Practicing self-care is complex, and yet, it is one of the most commonly used phrases out there today. Anyone can tell you to do it. Anyone can tell you how to do it. The reality is that only you understand the circumstances of your life, what can work for you, and when. Only you can put in the time and effort to commit to doing things for yourself.
Before you are able to practice self-care, you also need to recognize the importance of self-care and the blocks (negative beliefs) that you might have about self-care. For example, you may believe that you don’t deserve it. Or, that it is “unproductive”. These belief systems may be rooted in your childhood or some relevant time in your past. Or, you may see self-care in limiting ways. For example, it’s something you can only do when you take major vacations away from all of the major stressors of your life.
Even for those of us who are caring, loving, and nurturing to others, it can be difficult to treat ourselves with the same compassion, patience, and care. Prioritizing our own needs, pleasure and relaxation can be really challenging for a lot of people.
How to know if you are not practicing enough self-care:
We’ve outlined 5 signs to help you notice if you aren’t practicing enough self-care. If any seem familiar, it is time to make more time for yourself:
1. You Get Sick More Often
When we don’t take proper care of ourselves, our health takes a big hit. Lack of quality sleep and nutrition, and time to relax and recharge can lead to a taxed immune system. This makes you more vulnerable to infections, colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems.
2. Unpleasant Physical Symptoms
There are some unpleasant physical symptoms that may be signs of poor self-care. Symptoms may include headaches, backaches, muscle fatigue, and lack of energy. If you have any of these symptoms that persist and you are concerned about, you should be checked out by your healthcare provider immediately.
Oftentimes, however, these can be signs of a tired body that needs some good self care. This may mean taking a bath or a long hot shower. Getting a massage. Taking a nap, or relaxing on the couch for longer than usual. Whatever it may be, the purpose is to give your body (and mind) a break from your busy schedule, focus on yourself, and respond to what your body is telling you it needs.
3. Increased Moodiness
When we are tired, drained, or feeling burnt out, it is hard to have the patience we need to face the tasks and stressors that challenge us throughout the day. You may be feeling like you have less energy, less ability to fully participate in your daily activities, or less interest in things in general. Or you may notice that you are just more irritable and cranky than usual. Oftentimes, this is because we are not setting aside enough time to focus on ourselves. You likely need a “recharge”.
You may be thinking that you just don’t have the time to do this, but you have to make the time, or you won’t be able to tend to all of the other responsibilities in your life or the roles you need to fill. Making time means literally putting it into your calendar:
- “8:00am- 9:00am: Go for a walk”
- “7:30pm- 8:30pm: Read next chapter in new favorite book”
Not practicing self care can have a profound impact on your mood. It can also affect your relationships, your productivity, your work, and your overall happiness.
4. Feeling Resentful or Overwhelmed by Responsibilities
We all wear “many different hats”, as the saying goes. Whether you are a caregiver, spouse, parent, boss, employee, or member of a team, we all have many roles that come with many duties. When you are not making enough time for self-care, you may start to notice that the responsibilities you once were able to do without any issue, or even maybe enjoyed doing, are now feeling like frustrating or overwhelming tasks.
You may even start to feel resentful of how much you have on your plate, and this often means that you are not setting aside enough time for yourself and your self-care. Just like on an airplane, when you are told that you have to put your own Oxygen mask on before helping someone else put on theirs, you cannot take care of others unless you first take care of yourself.
5. Feeling like you are “spread too thin”
Setting boundaries and saying “no” can be really tough to do. But when you take on too much and feel like you are “spread too thin”, it can be hard to focus or fully participate in any of your responsibilities. It is important to become aware of your limitations and practice setting boundaries with both yourself and others. Remember, it is not about having enough time for yourself, but making enough time for yourself.
If you’re curious about therapy and learning more about mind-body connection for trauma and anxiety, feel free to reach out to us anytime!