Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on September 17, 2019

30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit

30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit

I sat in the quiet, cold, white doctor’s office in Sydney, Australia. There was crinkly loud paper under my legs as I waited for my MRI results. I had been in pain for months and desperately wanted to know what was wrong. The doctor removed his glasses, pointed to the images, and told me I had a compressed disc in my lower back, narrowing of the spinal column and arthritis.

I was 21, living in a foreign country and alone. I burst into tears and all the worst-case scenarios ran through my head. He told me I could never run again, and worse, I would need to stop exercising completely for an indefinite period of time. Sports, activity, exercise, running, being athletic and adventurous – that was my identity and had been for most of my life. I went home and crawled in bed. I felt hopeless, defeated and depressed. My boyfriend at the time, now my husband, came over and tried to cheer me up. But it seemed nothing could do so.

My life as I knew it was over. If I couldn’t be an adventurous athlete, I wasn’t even sure who I was anymore.

This wasn’t the first time I had been told by a doctor never to run again. In fact, it was the fourth. The first was at the age of 16 after my first knee surgery to fix a torn meniscus. The second and third times were in college. Once was my sophomore year when I was training for a marathon. I have always wanted to run a marathon (and still do), but had to stop two weeks short of the finish line as I developed stress fractures in both of my femurs. The other, my junior year, I found myself on the surgery table, removing part of my meniscus. The doctor once again, as others before him, told me that I should never run again. I nodded my head, healed my knee, strengthened my leg in physical therapy and once again hit the pavement and the sports field.

Which leads us back to the doctor’s room in Sydney. This time it wasn’t my knee. It was my back. And the doctor told me if I chose not to listen this time, if I DID continue to run, that I could pinch a nerve, causing the potential for serious problems long term.

Pain I could handle, but the thought of being paralyzed, or worse, was not a risk I was willing to take. Continuing to ignore my doctor’s advice and push through the pain was not an option anymore.

It was time I started taking better care of myself and my body. It was time I learned what self-care looked like.

I hate the term self-care.

I have always cringed at the term self-care and therefore, any advice to follow it. Even today, the word still makes me uncomfortable. Something deep within me feels weak when I hear it; like I’m not tough enough or I can’t handle what life throws at me.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always been an athlete, or because I was raised in a fast paced, entrepreneurial family. At six-years-old, I remember walking behind my dad at the store. He kept a fast pace. I yelled ahead, “Wait up Dad, slow down!”. His reply, “Hurry up, speed up, catch up, run!”

So that’s what I did most of my life. I hurried up, sped up, caught up and ran. If I was in pain, I sucked it up and worked through it. If I was tired, I pushed through. If I was sad or upset, I pushed it aside and moved forward.

In my mind, self-care meant slowing down, not progressing; for those who couldn’t keep up. To use a term from my grandpa, I thought self-care was for ‘sissies.’

But what I didn’t realize until that wake-up call in the doctor’s office was that self-care is the very thing that allows us to do everything we want to do in and with our lives.

It is what gives us the energy, strength and resilience to keep going.

I want to emphasize something I wish someone had told me. Maybe someone did, but I needed them to take me by the shoulders, shake me, look me in the eye and say it.

Self-care isn’t for sissies. Self-care is not for the weak. It is not a luxury. And it is not selfish.

When you don’t take care of yourself, are too hard on your body, or don’t take care of your emotional needs, you are at much higher risk for burnout, a variety of mental health issues including anxiety and depression, physical injury and illness.

Not taking care of yourself will always catch up to you. Sound familiar? Perhaps you’ve had a wake-up call of your own.

Why Is Self-Care Important?

Self-care is quite literally taking care of yourself. It isn’t just about getting a massage. It is any action you take to preserve and improve your health, wellness, happiness and fulfillment.

We’ve all heard the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup” or “put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” These are self-care. You cannot take care of others if you do not take care of yourself first. This takes on a whole new meaning when you also have kids and a family.

    self

    Self-care is doing what needs to be done so you can be balanced and energized to achieve all that you want out of life. Self-care nourishes your mind, body and spirit and allows you to thrive. It increases your happiness, ability to be successful and the quality of your life and relationships.

    Advertising

    When I look at it that way, not as something for the weak, but as something to help us live our best lives, then instead of becoming an ‘nice to have’ it becomes an important and essential part of life. In fact, I now know it’s the only way to live my fullest life.

      That’s why I’ve pulled together 30 ways to practice self-care so you can live your best life. I’ve got you covered from an integrative wellness approach – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

      How to Practice Self-Care: 30 Ways to Take Care of Yourself

      Let’s start with the basics. These are self-care practices you can do daily. Many take very little time or energy, and most can be done in less than five minutes, some in less than one.

