We’re living in a world that seems to run at a thousand miles per hour. Everyone is busy all the time, with a to-do list that just keeps growing. To stay ahead of the pack, it often feels as though you need to push your needs to the back of your mind and focus on everyone else first.
Unfortunately, though we all tell ourselves that we’re going to give ourselves a break “eventually”, the competitive era we live in often means that we create habits of poor self-care. This means that both our physical health and mental health begins to suffer. After all, when you forget to look after yourself, you stop nurturing your mind and body, and that means that you won’t have the fuel and focus you need to be your best self.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do when you start to realize that you’re pushing yourself too hard, too far, and too fast, is stop for a moment and think about what you need. Remembering that you’re human is the key to a healthy life. Here are just a few signs that indicate you might need to review your self-care routine and give yourself the nourishment you deserve.
1. You Live Your Life on Autopilot
When’s the last time you stopped to enjoy a really good cup of coffee, smelled the beans as you ground them, and inhaled that warm aroma without something else clouding your mind? When life moves quickly, we seem to hone in on a vision of the future and forget to enjoy the little moments in the present. While there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, getting stuck in a vicious cycle of eat, sleep, work, and repeat is a good way to drive yourself to the loony bin.
When you’re spending every day so stressed and exhausted that you’re just following instructions and working on autopilot, you aren’t really living. Going through the motions is never the best way to enjoy your life.
Stop. Slow down. The simplest way to remind yourself of the things you enjoy in life is to give yourself enough time to experience them. Remember that you’re a human being with needs – both emotional and physical. Give yourself a break, stop thinking about the future for a moment and ask yourself what you need right now.
2. You Neglect Your Basic Needs
How much fast food do you eat? Do you find that you’re constantly grazing on whatever you can find in the office, rather than devoting an hour to a fresh home-cooked meal? While living like this might be enough to sustain you for a while, neglecting your basic needs could be your undoing. In fact, Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows us just how crucial it is to understand the value of regular self-care.
If you’re losing sleep, skipping meals, or not eating correctly, then you’re not going to be able to perform at your best. Your body is like a machine, it needs the right maintenance to work as it should. Keep that in mind when you’re pushing yourself beyond your limits.
Make a habit of putting yourself first. If you find that you’re constantly forgetting to eat healthy snacks during the day, or you stay up so late that you never get enough rest, set alarms that remind you to do the simple things you’re neglecting. While it might seem strange to have to remind yourself to eat, sleep, and rest – sometimes we need this nudge to get us back on track. An alarm telling you that you’ve done enough work and it’s time to go to bed could help you to recover a healthier schedule.
3. You’ve Lost Track of Your Priorities
Work is important. Whether you love your career and you want to make sure that you’re constantly getting better at what you do, or you simply want to pay the bills, it’s important to give enough attention to your job. However, at the end of the day – a job is only one part of your life – it’s not your entire identity.
If you’re constantly blowing off friends and family because you want to get ahead on a project or work overtime to impress your boss, then you’re going to miss out on some of the basic pleasures in life. It’s important to remember that there’s more to life than your desk.
Ask yourself what you really care about in life – besides your career. Once you’ve done that, you can start to schedule time into your busy calendar that reminds you to take stock and enjoy the things you love. Even if you’re very busy, you should be able to find an hour once a month that you can use to meet up with friends for a coffee or see your family for a meal. The more time you make for these priorities, the happier you’ll be.
4. You Never Just Enjoy Yourself
Speaking of spending time with friends and loved ones – how often do you forget about all the things you have to do at work and just have a little fun? When’s the last time you treated yourself to something you really enjoy – like a picnic, a mani/pedi, or a trip to the movies? If you can’t answer those questions, then that’s a sure sign that something is seriously wrong.
A lot of adults and professionals fall under the false impression that “fun” is something they must give up when they grow out of childhood. However, while you might have to make compromises as you grow up, that doesn’t mean you should be sacrificing all the joys in your life.
Spend some time doing the things you really enjoy. Think back to when you had hobbies you used to love and take them up again. This might mean that you have to blow off the occasional work event, but you’ll find that you start to enjoy a much healthier life if you can make some time for yourself. Do whatever it takes to make you smile and remember what it’s like to be a carefree child again.
5. You’re Always Putting Other People First
There’s nothing wrong with being a generous and compassionate person. We should always try to lend a hand to a fellow human being. However, problems can arise when you’re so busy helping other people, that you forget to help yourself.
Eventually, when you give too much of yourself to others, you’ll notice that they start to take advantage – because they assume that’s what you want. When people see that you’re willing to go above and beyond for them, they get used to being able to ask for anything and expect you to always say yes.
Say no. You don’t have to reject everything or decide that you’re never going to do something for another person again. However, you do need to find a balance between being giving and being entirely selfless. Sometimes, you really do need to put yourself first. There’s nothing selfish or wrong in that, it’s just reminding yourself that you’re human, and you need support too.
6. You’re Just Not You Anymore
Finally, the more you reject the concept of self-care, the more you begin to lose the things that make you, you. When you’re living life for other people and demands, you start to lose your humanity and forget all about the purpose you had in life before you got so caught up with other things. This can be incredibly depressing and even make it difficult to get out of bed in a morning.
When you can’t quite define yourself anymore – at least by anything other than your job title, it’s time to act – fast. Give yourself a break and focus on rediscovering yourself. That might just mean relaxing for a while and getting into some deep thought. On the other hand, you might need to change your career, take up some new hobbies, or do something else entirely. You’ll find the solution that works for you.
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