A sense of gratitude as we welcome 2019

 

I have been meaning to write a post on all the things that I am grateful for in my life and I find that the beginning of this new year is a good time to do just that. This sense of gratitude was reinforced multifold today morning as I started clearing out some old documents from my home office. As I went through some old documents including bank statements, invoices, school notices, old prescriptions from the years past I came across a folder containing some medical reports and hospital discharge papers.

These were from 2013 from the time when our daughter had been hospitalised in the Intensive Care Unit for about a month with a severe life threatening infection. Her hospitalisation was due to a drug induced reaction which resulted in her battling for her life. She had been on various systemic immunosuppressive medications for the past year or so to keep her extremely severe eczema under control. The new medication had been started just 3 weeks earlier after the necessary precautionary tests but which nonetheless had had a disastrous effect on her immune system. It was the most harrowing time in our lives as she struggled to overcome the infection with the help of antibiotics and other medications. To cut a long story short, she overcame this phase in her life, celebrated her 7th birthday while in the hospital and 2 weeks after her birthday, she was discharged. This year proved to be a turning point in my life even though I did not know it at that time.

As I went through those papers today, those memories came rushing back and my breath got stuck in my chest. Earlier, I would have also been likely to experience a rush of fear, anger, uncertainty, sadness whenever I would think of what our daughter had been through, what all of us had been through. But time had healed many wounds and assuaged many fears.

 

TODAY......

I felt a sense of.........GRATITUDE

I realised that I had finally stopped waiting for her eczema to return for some reason or the other; in other words, I could stop waiting for the "other shoe to drop"; I felt a sense of ......RELIEF

I knew that I had the strength and the tools needed to deal with such difficult situations in the future as well; I was surrounded by a sense of....... BELIEF

I knew that in spite of my best efforts and intentions there would be times that I may fail or make mistakes and that I would forgive myself; I found in myself a sense of......... COMPASSION

As I discarded the papers which I had been holding on to for 5 years, I realised that I was truly ready to move on. That particular phase of our life was behind us now. And while I would never have asked for such an experience had I been given choice, I also realise that it has been a truly TRANSFORMATIVE phase in our lives.

MOSTLY I realised that finally today I was ready to....... LET GO

Our struggles and our learnings during those difficult years have shaped us in many ways which are most precious. As a family, we experienced the love and support of our friends, family and the medical professionals who guided us along this difficult journey. Personally, I was forced far beyond my comfort zone to a place of strength I never knew existed deep inside of me. This strength combined with love propelled me on a journey that I could have never visualised for myself. I had to find ways to nourish and heal our daughter's body, mind and spirit. I did so by focussing inwards rather than outwards.

(I have written a three part series on self care which you can read using the links given below-

https://aninditarungta.com/take-back-the-power-to-heal-yourself/

https://aninditarungta.com/you-cannot-drink-from-an-empty-cup/

https://aninditarungta.com/getting-to-know-yourself-part-3/)

As I found ways to know myself better through self care, meditation, movement and other modalities, I found ways to help heal our daughter. I found that as I became more grounded, it helped me make better decisions regarding her care and treatment. It also helped me to prioritise and focus on what was truly important instead of getting carried away and becoming distracted all the time. In other words, my own growth as a person helped in our daughter's healing journey

Embarking on a journey to help our daughter led to me the doors of Functional Medicine and in 2015 we started her on this mode of treatment of finding and addressing the root cause of her eczema. As we supported her body with the nutrients that it needed and removed the obstacles standing in its way, her body started to heal from within. Over a period of 2 years her eczema gradually disappeared and in October 2017 she went off all her medications. She is a living example of how we can truly heal ourselves if we know how and believe in ourselves.

But that is not all. Our daughter's life is also an example of how one person's experience can touch and impact so many other lives.

It is because of this experience that I am able to

Share my gifts with you as a Health Coach

Stand by you as you find your way back towards health and healing

Point out to you your strengths which can aid you in your healing journey but which you may be unable to see at this time

Show compassion towards you if you fall off the bandwagon so that you learn to forgive yourself and get back on track as soon as you can

Uphold your belief in your own power to heal as you struggle through your darkest days; to let you know that you are not ALONE 

And so from a place of despair, we can slowly but steadily move to a place of strength and true healing ....TOGETHER

As someone had said, "Sometimes strength comes in knowing you are not alone"

I wish you and your family HEALTH and HAPPINESS in 2019!!

