Life is so busy all the time with so much to do and get done, who has the time to focus on themselves?
Making time for yourself…Isn’t that selfish? Self-centered?
The cultural concept that pressures us into thinking that self-care is selfish is unfair and even dangerous to you and those around you.
If I have learned anything from my almost two decades of work helping people thrive it’s that if we don’t get to know the signs, they turn into fires. And gosh – those problems would be so much easier to deal with if we got at them at the outset, before momentum got going.
If you are a busy person and you’re anything like me, the thought of stopping and taking it easy sounds like a dream, pie in the sky and downright scary thing, especially when it feels like the world will just keep spinning…and you cannot afford to take it easy. At least not now…
I wish I knew the signs sooner. The danger signs, the warnings that if I don’t stop to re-prioritize and focus on myself, all would come crashing down. When I finally learned the signs, I started to really hone the art of self-leadership. Being the kind of environment wherein I and others around me could thrive.
I’m going to share the tell-tale signs that it is time to focus on you.
1. You are a walking reaction, triggered by even the smallest things
Triggers are always an opportunity to see what we are not looking at. I’m not saying that if you’re bothered by something it is an immediate sign that there is something you need to deal with right that moment and march yourself into the therapist’s office. Of course, things happen that annoy us. This is a normal part of life and day to day stuff.
What I am talking about is the times you’re walking around reacting to everything and everybody. Sensitive to the touch. Ready for a fight. Looking for a reason to verbally brawl. The way your child sets the table to the extra question your partner asks – it all sets you off.
If you notice yourself sizzling at the smallest things, not only are you on edge but the people around you are on edge too. And if you have children, they’re watching your every move trying to either poke you more or be small to stay out of your way.
Noticing when you become a walking reaction (situations that are hot buttons) and taking note of how it looks on you (what you do, how you are being) can be the first step to recognizing that you’re out of gas. It’s then that you need to focus on YOU.
2. Life feels like a game of whack-a-mole. You jump to putting out fires without an understanding how they start
As a recovering overfunctioner I can tell you that it is easy to get hooked on treating your days as if it was a game of whack a mole. I used to pride myself on getting it all done, in record time, managing five things at once and not stopping until my dog whines for me to look her way.
But, when we are busy getting things done, fixing issues, solving problems and doing things for others (because it’s easier than getting them to do it for themselves)… we get into the dangerous mode of fixing and we don’t give ourselves the grace to stop and think about the Why behind what’s happening.
A perfect example of this is when parents fix a problem for their child instead of focusing on the process of helping them learn to solve it. Don’t get me wrong–there are some mornings when it’s just easier to pack our kid’s backpacks instead of waiting for them to do it. Otherwise we would never leave the house! But if you find yourself putting out the same fires more often than not, it’s a good time to ask yourself why they’re happening in the first place. What is causing this issue to show up in different ways in the first place? When we focus on the Why we can then begin to understand how we might shift our focus to addressing the root cause.
3. You have a hard time putting yourself first
When I started working for myself one of the biggest challenges I faced was scheduling time for myself into my calendar. When a client asked for an appointment during a time I wanted to do something for me, I would prioritize meeting their needs over my own. This was a rookie mistake that kept happening over and over.
If you are a parent, you know what I am talking about. The same goes for you if you’re in a relationship, have a demanding schedule or just plain don’t know how to say No to someone’s request for your time and attention.
Some of the most well adjusted leaders in the world have learned the art of prioritizing their self-care and needs. They know that if they’re not well, nothing around them can flourish. If you’re having a hard time with this, one of my best tips is doing some self reflection and jotting down some of the (daily, weekly, monthly) needs that you have and what you can do to get them met. Scheduling appointments and tasks for meeting your needs and keeping your appointments with yourself is one of the best ways to stay accountable to YOU.
4. When someone asks you about how you're doing, you tell them how everyone else (kids, partner, family) is doing
I see this so much with parents. Especially parents of kids with special needs. This is mostly because parents of children with special needs are accustomed to thinking of their children and their needs, wants, thoughts and desires before even their own. This is also prevalent with folks that might identify as pleasers. People who please are always thinking about the needs of someone else, that it can feel hard to shift to thinking about oneself. It can even feel scary.
The trouble with bypassing yourself and focusing on others well-being more is that you run the risk of abandoning yourself. You miss the signs. I tend to think about the herb garden my brother gifted me a couple years back. Every two weeks the machine sets off an alarm and red light to either fill the tank with water or add plant food. If I don’t do it, eventually the herbs start to wither and die. Simple example, profound visual.
So… how YOU doin’?
5. You cannot remember the last time you did something for yourself (that didn't involve another person's needs)
Now – not showering or washing your hair for two days when you have a newborn in your household is not what I mean. Everyone goes through periods of adjustment when it comes to working out priorities of a newborn, a new job, relationship or any other life occurrence that leaves us in the negative for a while.
It reminds me of when I purchased my home. I was “house poor”…happy in my new home and not eating out for weeks until I could replenish my accounts. It was a time of transition. But eventually that changes and we start to take care of ourselves the way we want to and can. We are not meant to stay “house poor” forever.
If you cannot remember the last time you did something for YOU (a hobby, class, self-care appointment, cup of coffee alone, long drive), it’s a good sign it’s time.
6. Your body is telling you something's not right
This is one of the most important things on this list of signs. Stress is on a continuum. There is positive stress, tolerable stress and what we call toxic stress. While positive stress (a new job, getting a mortgage, awaited first kiss) is good for us and helps us grow as humans, toxic stress and unaddressed tolerable stress can create imbalance in our bodies that leads to ailments and dis-ease. When you are feeling sick, tired, foggy, (insert your experience of discomfort here), your body is already showing you what’s been brewing within.
As my father always said to us, “Nothing is more important than your health. When you don’t have that, you have nothing.”
I would love to know what you think of these signs and whether or not you recognize them in you. Let me know here or send me a message or comment on my instagram @drvictoriagrinman