Media Messing with Your Teen’s Mental Health?
[3]Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development: Who are the school truants?
[4]Center On Addiction: The Importance of Family Dinners Viii
[5]The Simple Dollar: Don’t Eat Out as Often

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Alex Morris

Creative Writer, Copywriter, & Journalist for Business, Culture, Lifestyle, & Work

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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