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Published on December 13, 2019

7 Reminders on Building Strong Family Relationships

7 Reminders on Building Strong Family Relationships

At the end of the year, when most of the world celebrates family holidays, you can’t help but revisit the status of your own family relationships. As marketers work hard to paint perfect relationships in every commercial that comes your way, you almost become convinced that the need to navigate the complexities of yours is an exception rather than the rule.

The truth is, all family relationships are multidimensional structures where often polar feelings fit together. Kids love their parents but also hurt them the most. Parents want the best for their kinds but often confuse it with what’s best for them. We have a lot of expectations for our family, and stakes are high. That’s why it is hard when we struggle to connect with them.

Every time you feel an ocean-wide gap between you and someone who shares the same blood, it’s not a moment to withdraw further with a sigh “Well, this is my family.” It is a rather good opportunity to re-examine the beliefs you hold about your family and what makes a family strong.

Below are simple and actionable reminders that, at those very moments when you feel like your family is messed up in some unique ways, will help you strengthen your bonds with your relatives instead of weakening them.

1. Shared DNA Does Not Mean You Will Want the Same

Let’s suppose you get angry when your parents tell you to keep your head down and quietly work hard at a job you don’t like. Or you get upset with your cousins who seem content with their lives and whose ambitions stop at finding a good discount on a pair of shoes at a store. Careers, life aspirations, politics, personal health – all topics where we constantly find ourselves disagreeing with our family members.

If we share the same genetic code, how come our views of these things can be that different? To avoid conflicts, we put those topics into an ever-growing imaginary jar of things we disagree about. And then we either tiptoe around it or minimize interactions with those who hold different opinions. Both make us feel more disconnected as if we can never have a genuine conversation with our own family.

The reality is, DNA is powerful but it is not the only factor at play when people form their views. Your family members grew up at different times, surrounded by different people, reading different books, and going to different schools. Realizing that, you can stop expecting them to want the same things as you do.

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Instead of cultivating a mindset that conflicting views are a family relationship killer, you can try to see how differences make you more diverse and, in a way, stronger as a group.

Instead of taking on an impossible-to-succeed task of changing your family members, learn to value them for who they are.

2. Do Not Get on a Mission to Explain to Them Everything They are Failing at

Have you ever felt an urge to coach your family members about things they are doing wrong in their lives? The sense of responsibility to point out the mistakes on their path can be quite strong. Because, if not for you, who else would tell your single sister to go out more and try new places? Who else would make it clear for your father that he should have taken that job?

When you do it, your intentions might be good. That’s your way of offering support or sharing experience. You may even genuinely feel like you are providing solutions. Yet, on the other side, there is a person being reminded of some way she or he is inadequate in this world. Layer that on top of the issues the individual is already dealing with. No wonder they close down and pull away.

Understanding that it is not your mission to remind your family members of their failures is crucial for fostering relationships with them. They already know when they made their mistakes. Holding space for someone is different than initiating an unsolicited, impromptu “coaching session”. I

nstead of forcing someone into your interpretation of their wrongs, simply let them be. That means respecting your family members’ agency of their own mistakes, while not making them an agenda of every gathering. Your empathy is more valuable than your advice, however well-thought-through it might be.

3. Watch Out for the Ways You May Kill an Initiative

It is a high chance that, for you, plans-gone-wrong or no plans at all rank pretty high among the things you prefer to avoid. So, you resort to planning stuff in advance. Year after year, you arrange that family trip where you do all the work and everyone else just needs to show up. In your clan, you are a solid organizer of every gathering there is.

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And, when, one day, you decide to let go of your usual role, nothing happens. No initiative comes from the other side and you can’t help but wonder if you are the only one who needs it. Congratulations, you may have perfected the craft of suffocating your family members’ initiative without even realizing it.[1]

The desire to control our schedules and environment often leads us to preempt initiatives from our family members. You want things done your way so that there are no unknowns. And they, on the other hand, get used to this aspect being covered by you. So you end up disappointed with the lack of their initiative and they are genuinely surprised thinking that you loved to always do that.

When you start noticing places where you might preempt initiatives from your family members, you will begin allowing them to connect with you on their own terms. They might not always be the way you prefer it, but a two-way relationship is a stronger tie than when you are the only one always holding it together.

4. Unquestioned Bailouts May Be a Path to Severed Relationships

You may take your family members’ financial struggle personally, especially when you do well. You would never think twice to give a helping hand to a relative in a time of difficulty. Yet oftentimes the real difficulty is misrepresented, and your help turns into a form of sponsorship.