        1. Breathe

        Deep breathing increases circulation by bringing oxygen to your muscles and brain. This increased oxygen content leads to greater energy and healthier muscles, organs and tissues. Breathe deeply more often. What happened when you started to read this? Did you take a deep breath? Great, you’re already practicing self-care.

        2. Eat Well

        Your body is a machine and food is your fuel. Simple as that. I’ve learned two main things studying diets over the years and working with top health doctors:

        First, focus on eating real, whole, nutrient-dense food; avoid processed foods and refined sugars.

        Secondly, find what works for you. There are lots of options out there – pale0, Mediterranean, plant-based, you name it.

        3. Stay Hydrated

        The human body is composed of 50-65% water. Some parts of our bodies, like our brain, heart and lungs, are more than 70%. Drinking water is a simple, effective way to take care of yourself.

        Aim to drink eight 8-ounce glasses daily. It takes no extra time, energy and effort, so grab a glass and start hydrating.

        4. Sleep

        I used to wear it as a badge of honor that I didn’t sleep much. However, increasingly more studies are coming out on the importance of getting enough quality sleep[1] and, more importantly, the consequences when you don’t. Make sleep a priority. Your mind and body will thank you.

        5. See Your Doctor

        How long have you been putting off making an appointment, tolerating constant pain or dealing with something that just isn’t right?

        Most things can be dealt with if they’re caught early – and are much harder to manage if you wait. Grab your phone, schedule an appointment now.

        6. Express Gratitude

        In order to live a life we love, we must first love the life we live. Research continues to surface on the science and benefits of gratitude.[2]

        Being grateful is one of the simplest, yet most powerful, things you can do to take care of yourself. Here’re 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

        7. Take Supplements

        Name what ails you and research or ask your doctor what vitamins, minerals, or herbs can support your health and well-being. For example, those with a B-12 deficiency are much more likely to experience anxiety and Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to all sorts of health problems.

        I take turmeric/curcumin to reduce inflammation,[3] and B2 and magnesium supplements recommended by my neurologist for hormonal migraines.

        Always make sure to check the quality and efficacy.

        8. Hug Your Kid, Spouse or Pet

        Hugging boosts your oxytocin levels (the love hormone), increases serotonin (elevates mood and creates happiness), strengthens the immune system, boosts self-esteem, lowers blood pressure, balances the nervous system and releases tension. Only a few seconds can put you in a positive mood.

          9. Meditate

          Yep, you knew this was coming, didn’t you? Check out how to meditate here . And, if you’re one of those people who think you can’t meditate (I feel you, I was one of you!), no more excuses. Try it.

          10. Get Bodywork

          I said that massage wasn’t the only form of self-care, but it is a good one!

          Advertising

          Bodywork is a staple of my self-care routine. Our bodies store emotional tension in ways that we don’t even realize, and bodywork allows us to release that tension.

          Options include chiropractic, stretching, cranial-sacral therapy, myofascial release work, osteopathy and reflexology.

          11. Take a Hike

          Get the blood flowing. We all know the benefits of exercise. This might be a walk, run, hike, trip to the gym, yoga or stretching. Whatever you do, get your blood and body moving.

          Feel like you don’t have time? Try this short, 4-minute workout:

          12. Spend Time with Those You Love

          Schedule a date night with your partner, a special day with your kiddo or happy hour with your BFF. We are biologically hardwired for relationships and connection.

          Studies prove that people who socialize often have higher levels of happiness. This doesn’t have to be face-to-face; sometimes a phone call is all you need (and can fit in!).

          13. Take a Vacation (or a Staycation)

          More than 50% of Americans don’t use all of their vacation days. Take time off away from the routine of life. Make time to have fun, recover and reenergize.

          14. Do Something Just for Fun

          When was the last time you did something because it was fun or gave you joy? Not because it had a tangible benefit, purpose or ROI?

          Crank up the music and dance. Laugh with your kids. Head to the bowling alley. Play a game. Write. Buy flowers. Follow your passions. Attend a fun event.

          The real ROI? A better, more energized, happier self.

          15. Treat Yourself and Your Body

          When you look good, you feel good.

          Get a haircut, have your nails done, enjoy a facial, manicure or pedicure. When we take care of how we look physically, we feel better emotionally.

          16. Spend Time in Nature

          Studies have shown spending time in nature has a wide range of health benefits including lowering your stress hormone levels.[4]

          Get outside. Head to the forest, hit the beach or take a hike. Walking barefoot and ‘grounding’ can be especially healing.

            17. Eliminate Toxicity and Negativity

            Make a conscious effort to hang out with people who feed your soul and make you feel energized and alive. Eliminate or reduce the amount of time you spend with people and situations that drain you or leave you feeling exhausted.

            Surround yourself with love, encouragement and positive energy.

            18. Take a Bath

            This is a simple and inexpensive way to take care of yourself.