Book review- “Hold on to your kids- Why parents need to matter more than peers

I read a TON of books on various subjects including parenting for both professional and personal reasons. But very rarely does a book grab my attention the way that this book has. As the name itself suggests, this book is about parenting but it differs from the other books I have read on this topic in a very important way. It brought to my notice a phenomenon many of our children (especially in the urban areas) are facing today but mostly goes unnoticed and under the radar by their parents. It is the phenomenon of "peer orientation".

Before I delve briefly on what "peer orientation" is about I would like to highlight a few of the other points that the authors make in this book. Parental influence has always been well established over generations and is considered indisputable and irreplaceable, but sadly that is no longer true in many ways in today's world. The problems that our children face today has reached epic proportions both in terms of mental and physical health. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety, lack of self control, bullying, suicide, loss of resiliency, stress have increased exponentially. If these issues had not been there and our children were well adjusted, settled and positively grounded and content we would not need to worry much, but that is not the case in many societies across the globe. Parents have as much love, concern and good intentions for their children as did the preceding generations and there is a lot of parenting literature to help them. Inspite of this, something has shifted fundamentally and this book should serve as a wake-up call for you are much as it did for me.

As the authors have pointed out, the entire context in which parenting takes place has changed. As a result, the role of the parent is being undermined by forces that most parents are not aware of and are not ready to deal with. The critically important attachment relationship between parents and their children which is at the foundation of parenting is in danger. The authors put forward powerful reasons why this is so and show in this book why the main and the most damaging reason is the competing attachments that children today are developing with their peers.

The authors call this "peer orientation". This competing attachment is undermining parental authority and also diminishing the attachment that the child needs to have with the parent as long as the child needs to be parented.

The book brings about a few critical points about "peer orientation"  and some of the important ones are

  • children like any other warm blooded mammals have a natural instinct for orientation; they need to be guided and nurtured by someone
  • children cannot be oriented both towards adults and their peers at the same time; they must necessarily CHOOSE between the two
  • even though this phenomenon is now becoming "normal", it is not "natural" or "healthy" and has negative consequences in the long run

We need to become conscious of this need for attachment that all humans have (adults and children). This is what creates communities, families and keeps us all connected emotionally, psychologically, behaviorally and physically with each other. This connection could be taken for granted in many ways in the preceding generations. But that no longer holds true for us today.

The book describes in details the six different ways of attaching- senses, sameness, belonging and loyalty, significance, feeling and being known. If these bonds of attachment are strong and development is healthy, these facets are interwoven closely into a strong bond and children will find ways of staying close and holding on even when physically apart from their parents. However, peer oriented children live in a world filled with severely limited and superficial attachments driven by the least vulnerable way of attaching- sameness. This explains their need to resemble one another in look, behaviour, thoughts, tastes and values.

The other disturbing revelation for me was the false independence that a peer oriented child portrays and which seems to be a good thing. On the contrary, they are still dependent but now they depend on their peers for guidance - a set of people who are NOT truly dependable, mature, appropriate, responsible or compassionate. 

Many parents do intuitively know and sense that something is just not right with their relationship with their children but may not know what is exactly wrong. Beneath many parent's anger and frustration of failing to connect and parent their children lies a sense of hurt and betrayal. This intuitive feeling is usually ignored and pushed under the carpet by relegating this to "normal teenage issues" or some other such cause. This works for many parents till it stops working at all. In an extreme situation, this can end with a teen committing suicide as she is unable cope with or has problems getting along with her peers. Usually though, this plays out in the forms of rude behaviour, name calling, increased aggression, bullying, precocious sexuality all of which are discussed in details in this book.

Collecting and reclaiming our children

The good news is, however, that this book also discusses in details how to "reclaim our children". For those children who are not very far down the roads with peers can be "collected" and the attachment relationship can be strengthened in four simple ways- get in the child's face or space in a friendly way, provide something for the child to hold on to, invite independence and act as the child's compass point.

