We live in a society that gives us mixed signals. We’re often praised for working 80 hours a week, functioning on insufficient sleep (3 hours? Really?), and never missing a social event, even when we’ve had a headache for ten days or are finding it increasingly difficult to get out of bed in the morning. Even worse, we often find ourselves bragging about being “so exhausted and stressed” as a sign that we are working the hardest and are on our way to being successful. But are you aware of how well you care for yourself?
When you are so involved in running around getting things done, it’s easy to miss or ignore the signs that you are not taking care of yourself. It’s all too easy to accept constant fatigue, nagging pain, and anxiety as normal. But it isn’t, and we can often solve these symptoms by focusing on self care.
Here are some signs that you are not focusing on your health and wellbeing, and that it may be time to prioritize your mental and physical health.
You’re Constantly Sick and Tired All the Time
If you seem to get every virus, cold or flu, it may be because your immune system isn’t able to fight off illnesses. A number of things can weaken the immune system, and stress, loneliness, and an unhealthy diet are high on the list. And in addition to catching every bug out there, a weakened immune system also means it will take you longer to recover. When you find yourself constantly getting sick, it’s a sign that your general mental or physical well being is out of balance.
There are many legit reasons for being tired all the time. You may suffer from insomnia, or your schedule may be unreasonable, and you can’t get enough sleep. You still need to address these issues, but it’s not surprising that you are exhausted. However, if you are getting enough sleep, you may wonder why you feel tired all the time. This means it’s time to get tested for any vitamin deficiencies or anemia, conditions that can be easily treated. Chronic exhaustion is a symptom of depression, so if a physical reason can’t be found, chatting with a therapist may help.
You Don’t Feel Good, Even When You’re Not “Sick”
You may not feel sick enough to call off work, but you have a constant headache, joint pain, stomachache, or some other chronic pain or discomfort. These are signs that you either may have an undiagnosed medical condition, or your body is telling you to take better care of yourself. Anxiety and stress can affect the body in many ways, so schedule a doctor’s appointment or visit a therapist. There could be an easy fix, such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthier diet, or adding some exercise to your routine.
When your life gets busy, you may lose track of the last time you saw a doctor and suddenly realize it’s been three (or more) years. Not the best scenario. Even if you are feeling generally well, it’s still important to stay on top of your well visits. And if you are feeling fatigue or chronic pain, make an appointment right away. Regular doctor’s visits keep you on top of what’s going on with your body and can also nip health issues in the bud before you become miserable, sick, and exhausted.
You’re Always Anxious, Irritable, Or on Edge
Everyone gets annoyed and frustrated sometimes, that’s pretty normal. But if you are in a constant state of irritation and anxiety, it may be a sign that you are feeling too burned out to handle the small annoyances that are a part of life. When you find yourself getting angry or upset over things you know are not important, it’s time to review your self care regimen. There’s almost always a reason, whether it’s mental or physical, and when you take care of it, you’ll begin to feel more like yourself.
Being a great partner, family member, or friend may involve making sacrifices, but it doesn’t mean you always have to put others first. In fact, that’s probably the best way to burn yourself out. It’s okay to have boundaries, and it is definitely not selfish to put yourself first when you need to. Taking care of yourself will make you a better friend in the long run. You can’t be supportive if your mental or physical health is compromised.
You’re Overly Dependent on Caffeine or Alcohol
This is a hard one for coffee lovers, but don’t worry, you don’t have to give up coffee altogether. But neither should you be chugging down four cups a day. Before noon. If you need to drink gallons of coffee to get through the day, you are probably not getting enough sleep, or your sleep quality is poor, or you have insomnia. Try cutting down to three cups, or even two if that goes well. If you are truly too exhausted that you can’t survive without gallons of caffeine, the solution is to work with a doctor to find out why.
And about those four glasses of wine you’ve been drinking every night? Same. There’s a reason your alcohol consumption may be creeping up, and it’s most likely the usual suspects: anxiety, stress, or insomnia. Alcohol may be a quick fix to the problem, but it can cause bigger problems long-term. And while alcohol may help you fall asleep, the quality of your sleep will be poor.
When you don’t take care of your mental or physical health, it can become difficult to do the basic, everyday tasks, much less live your best life. Mental and physical health are closely linked, so your mind and your body need to be in top shape for you to feel well. Not only do you deserve to feel your best, but you’ll be a better partner, friend, and professional.