            Add in a little Epsom Salts, essential oils or that bath bomb you have lying around. Light a candle, sit back, relax and unwind.

            19. Practice Self-Reflection

            Self-reflection is about taking a step back and reflecting on your life, behavior and beliefs.

            Take time regularly to hop off the hamster wheel of life. Think about what’s working and what’s not, acknowledge your wins and successes; identify what to keep and what needs to change.

            Try journaling or check out tips for self-reflection here: How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life

            20. Feed Your Mind

            Learn something new! As humans, we have a need to use our full cognitive capacity. We are here to grow and evolve and learning is a huge piece of us feeling energized and alive.

            Advertising

            Take a class or online course. Read a book. Listen to a podcast.

            21. Lend a Hand

            We also have a need for significance, contribution and making a difference. Among many other benefits , volunteering has been shown to help people feel healthier and happier.

            22. Unpack your Baggage

            Self-care is about taking care of your whole self. Often this means dealing with emotional trauma, past events or limiting beliefs.

            See a therapist. Talk to a coach. Have the conversation you need to have with that person you’ve been angry with for decades. Find a way to move forward.

            23. Be Adventurous

            Get outside your comfort zone. Be brave. Challenge yourself.

            Whether that be a backpacking trip, trying a new activity, or pushing yourself physically, mentally or emotionally, you’ll feel proud, confident and strong.

            24. Tidy up!

            There’s a reason Marie Kondo has become a sensation. When we seek minimization in our homes, schedules, and lives, we feel more at ease and less stressed.

            Try simplifying one area of your life and experience a new level of peace. Have a read on Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, it may inspire you a lot!

            25. Feed Your Spirit

            How are you feeding your soul? This can be anything that relates to you feeling inspiration which means, ‘in spirit’.

            Connect with what makes you feel close to something deeper, bigger, higher – or makes you feel more connected to yourself. This might include meditation, spiritual or religious study.

            26. Get Creative

            We all have a need to grow, use our creativity and express ourselves fully. Find your creative outlet. Paint, dance or take photos.

            Not artistically creative? Ask questions, problem-solve or build something.

            One of my daughters loves building. When she ideates, draws up plans and brings them to life, she is noticeably happier and more confident.

            27. Be True to Yourself

            Self-awareness and being true to yourself are essential to living a happy, fulfilled and successful life; therefore, these are critical elements of self-care.

            Listen to your inner voice. Identify what you need. When we are out of alignment with ourselves, we are more stressed, overwhelmed and at higher risk for health issues.

            Here are 11 ways to be true to you: How To Be True To You When Life Pulls You Off Track

              28. Set Boundaries

              This is important to healthy relationships, a strong sense of self-esteem and healthy life. You must know what you will and won’t accept.

              Identify where energy is leaking out from your life. If you continue to give when you have nothing to give or say ‘yes’ when you mean ‘no’, you will continue to suffer.

              Know, acknowledge and honor your limits and boundaries – physically and emotionally.

              29. Escape

              While avoidance and numbing can be detrimental, a little escape can help recharge your batteries.

              So watch that reality TV show without guilt, catch the latest movie, delve into that novel, or head to the museum. What transports you and completely allows you to shut off?

              30. Be Nice to Yourself

              Be kind, patient and understanding. Treat yourself like you would a close friend. Speak to yourself as you would someone you love.

              Advertising

              You are enough. You are doing enough.

              Give yourself a break, a little more love and a lot more compassion.

              You are doing a great job – time to tell yourself that.

              Start Taking Care of Yourself Now!

              Now you have 30 ways to take care of yourself! However, you may still have nagging thoughts in the back of your head about why you can’t.

              Ditch Your Excuses

              Here are the most common excuses I hear with a strategy to help:

              I don’t have time for it.

              How many hours per day do you spend watching TV or on social media? Some studies show that the average adult spends over four hours watching TV and over two on social media. What if you took just half that to take care of yourself? Or 1/10th?! We all have the same 24 hours in a day.

              It’s what you choose to do with that time that counts. Many of the suggestions above require no time at all. Take a breath, drink an extra glass of water, speak nicely to yourself, grab an apple.

              I don’t need it.

              Trust me, if you don’t take care of yourself now, you’re going to get that wake-up call one day, if you haven’t already.

              I guarantee it’s going to take a lot more time and energy to fix what’s broken than to take care of it along the way. You have a responsibility to do this for yourself.

              I’m too tired.

              Great! Take a nap. Then you’ve done your self-care for the day. No joke.

              Too often when we are tired, we drink coffee, reach for a sugary snack or find some other way to distract ourselves.

              Self-care is different from day to day. Some days it will be harder than others. Each of the items on the list are meant to GIVE you energy, not take it away. You’ll be amazed at how much more energized and awake you feel after one of these practices.

              It‘s just too hard.