For those children who are too insulated by peer attachments will need additional efforts which are explained in the chapters towards the end of the book-

Preserve the ties that empower

Discipline that does not divide

Don't court the competition

Recreate the attachment village

The last chapter also deals with the role that technology plays in our children's lives and in the parent- child relationship. I am very wary not about the digital revolution per se but about the negative impact it has on children who are too young to handle it. Timing is everything and it is as true in the case of digital gadgets or video games as it is in the case of alcohol or sex with regards to children.

I love this quote from the last chapter

"We want children to be fulfilled with what they truly need before they have access to that which would spoil their appetite for what they truly need"

I hope this book review has opened your eyes to the issues that you may be facing yourself with your children or some other family you know may be facing. Let this serve as a wake up call for you (as it has for me) and also give you HOPE that there is a lot that can be done to undo the damage. We need to be aware of this if we are to raise children who mature into compassionate, genuinely independent, resilient adults who go on to lead purposeful lives and contribute to society.

I had written about raising children who are resilient in my earlier post "To Raise Resilient Kids, Be a Resilient Parent" and you can read it HERE. I had also conducted a Facebook live on this very topic which you can watch HERE.

I have an upcoming free webinar next Thursday, 29th November at 1 pm on "Mindful strengths parenting"  for which you can register on my Facebook page "Nourish Heal Connect".

Webinar- "Mindful strengths parenting"

Mindful parenting does not mean being a “perfect parent” and is not something you can fail at. It is not easy and like many other things needs practice before we can get better at it. At the same time, strengths based parenting can provide our children with 2 vital psychological tools- optimism and resilience. Infact, helping our children connect to their strengths during difficult times is one of the most important things we can do for them. I will be touching on "peer orientation" briefly in this webinar as it very relevant for us as parents to be aware of.
 
Date: Thursday, 29th November

Time: 1 pm

Venue: "Nourish Heal Connect"

 

 

Raising resilient children- why being a “good enough” parent is enough

As parents, we are aware that life has its own share of ups and downs. We also realise that it is inevitable that at some point in time or the other we will be faced with situations laced in uncertainty due to circumstances beyond our control. What we may not always realise though that it is not always possible to shield our children from all such difficulties and more importantly may not always be helpful to do so in the long run. Indeed how we deal with life’s stressors can determine whether we will bounce back from challenges or be broken by them. As parents, it then becomes our responsibility to teach our children healthy strategies to cope with stress and uncertainty. Also, as our children learn that all “stress” is not bad, they start to transform their relationship to it.

One of our most important responsibilities as parents is to help our children develop healthy skills, habits, and perspectives from a young age; this will help them deal with life’s uncertainties and stressors. In other words, it will make them more resilient

In order to deal with challenges effectively, we really need a change in our mindset, in our way of thinking. But this change needs to start with YOU. This is because children are very tuned into their parent’s feelings and use their parents as a model for behaviour and as a mirror for their own feelings.

So, the way that we handle our own mistakes, challenges and the relationship that we have with ourselves play a key role in how our children shape up in their adult life later on. 

Being a “good enough” parent is “enough”

There is no perfect parent. It is a myth.

We simply need to find a way to be absolutely fine with being a “good enough” mother or father

In fact…..

It is way more important to show up and be around our children than to strive for “perfection” in our parenting style

It is way more important to find ways of creating and holding space for our children especially when they are not at their best. This means that we need to be there for the child who is angry, frustrated, sad and disappointed without getting carried away ourselves or withdrawing from their pain

It is way more important to model the way that we deal with our own mistakes; by forgiving ourselves when things go wrong so that we can bounce back from our failures

It is way more important have a good relationship with ourselves and be comfortable who we are and the life we lead; our children learn from what they see us doing much more than any instruction or advice that we give them

It is way more important to celebrate the child that we have instead of wishing for the ideal child that we had visualised for ourselves; in comparing with others we miss out on many opportunities to appreciate our children for they REALLY are and deepen our connection and our attachment with them

As someone had said “There is no such thing as a real parent. So just be a real one

Roots and wings

What our children really need from us is NOT to focus on ways to eliminate stress and hardship for them (this exercise is rather futile) but to teach them and show them ways to cope with such difficult times. In today’s age of digital hyperconnectivity, parenting matters more than ever before. Mental health issues and in some extreme cases suicide in teenagers and young children have sky rocketed.

