How to Identify You Need a Change
When it comes to taking care of yourself and providing self-care, the first step can often be the most difficult, but it's also the most necessary: identifying that something needs to change. The ideal state to live in is one with a routine that self-care is a part of and you can do on a regular basis. Having a routine makes it easier to keep up with, but creating that routine, or even getting back to one you created previously, is tough.
It's easy to get overwhelmed and to have life just pile up; everything else seems more important than taking care of yourself. When we get like this, it's not (usually) because we consciously think, "I don't matter." We just get swept up in the snowballing demands of life and our well-being gets pushed to the back burner. We keep telling ourselves, "I'll do it when I have time" but that's a lie. The whole reason our self-care got pushed back was because we didn't feel like we had the time for it in the first place.
There are plenty of blogs about how to make time for self-care, easy little things you can add into your schedule to help yourself, and why self-care is important, but there's a bigger piece that needs to be addressed first: identifying that you NEED self-care.
When you're in the mindset of "I'll get to it when I have time," you're not seeing how you're negatively impacting yourself by not making time NOW. You're not seeing the impact on your physical, mental, and emotional health because all you're seeing are the never-ending demands of existing.
Here is how to identify that you need to make time for self-care in your day NOW:
1. You're exhausted. Not just "what a day" exhausted, but "I can't keep my eyes open or move off my couch to do the things I typically do" exhausted.
If you're that experiencing tiredness and exhaustion to the point that it's actually preventing you from living your life, that's a sign that you aren't taking care of yourself. We all have those days where work or running around takes it out of us, but those should be few and far in between. When this has become your every day and you find yourself going to bed hours earlier than usual or falling behind on common chores or activities that are part of your typical routine, then you're pushing yourself too hard.
When you feel this way, something needs to change in your patterns. Take a look at what choices you are making that are contributing to your exhaustion. How many are short term that you just need to buckle down and get through before things balance back out, such as a big project due at work, vs how many are becoming an unhealthy routine that needs to change?
2. You're irritable. We all have pet peeves and things and/or people that annoy us, but if you are in a constant state of irritability and find yourself snapping at people you care about and being annoyed by things you once enjoyed, then that's a sign you need to take a step back and provide some self-care.
You should never get to the point that you are irritable all the time. It's not a good feeling for you or the people you interact with.
3. Anxiety/Depression increases. When you're overworked and aren't taking care of yourself you are more susceptible to anxiety and depression. Many people experience these every now and then, or more frequently with a disorder/diagnosis, but if you are feeling anxious and/or depressed differently from your usual patterns and for prolonged periods of time, you need to practice some self-care because your mental state is signaling to you that you aren't taking the time for yourself that you need to be healthy.
4. Weight gain/loss. Many people stress eat, or stop eating due to stress, which causes you to gain or lose an unhealthy amount of weight. If you are not purposefully trying to gain or lose weight, then that is a sign you are too stressed and aren't taking care of yourself. Pay attention to your body, what you put into it, and how often you feed yourself.
5. Don't feel good. Not feeling "good" can manifest in different ways. You could be physically unwell and get sick frequently and/or for long periods of time due to a weakened immune system brought on by stress and too much running around, or you could feel emotionally unwell in that you just don't feel like yourself. Pause for a moment and just ask yourself how you feel, breathe and listen to your body and mind. If you don't feel "good," you probably need to change something.
The reason it is so important to notice these effects that stress and lack of care are having on you is because you can't begin to remedy a problem until you know that there is one. If you keep pushing it aside and discrediting your physical, emotional, and mental reactions, then you can't take the steps you need to get yourself to a better, healthier state.
Identifying these symptoms and recognizing that you aren't taking care of yourself like you need to be is the first step to making a change that will balance your world out and move you toward feeling better, living better, and living the life that will make you happy.