For example, you work in a big city, and your second cousin from a small town asks you to help her son get a job. Or your sister has a bad credit score, so she asks you to put a car lease on your name. You surely see how you are in the position to facilitate things here. At the same time, you know that you are assuming both reputational and financial responsibility that will stay there for a while. And, no matter what you do, this will always be a background theme of your relationship with this relative.

Saying “No” to a favor or a financial help request from your relative may raise their eyebrows. More so, it can make you feel like your own values are clashing somewhere deep inside. It’s hard to underestimate the manipulative powers of these situations! The guilt for not caring enough for a person or a cause may turn your firm shoulder into a hanger for others’ responsibilities.

At this point, something you wanted to avoid by doing a favor – alienation from them – becomes inevitable. When you recognize this trap, a firm “No”, however hard, will be something that eventually preserves a family tie.

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5. Do Not Let the Resentment Grow

You might recall from your experiences the times when you chose to shut down a major disagreement with a family member. You did not resolve it, you both simply moved on pretending it never happened, switched to a different topic to not draw anyone’s attention to an argument. “After all, we are family“, you thought and “this is not the right time to start unbundling things.

The problem is that you both carried away a seed of resentment toward each other. And resentment, unaddressed, has the propensity to grow. Each party to the conflict starts looking at each other through the prism of an unresolved issue. A smile becomes a manufactured face expression. A mental accounting of who hit how many times activates. And your attempt to diplomatically move away from an argument in order to avoid a bigger problem brought you straight into that problem.

Not letting the resentment build with your family members requires patience. When you want to deal with a problem on the spot, your relative might not be prepared for it.

A simple thing you can do is start listening to the other party and, instead of trying to come up with counter-arguments, make an effort to understand their view. Look at the world through their mental frame. After they’ve let the steam out, they might be able to see your point too. And finding in yourself an ability to acknowledge other’s points of view definitely makes you more connected than estranged.

6. You Do Your Part

In family relationships, it’s easy to name others a culprit. Take a moment, and you will have no problem pointing out what they are doing wrong. For example, your Dad might not know how to express his feelings. Your brother might always talk about his issues only. You Mom might be convinced that she is always right. The list can go on.

Further, you might have no trouble creating a comprehensive guide of simple tips on how they can connect with you better. Yet, every time you have an urge to do just that, think what each of those tips means for you doing your part. For one, you might habitually mirror the same behaviors without realizing it. Secondly, you may create the very environment for your family members to act exactly the way they do.

Doing your part means taking responsibility in fostering family relationships, not simply being a passive recipient and a casual critic. That means, asking yourself questions:

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  • How do I contribute to escalating things I want to avoid?
  • How do I facilitate what I later complain about?

And, if doing your part means initiating, checking in, visiting, or listening – you do that!

7. You Do Not Have Infinite Time

No conversation about strengthening family relationships is complete without a reminder that these relationships are not infinite. Sometimes, people who you are used to seeing around become the ones you take for granted.

Though intellectually, you understand well that one day they will be all gone, applying this to practice is a different story. In the realm of a busy life, it becomes “I value my family in general, but right now I have no time to talk to my parents.”

A simple reminder to self that you don’t have infinite time with your family makes it clear that it is not about “in general”, but rather about “right now”. Because we can theorize and make mental notes on how to deal with relatives in various situations in the future. But nothing lays a better foundation for strengthening the family relationships than dialing a family member and saying “Hi” to them, right now.

More Tips to Help Strengthen Your Family Relationships

Featured photo credit: Naassom Azevedo via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Oxana Kunets

Explorer of all things meaningful living, confidence, and courage

How to Turn a Bad Attitude into a Positive One 14 Ways Strong-Minded People Think Differently How to Answer the Interview Question “What Motivates You?” 7 Reminders on Building Strong Family Relationships

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Feeling tired all the time?

Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

What Happens When You’re Too Tired

If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

  • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
  • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
  • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
  • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
  • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
  • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
  • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

Unfortunately, yes!

Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

  1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
  2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
  3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

Symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low stamina
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Low motivation

These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

  1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Using stressbusters
  4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

  • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
  • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
  • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
  • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

L — Living Healthy

Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

1. Unplug

Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

2. Unwind

Do something to relax.

Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

3. Get Comfortable

Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

E — Exercise

Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

That’s what happened in my case.

But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

That made sense to me.

So, I decided to swim.

I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

A — Attitude

Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

Breathing.

But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
  2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
  3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
  4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
  5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
  6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

N — Nutrition

Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

  1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
  2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
  3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
  4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
  5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
  6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
  7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
  8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
  9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

The Bottom Line

If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

  • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
  • Regular Exercise You Love
  • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
  • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

More Tips to Help You Rest Better

Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
[2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
[3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
[4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
[5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
[6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
[7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
[8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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