It is always interesting to explore the theme of childhood and how it affects one’s self-care practices. Different cultures, different countries and different practices. How many times have we heard, I got this habit from my father, or my mother taught me to do this or I always saw my parents do this? Not necessarily all of them benefit us, but yes mostly seen, we have sailed through life not realising how much we have picked up from our parents about our self care.
What messages, direct and indirect, did I receive from my parents or other adults growing up regarding self-care?
One thing I have always seen my parents do is eat healthy food and exercise in moderation. They always took good care of themselves. These two are key to leading a good life, is what I always heard them say. Now this has become a practice with me, whatever goes into my mouth has to be healthy. I feel guilty if I binge on fast food or have something which I might feel terrible about later on.
I never saw my parents returning from office at odd hours, it was always by the clock. They came back home straight after work to spend time with their children. And that is what influenced my working hours too, I like coming back home on time instead of sitting in front of my laptop in the office and burning the midnight oil. I learnt from them that it is important to create a work life balance.
What is the point in being wealthy, if you are not able to spend time with your family and loved ones? I totally live by this rule.
In hindsight, not all what I picked up from my parents, I feel really benefited me. I would like to knock off some of these habits.
I always saw my parents work hard, perform their family duties as well as handle their professional life and at the same time always being there for us, I never saw them having vacations or sitting back and having a relaxed day. It was work for them 24/7. I feel this really influenced me. Now I realise in the back of my mind that there is always this constant nagging feeling of guilt if I am not doing anything, or even if I am relaxing. It feels awful. I saw my parents working all day, never taking a break, and here I am wasting my time relaxing, this thought gets me on my feet again. As a result, I am unable to relax. Constantly wanting to do something has become a habit.
How has my cultural upbringing influenced the philosophy around self-care?
There are also cultures that have different messages for different genders; for example, in my culture, men are supposed to work outside the house and women are expected to clean and tidy or prepare food. This might sound a bit absurd for people who do not belong to my culture.
Besides thinking about how our childhood and cultural upbringing affect our self-care practices, we should think about how our self-care practices and philosophies may be affecting the people around us, including our kids.
In this climate, when work seems especially daunting, we all need to do a better job taking care of ourselves and one another. We need us all to be in this for the long run. While organisations have a responsibility to create a culture of “we-care,” I also think it would be helpful for us to individually examine how our childhood upbringing may be playing a role in our behaviors and thought patterns as adults. There is a restorative power of taking time out for yourself.
Keep a log tracking your emotions – you can do this daily or weekly or whatever works best for you. Whenever there is an event that rubs you raw, pay attention and notice where in your body you feel movement. Observe what thoughts begin to bubble up into consciousness. There is no need to change your response at first, just practice strengthening your awareness muscle.
You may notice that there are certain behaviors that your child engages in that are more likely to trigger these emotional reactions. Take note of these patterns and write them in your log. Being mindful of your thoughts and feelings is a crucial first step towards growing with your child, and becoming the parent you want to be.
And before I sign off, I would like to say, the relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have, so take care.