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How To Improve Your Relationship With Your Parents

How To Improve Your Relationship With Your Parents

When you look at your relationship with your parents today, how would you best describe it?

Is it a state you are happy with? Would you rate it 10/10? Is it one where you’ll say “this is the best, most ideal state I can ever be with my parents”?

If your answer is “no,” then you’re not alone. One of my deepest wishes for my parents for a long time was for them to be my best friends. That beyond them being parental figures to me, I could connect openly and emotionally with them, share all my deepest thoughts, and have meaningful discussions.

However, this wasn’t the case. If anything, it was the direct opposite — I would classify my relationship with my parents as more dysfunctional than anything, and pretty much irreparable. While normal families would have conversations, we wouldn’t do that. We would talk, and no sooner start snapping, yelling or screaming at each other – sometimes even with expletives. While normal families would talk to one another at least once a day, I could go for months without ever talking to my parents, because there was nothing to be communicated.

For 15 years from my adolescent years till my late 20s, this was the kind of relationship I had with my parents. But then, gradually I began to overcome my issues with my parents, one at a time. Today, I’m 30, and I can’t be happier about my relationship with my parents. We are able to talk normally, without anyone losing temper or snapping. We are able to express concern for each other openly, without feeling weirded out by it.

And it wasn’t so much about having a heart-to-heart with them as much as it was about addressing my inner misalignments about our relationship.

Whatever the difficulty you’re facing with your parents today, I’d like to let you know that you’re not alone. Here are some crucial steps to help you get along better with your parents:

See it as a journey

The first thing I want to point out is that improving your relationship with your parents isn’t a “follow X-step and Y-step, then you can see results right away” goal. In fact, you may not even see any changes for a while for that matter. To improve your relationship with your parents is an ongoing, work-in-progress goal — an end point does not exist.

While I was working on my relationship with my parents in the past, one of my biggest challenges was that my efforts often seemed futile. When I tried to hug my parents, my mom violently pushed me away, much to my shock and horror. My dad didn’t return the hug. When I wrote cards to tell them how much I loved them, there was no direct response from my dad or mom. When I tried to start conversations with them, my mom would snap back and ask me why I was asking so many questions, while my dad would give his usual mono-syllabic responses.

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That was when I realized my relationship with my parents wasn’t one that could be mended overnight. We’re not talking about mending a one-time conflict. We’re talking about mending a lifetime of arguments, miscommunication, conflicts, and misunderstandings. To think that I could resolve all past grievances with just a few “nice” actions was incredibly naive on my part.

It was then my responsibility to let them know that things were truly different, that I had grown into a different person, and that I was serious about improving our relationship. How? Not through saying it, but through consistent effort. Through consistent effort on my part, they slowly became more receptive to my actions.

Remember these things take time. The rebuilding of trust is a delicate process.

If you want to improve your relationship with your parents, be ready to commit to this as a journey, and not some X step, X thing you execute in one week or one month. Let them know you’re truly sincere in changing the situation. Let them know that you’re not just doing this as a one-off fluke. Anticipate negativity in their reactions at first, because your changed behavior is probably new to them and they’re trying to adjust. Consistent effort is the key.

Release the parent-child ideal in your mind

Many of us have a parent-child ideal etched in our mind — be it from when we were a child, or as a teenager. This ideal probably formed when we were watching TV, when we witnessed interactions between our friends and their parents, when we read about parent-child relationships in books, and the like.

My past parent-child relationship ideal was for my parents to be my best friends. I yearned for us to communicate openly and share anything and everything with each other. I yearned for us to be able to express our care and concern for each other, without reservation.

When I worked on our relationship with this ideal in mind, I faced resistance the whole time – from them to me, from me to them, and from me to myself. Ironically, it was only when I dropped the ideal that our relationship was finally able to grow. It was then that I realized, to my shock, that my parents had been trying so hard to improve our relationship (via their own way) the entire time. I was unfortunately unable to “see” that because I was so fixated on my own ideal.

When you approach your relationship with your parents with a fixed ideal, you suffocate the relationship. Stop expecting them to be someone/something they are not. Instead, accept them as who they are today. This will allow your relationship with them to blossom and come into its own.

Appreciate what they can offer in their capacity

A lot of times we get frustrated with our parents at all the things they don’t do or can’t do. For example, we may be frustrated at how they are so traditional. We may be frustrated at how close-minded they are. We may be frustrated at how slow they are with things.

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Rather than get hung up over how your parents aren’t doing X or Y, learn to appreciate what they can offer in their capacity instead.

For me, I used to be frustrated at how my parents can’t fulfill my need to share and relate. After I realized it was just not in their natural disposition to talk about themselves or their feelings, I learned to let go of this expectation, and instead have learned to appreciate what they can offer.

For example, my dad cooks, so when I’m at home, I will eat out less often so that he can cook for me. My mom is a meticulous housemaker and she prides herself at keeping herself up to speed with the needs of the household. Hence, I will let her know if I want any groceries/vegetables/fruits so she can get them. Doing so makes them happy, because it is their way of making a difference in my life.