(There are many reasons for this and I will  address this in my webinar on mindful and strength-based parenting and the importance of attachment relationship later this month- I will be posting updates on my website ans well as my Facebook page – Nourish Heal Connect)

The basic response to a stressor is either a “fight or flight” response or a “freeze and submit” response. While the first response helps us gear up for a threat (whether real or imagined), the second response makes us turn inwards and shut down. Both responses are not helpful in many kinds of situations especially when children (and adults) are not really tuned into their emotions and self awareness is low.

There is a third type of response that is more purposeful and effective and that is a “tend and befriend” response. This helps us to focus on what we can do for ourselves as well as others at the same time allowing us to accept ALL that we are feeling at that moment without trying to change or avoid it. This also enables us to reach out for help when we need it the most. This kind of response fosters a connection with ourselves and others and helps children the most when they have a benevolent adult (usually a parent) that they can turn to. 

If we can teach our children to be more present in their actions and be more aware of their emotions, it would help them reduce stress, increase focus, be more empathetic, and stay calm—just like it does for adults. In other words, becoming more “mindful” really helps and I will be covering this in another post on “mindful and strength based parenting”.

All that I have discussed so far is key to fostering resiliency in children and I have summarised them below.

What are some of the ways that we can foster resilience in our children?

  • We can help them create a “Circle of control”- to remind them that there are things which are out of their control and therefore, no need to stress and worry about them  
  • We can teach our children to reframe the way we think about stress so that they understand that all stress is not inherently bad. Rather, if they are stressed about getting good grades, making new friends- what it really means that they really care about it
  • Just knowing that they are not alone in facing a difficult situation really helps- many times it is enough to know that they are a part of a loving family who cares enough about them to show up
  • One of the most effective ways of teaching our children to be optimistic, strong and always have hope is to help them to cultivate a GROWTH mindset. This is done by focussing on a child’s strengths rather than her weaknesses. Showing our children their strengths and enabling them to use them especially during difficult times is one most powerful lessons we teach our children
  • Inculcating a contemplative practice like mindfulness in our own lives as parents and then imbibing it in our children; these kind of practices create an internal space which enable us (amongst other things) to work through difficult emotions like pain, anger, frustration and is a powerful tool for healing
  • Be a model for and teach our children the value of self compassion; being able to forgive ourselves for making mistakes is key to bouncing back from failure

As someone had said “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One is roots, the other wings”.

Follow my Facebook page “Nourish Heal Connect” for live sessions on these and other topics as well as my upcoming webinar on mindful and strength based parenting later in November. 

Selfcare- Getting to know yourself (Take back the power to heal yourself Part 3)

This is the last post on the "self-care" series that I have been writing this month. You can read the first part on self care here and the second part on finding your own self-care routine here.

This last post focusses on self-discovery which is an integral part of taking care of yourself. If you do not really recognise who you are any more, how can you expect that you will be able to accept the person that you are today? Not ten years ago, not twenty, but TODAY. Whether we realise it or not, we are all shaped and moulded by our life experiences and we are constantly changing. This is nothing to be scared of as it is a completely natural process; on the other hand, it is something to embrace!

Without this self-awareness and self-acceptance, we rarely find the strength to prioritise self-care.  As you go on a journey to rediscover yourself, you start becoming comfortable in your own skin and learn to show up as you are, without feeling the need to don any masks.

"As you become familiar with yourself once again, you may find within yourself what you have been seeking from others"

In many ways, this has been the most important lesson that life has taught me over the recent years of my struggle. I have had to confront the reality of who I am and initially, I had trouble accepting those parts of me that did not live up to my expectations. For me, it was a combination of expectations around what I SHOULD have achieved in terms of my professional life and my feelings of GUILT around my daughter's health issues (whether it was justified or not is not the point). It will be different for everyone as we all have our own demons.

But, over time as I have consciously spent time with myself in different ways (solo breaks, meditation, relaxation) I have learned to accept myself as I would another person.

I have learned to forgive my imperfections and embrace who I have become and what I stand for and be proud of it. Isn't it wonderful and liberating at the same time to become comfortable in your own skin? 
I invite you to do the same!