              One big reason people don’t get started is because they think it’s going to be hard. Don’t fall into this trap and do nothing at all.

              Choose something that feels simple and easy to do – and do it. There is no step too small.

              Know Your Motivation

              It’s not the action of self-care that’s most important. It’s about what you get by taking care of yourself.

              What is the real value or importance of self-care in your life?

              To be a better mom, look good, be healthier, have more energy, reduce your stress levels, feel better, see your grandkids graduate from college, get that promotion, sustain the business you’re building, perform at your very best?

              Know your why so you can tap into the motivation for taking care of yourself. If you’re doing this because you ‘should’, it just won’t happen or be sustainable. You must do this because you see value, purpose and benefits at some level. What are those for you?

              Final Thoughts

              “Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to life” – Jim Rohn

              Self-care is about doing what makes you feel good – mind, body and spirit.

              If you remember only one thing:

              Do more of what makes you feel good, brings you energy and joy and do less of what doesn’t.

              Had I taken better care of myself in my late teens and my early twenties, I might have avoided two knee surgeries, stress fractures and arthritis. Had I taken better care of myself in my thirties, perhaps I could have avoided anxiety and a near breakdown . But that was my journey and it led me here. And I have to say, I’m pretty happy where here is.

              So now, in my forties, while I still may cringe at the term, I pay attention to and practice self-care. And I often wonder if maybe, just maybe, I continue to take good care of myself, I may just be able to run that marathon one day after all.

              More About Practicing Self-Care

              Featured photo credit: Samantha Gades via unsplash.com

              Reference

              More by this author

              Tracy Kennedy

              Lifehack's Personal Development Expert, a results-driven coach dedicated to helping people achieve greater levels of happiness and success.

              10 Powerful Ways to Be More Confident How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life How to Build Self Discipline to Excel in Life 30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit 9 Mindset Shifts That Will Help You Live Your Dream Life

              Trending in Mental Strength

              1 7 Steps to Start Living Your Dream Life Right Now 2 The Lifehack Show Episode 11: Mindfulness and the Authentic Self 3 5 Ways to Make the Best Use of Extrinsic Motivation 4 How to Overcome Your Resistance to Change for a Better Self 5 How to Improve Self-Control and Be the Master of Your Life

              Read Next

              Advertising
              Advertising
              Advertising

              Last Updated on November 11, 2019

              Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

              Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

              A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

              You know how this looks:

              • Parents constantly comparing children.
              • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
              • Domestic violence.
              • Adultery…
              • And many others.

              For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

              Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

              Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

              This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

              In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

              If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

              How to fix a dysfunctional family

              In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

              And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

              Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

              It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

              Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

              Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

              There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

              Dysfunctional… Or just average?

              Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

              The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

              You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

              A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

              Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

              Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

              • Unrealistic expectations
              • Lack of interest and time spent together
              • Sexism
              • Utilitarianism
              • Lack of empathy
              • Unequal or unfair treatment
              • Disrespect towards boundaries
              • Control Issues
              • Jealousy
              • Verbal and physical abuse
              • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

              You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

              If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

              Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

              How to turn it around

              When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

              But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

              One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

              We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

              Advertising

              As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

              What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

              Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

              Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

              Correction is possible

              In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

              Verbalize it.

              All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

              Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

              This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

              But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

              So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

              Putting it to work in real life

              In real life it would be something like this:

              “OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

              Or:

              “Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

              Or:

              “Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

              As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

              This is what you have to remember:

              1-Stop.

              2-Why it’s wrong?

              3-What you need.

              And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

              It’s a family thing

              A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

              Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

              In other words, you will need cooperation…

              So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

              Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

              Advertising

              We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

              You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

              It’s not a free-for-all battle

              In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

              No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

              Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

              And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

              The method

              1. Drop the ego

              Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

              You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

              Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

              What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

              It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

              After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

              Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

              Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

              Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

              And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

              You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

              2. Not blame, but responsibility

              When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

              But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

              When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

              What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

              Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

              As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

              You will do something like this:

              “Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

              I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

              You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

              I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

              Advertising

              It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

              What happened here?

              We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

              We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

              We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

              And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

              You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

              This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

              3. Doing the work

              What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

              This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

              Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

              If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

              It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

              “When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

              I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

              But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

              You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

              Love is all you need

              You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

              That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

              And what happens if it simply is not there?

              What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

              What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

              There is only one thing you can do:

              To break away.

              Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

              There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

              “We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

              If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

              Advertising

              Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

              You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

              Putting distance

              So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

              What do I mean?

              Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

              Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

              Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

              Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

              They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

              Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

              I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

              I choose my peace of mind.

              And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

              Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

              Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

              How to prevent it

              There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

              • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
              • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

              Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

              You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

              Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

              Priorities and clear thought

              You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

              You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

              You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

              Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

              If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

              And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

              Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

              But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

              Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

              Read Next