Understand what you are looking for underneath the ideal

The parent-child ideal we create in our mind is usually a projection of an underlying need that yearns to be fulfilled. The sooner you can identify what you’re looking underneath the ideal, the sooner you can tackle that, as opposed to using the ideal as a proxy of achieving the need, because one may not equate to another.

Let me give an example. A while back, I worked with a client who wanted her dad to be a strong mentor figure. For her dad had always been busy with his work, and was often out of the picture in her life. Despite having several mentors in her life, be it her professors, her bosses, or her pastors, she still longed for her dad to step in as her mentor.

Was the problem because she lacked guidance? No, it wasn’t. She had more smart, highly capable and successful figures giving her support and advice than anyone else. Truth is, she longed for her dad to be her mentor figure because she associated mentorship as love. To her, love meant being watched over, getting guidance and advice, being cared for, and so on. Even though her dad would talk to her occasionally, ferry her to work, participate in family dinners, and spend time with the family when he was not working, these did not register as love to her.

Mentorship, on the other hand, did.

How about you? What is your ideal for your relationship with your parents?

If you look underneath this ideal, what is it you’re looking for?

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Is achieving this ideal indicative of that need being met? Or is it just in your head?

Chances are, what you’re seeking with your ideal (be it love from your parents, acceptance by your parents, self-validation, affirmation, etc) is already right there before you, before your very eyes. Don’t fixate yourself so much with your ideal that you miss the very thing you’re looking for — only to see it when it’s too late. The moment you release yourself of this ideal is when the healing between you and your parents begin.

Think about how you can be a better child to them

A lot of times we pinpoint faults in our parents, wondering why they can’t be smarter/richer/more open-minded/less stubborn/more positive/less naggy/quieter/more supportive/etc.

Instead of that, try a different tack — get along better with your parents by thinking about how you can be a better child to them.

Ways to start

  • Start by being sensitive to their needs.
  • Speak to them in their language of love (see next point).
  • Don’t make things difficult for them. Let them have their way if it’s not a life or death situation.
  • Pre-empt things they need help in (usually technology-related stuff if your parents are not tech-savvy), as parents can be quite unwilling to ask for help unless they’re pushed to the wall.
  • Visit them often (if you don’t live with your parents).
  • Take them out for a meal – make it a weekly or biweekly occasion if possible.
  • Give them a call just so they know you’re thinking of them right now.

In being a better child to them, note it’s not about molding yourself to become their ideal of what a son/daughter should be (assuming they have an ideal). You want to stay true to yourself and improve how you treat your parents in your own way.

Speak to them in their language of love

Language of love refers to the way someone expresses love. Different people have different ways of expressing love – some via physical touch, via words, via actions, etc. In the book 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman states the 5 key love languages people use are: (1) Words of affirmation (2) Quality time (spent together) (3) Receiving gifts (4) Acts of service (5) Physical touch.

Being brought up in different generations, it is likely that your language of love is different from your parents’. Rather than “speak” to your parents in your language of love, speak to them in their language of love. This means if their language of love is quality time together, then spend more time with them. If their language of love is receiving gifts, then buy a small gift that means something to both of you. If their language of love is words of affirmation, give them a compliment and/or tell them I love you. They will be able to recognize your intentions more easily that way, and accept them more readily.

Start from existing channels that are already open

If your relationship with your parents is very sour, start from the channels that are already open.

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For example, what are the points of contact between you and your parents today? Monthly family dinners? Occasional email exchanges? Sporadic phone calls? Start from there. And work your way up.

My relationship with my parents went downhill during my preadolescent years. Countless arguments, doors slammed in faces mid-way during our verbal fights, shouting, yelling at each other, etc. Because of that, by the time I tried to improve the relationship (when I was 24 or so — that’s about six years ago), many doors between us had been shut close.

This was why when I tried to start our relationship on a fresh slate, I faced an immense amount of resistance.

I figured that it was easier to start from existing channels. For example, occasionally my parents would ask me for help in reading their English mail (which they can’t understand; they are Chinese educated). In the past, I found it burdensome and would push their requests to later in the evening. But then I realized these requests probably meant a lot to my parents, so I became more helpful and patient whenever they sought my help.

No matter how dire your relationship is with your parents today, there are openings you can start off with. If there aren’t (i.e. your connection with your parent(s) has been severed), try the last mode of communication – where you guys left off. Then work from there.

Share in the comments: What is your relationship with your parents like? What is one baby step you can take to get along better with your parents? Remember, this is a journey, not a sprint. Every baby step you take every day will count towards creating a better relationship with your parents.

Read the original article: How To Improve Your Relationship With Your Parents: A Delicate Guide | Personal Excellence

Featured photo credit: Spirit-Fire via flickr.com

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Celestine Chua

Life Coach, Blogger

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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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