This means that you may need to

get over the fear of really connecting with yourself even if it means facing those parts of yourself that you are not comfortable with; these are usually our feelings of fear around shame and unworthiness. Please show yourself the same love and compassion much as you would a child or someone who is hurting, maybe these hidden and neglected parts of you have been waiting for your attention all this while

say "no" to situations and people that don't serve you well at this time; this also makes it easier to say "yes" to those things that really matter in your life and you would like to pursue

find a meditation practice that will help you to practice paying attention; attention to your life, your body and your relationships with everything around you. Being mindful helps you to take part in your life fully and accept all feelings of joy, gratitude, anger, shame and love without any judgement

let go of expectations as you start on this journey of self-discovery; you may even feel the need to forgive and many times you may find that the person you need to forgive the most is yourself

become curious about your likes and dislikes; when was the last time you did something that you TRULY enjoyed doing and not because you had to do it or it was expected of you? Do you still enjoy hobbies, activities and even play like you used to? Find out what your likes and dislikes are at this point in your life by trying out different things

find a way to recognise your strengths so that you can consciously and effectively use them to enhance your life and overcome challenges; (you can use the "best possible self" narrative or even a survey like the VIA character strengths- I will be writing more on this in another post)

meet yourself with a sense of humour; everything in life does not need to be an emergency, you may need to learn to laugh at yourself or at situations at various points in time

explore the reasons behind your need to be "busy" at all times; is there something that you are trying to avoid facing in your life?

As you get to know yourself, you may also realise that

you are "whole" and worthy of being loved just as you are

the love that you desperately seek is right there deep inside of you. And as you start accepting yourself unconditionally, the craving for respect and approval that you seek from others loses its hold over you and social media becomes just another tool for connection and nothing more

your self-worth is not linked to anyone else or any external circumstances (which are usually not in your control); it has been there with you all along, you just needed to find it

you are and always will be a unique "work-in-progress" and that's ok; so is everyone else! The "perfect" body/job/partner is an illusion that we need to recognise and face up to  

With time, the compassion that you show for yourself can turn into unconditional self-acceptance. With this, we realise that most of the times, we need to find the strength to simply show up and be ourselves and know that IT IS ENOUGH. When this happens, we feel connected to ourselves and to everyone else in a way that ultimately gives our life meaning and helps us find our purpose.

As we become comfortable with who we are, we turn outwards because we feel that we are a part of a bigger whole; a realisation that makes us stop feeling isolated and lonely. This is a liberating and joyous realisation and makes life truly worth celebrating. This feeling of being connected to ourselves and others can help us in many different ways. We can find the strength to focus on healing ourselves in more ways than one even if our condition is beyond a "cure". And sometimes, we may find that through our own struggles and pain, we can ease the pain of others.

So I invite you to join me on a journey towards self-discovery. And if you have a need for it, this path that will ultimately lead you towards self-care and healing.

(I would love to hear your thoughts on this and the ONE way that you have decided to embark on this journey of self-discovery. Please share in the comments section below)

Selfcare- you cannot drink from an empty cup (Take back the power to heal yourself- part 2)

In my last post (you can read it here), I had highlighted the importance of self-care in terms of healing ourselves. In this post, I would like to delve deeper into this subject by answering the following questions.  

  • What is self-care really?
  • And how is it tied to self-compassion and well being?
  • Most importantly, how do you find the version that works best for you so that you are most likely to continue with the routine especially when times get rough and you are incredibly busy?

What we may not realise is that self-care is not selfish, in fact, it is just the opposite. As parents taking good care of ourselves and thereby setting an example for our children is one of the best gifts we can give them. And as adults and citizens, we can model self-care habits to build a culture of sustainable health.

"You can't pour from an empty cup, take care of yourself first"

 

This is especially true for women and definitely true for me. As natural givers and caretakers, those women who are also mothers are even worse at self-care.  This is true for healthcare providers and other similar professions as well where sleepless nights, emotional exhaustion and constant demand is commonplace. While there will always be certain situations which are beyond our control, most of the time, we can take out the time to replenish and rejuvenate ourselves on a regular basis. Much the same way that we take care of our cars.

