It’s important for us to know when to slow down, take a break, and give ourselves a chance to recover.
Learning to recognise when it’s time to take our foot off the pedal is really important for not just us, but for the health of the relationships we have with others. Self-care is not only key to our own well-being, but equally as important for those we lead, work with, and hope to influence, as our care for others will be less effective when we neglect our own health.
Self-care isn’t selfish
Take for example the instructions given by an in flight air hostess who, in the case of an emergency, instructs passengers to put on their own oxygen mask before attending to anyone else. At first hearing, this could sound inconsiderate or even selfish, but then for one obvious reason it starts to make sense; if you die through lack of oxygen, you’ll be no good to anyone else.
The same applies for us in all areas of life. If we’re not well, we’re less likely to be able to care for the well-being of others. But despite seeing the logic in the importance of caring for ourselves, its not always easy.
When dedicated to something — whether in a personal or professional capacity — it’s easy to get so involved that we overlook our own health, stop looking after ourselves, and fail to see the signs that we’re at risk of burnout. And for those who are driven, goal focused, and who lean towards ‘working hard’, this can be even more difficult, as stopping can feel unnatural, ridden with guilt, and laden with other negative beliefs.
So, if you find yourself burning the candle at both ends, here are five signs that you may need to consider taking your foot off the pedal, having a break, and getting yourself back into working order:
#1. You don’t want to get out of bed
If when your alarm clock goes off, you feel more inclined to curl up under the duvet and hide than face the tasks of the day, you probably need to give thought to your emotional well-being.
#2. You have less patience than normal
Having less patience can often indicate a decrease in emotional capacity. Whenever you start becoming snappy or irritated with those closest to you, or taking things personally, it’s worth looking at how you’re doing.
#3. You’re reverting to unhealthy habits
If you’re aware that you’ve had unhealthy habits or addictions in the past, and are finding yourself reverting back to them, then it may be that you’re using the instant gratification found in those behaviours to meet a deeper emotional need.
#4. You’re caring less about important things
When things get difficult its sometimes easier to bury our heads in the sand than it is to face life. Becoming distracted by activities not linked to our life goals and purpose, are often an indicator that we’re drifting, and in need of rest.
#5. You’re avoiding things you usually like
There will be a number of things that excite you. For example, meeting with friends or exercising. However, if you’re feeling less motivated to do them, or making excuses not to participate, you’ll likely find that you’re emotionally tired.
Some useful questions to ask yourself
In addition to considering the above five signs, some helpful questions to ask yourself if you’re wondering about your emotional well-being could include:
- Am I finding it harder to concentrate than normal?
- Am I feeling physically lethargic, tired, or exhausted?
- Am I feeling more cynical or critical about situations or people?
- Am I often feeling tearful or sad?
- Am I finding it hard to stay motivated?
Answering these questions honestly will help to give you an indication as to whether you need to simply take a break, or seek support for other conditions such as depression.
It’s important that we give thought to our care for self, as making self-care a regular and consistent practice is essential to our own health, and to the effectiveness of what we do both personally and professionally.
And making a start doesn’t have to be that difficult. In fact, you could simply start by taking the following steps:
- Take 10-15 minutes to assess how you really are (e.g. refer to the points and questions above)
- Identify some things that are consuming your emotional energy and apply the four D’s principle,
- Identify some things that bring you real contentment (e.g. exercise, pampering, prayer, walking in nature, listening to music),
- Schedule in time (actually put it in the diary, as you would a meeting) to do one or all of them,
- Keep your promise to yourself!
Practising self-care demonstrates a valuing of life and purpose
The benefits of choosing self-care are countless, including an improvement in our overall sense of well-being, our relationships with others, and our productivity. In pausing to assess our well-being, and going one step further to implement any necessary changes, we’re also acknowledging our mortality and helpfully reminding ourselves that we can’t do it all.
But most importantly, as we commit to assessing our wellbeing and choose to practise self-care, we make a statement of self-love that expresses the value we place on ourselves.
Which of the points most resonate with you, and when was the last time you practised self-care?
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