 

 

We send our car periodically to the best service centre to get a check up and servicing done. We also get it filled with top quality fuel so that it runs smoothly. But somehow, we end up ignoring the need to take care of our own physical and emotional health.

I learned this the hard way when I was taking care of our very sick 7-year-old daughter about 5 years ago. She was hospitalised with a life-threatening infection and before that, she had been struggling with major health issues for more than a year. I was willing to do anything and give up anything just to see her get better. I slept next to her in the ICU for almost 2 weeks straight while my husband and family took turns in the morning. It was a harrowing time for all of us.

But once she had come back home and things had settled down a bit for us, I realised very early that in order to take care of her, I had to take care of myself first. This realisation did not happen in one day though. Over a period of time I realised that if I did not take care of myself, I would not be able to do an effective job of taking care of her. This not only included tending to her physical needs, it also meant taking care of her emotional health as she dealt with a very difficult situation.

For most of us though, we do not need to wait for a difficult situation to come to this conclusion. We know deep down inside what we REALLY need to do take care of ourselves. We usually do not end up having a plan in place that can help us reach our self-care goals. Also, if you have not taken out the time to prioritise self-care in your busy life, you may never find out which practices will work for you since it will always be different for each person.

We forget that we need to treat ourselves with the same kindness that we treat others when they are in pain or in need of some kind of support. The very fact that we notice that someone who is suffering needs our compassion is what connects us to others and makes us human. Compassion also opens our hearts and minds to all kinds of experiences as we become more accepting and less judging. We have to realise the need to extend this same compassion to ourselves.

As we learn to accept our imperfections, failure and suffering which are all inevitable, we also learn to put ourselves on the top of our TO-DO lists. We start on our journey towards self-care and not only enrich our own lives but everyone around us.

"YOU are the most important investment you can make in your life"

There are many different ways that you can design your very own self-care routine. But it all starts with the realisation that you are well worth it to invest your own time and effort into this. No one else can do it for you.

In order to lead a meaningful, productive and healthy life, you will need to figure out the "self investments" that will pay off in the long run. It is impossible to "do-it-all" so it is important not to have an "all or nothing" attitude. Some people can get stuck with this mindset and end up not doing anything at all. We do not need a huge chunk of our day to take care of ourselves on a regular basis.

In reality, you can do a lot in five minutes—you can do some calming yoga poses, deep breathing, listen to some music that inspires you, do some guided meditation or read a chapter from a book.

Find a few things that work for you and condense them into smaller pieces which can be spread out into your daily routine. A consistent morning and evening routine works very well to start the day off on a positive note and then to end the day on a relaxing and quieting note leading to better sleep. No matter how busy your schedule, the payoff is well worth it.

The best way to start on your self-care journey is to

"Give yourself permission to pause during the day"

 

The different ways that you can utilise this time is by-

Moving your body every day- find a physical activity that you like and schedule a time to do it regularly. It does not matter what you do, it matters that you DO IT. It can be dancing, walking, jogging, running, yoga or anything else that you enjoy

Having a cup of tea and reading a book

Listening to your favourite music and getting up to dance a sweat if you feel like it

Getting a massage done once in a while

Keeping and writing in your journal regularly about things that matter to you, penning down your thoughts and feelings and even 3 things that you are grateful for everyday

Learning a new hobby or enjoying indulging in an old one like art, music, instruments, dance and anything else that you enjoy or even miss from your childhood

Taking out the time to make and maintain meaningful friendships

Setting aside a daily QUIET time which does not involve any electronics, social media, work. Consider meditation, enjoying creative activities like art or simply enjoying observing the clouds floating by outdoors or watching the raindrops fall on a glass pane and even taking a nap

It really does not matter what exactly you do, it matters that you DO IT.

Do you need to give yourself permission to pause from time to time during the day? Which activities appeal to you and how can you fit these into your daily schedule no matter how hectic it is? What are the obstacles that you need to overcome first? Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below. I look forward to hearing from you!

(I will be posting the last part of this 3 series in the next week and it will cover an important aspect of getting to know yourself better as we practice. It is a natural progression from as we start practising self- care on a regular basis, I really look forward to sharing it with you)