10 Signs You Need a Self-Care Practice

stressed business woman lying on floor

In a culture that rewards us for putting the needs of others before our own, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of self-neglect. Habits like not getting enough sleep, skipping meals, and grabbing unhealthy meals on the go can have a negative impact on our health when they become part of our normal routine. Our bodies are designed to give us subtle hints when we need to invest more energy in specific areas of our lives, but we have to be tuned in to receive those messages. Living Upp’s 8-dimensional self-care model helps you recognize the 10 signs you need a self-care practice:

1. You’re tired (a lot).

We all feel tired sometimes, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Moving our bodies to the point of physical exhaustion can enhance cardiovascular fitness, improve sleep quality, and reduce stress.

But feeling tired all the time, or for long periods of time, can take a toll on our health. Lack of sleep can lead to compromised immune function, weight gain, and, well, grumpiness. (Not that I would know personally.) Most adults need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, but it can vary depending on how active you are and how demanding your lifestyle is.

Nevertheless, if friends and colleagues are commenting regularly that you look tired, then perhaps it’s time to reexamine your sleep routine.

The Systemic Dimension of Self-Care: Are you getting enough sleep?

2. You’ve lost your mojo.

Woman sitting in darkness

Are you a people pleaser? Do you spend more time fixing other people’s problems than you do your own?

When we focus our energy on problems that aren’t ours to begin with, it’s a slippery slope. Before long, the line between what’s ours and theirs becomes blurred, and boundaries fade — along with our sense of identity and self-confidence.

Trying to be what others want us to be keeps us from living our inner truth, and that robs us of joy and happiness.

The Luminescent Dimension of Self-Care: Are you living authentically or are you trying to be what the world wants you to be?

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3. You’re a negative Nancy.

Do your friends refer to you as a negative Nancy? If you spend more time nit-picking the negative aspects of your life than feeling thankful for the blessings, it might be time to consider developing a self-care practice.

When we hold a positive mindset, we invite positivity into our lives. We find solutions to problems more easily, and our sense of optimism serves as a buoy when life gets tough.

If it seems like others are distancing themselves from you, it could be an indicator that your negative spin on life is bringing them down.

The Cognitive Dimension of Self-Care: Is your mindset helping or hurting your ability to live life they way you want to?

4. You’re isolated.

yellow plug

Sometimes unplugging from life’s distractions can be an act of self-care, but when we disengage completely from others, it can be bad for our health.

As an introvert, I value my quiet time. It’s not negotiable; I need it to feel my best. But I also know that completely isolating myself from others spells disaster. Just as trees nurture and support one another beneath the soil, we have a deep need to feel connected to others.

While many acts of self-care can be performed in solitude, self-care isn’t meant to be a solo gig. As much as we’d like to believe it, we can’t do it all on our own. And we can’t be in service to others if we aren’t taking care of ourselves.

The Relational Dimension of Self-Care: Are you nurturing the positive, supportive relationships in your life?

5. Everything hurts.

Are you getting tired of hearing yourself complain about your growing list of aches and pains?

If we don’t move our bodies the way they were designed to, we experience a host of physical changes: decreased strength and flexibility, loss of bone density, reduced muscle mass, increased weight, contracted muscle fibers, reduced range of motion, and diminished cardiovascular fitness.

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, most adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, along with at least 2 days of strength training each week.

The Systemic Dimension of Self-Care: Are you moving your body in a way that strengthens you?

6. You eat like sh*t.

Have you been using your body as a trash can?

Our bodies need whole, real food that supplies vital nutrients to function at its highest level. It’s what gives us the energy to solve problems, nurture ideas, and accomplish our big, crazy goals. When we aren’t nourishing our physical bodies, it’s impossible to live up to our full potential.

If most of your nutrients come from drive-thrus, single-serving packages, or supplements, it might be time to consider an eating style makeover.

The Systemic Dimension of Self-Care: Are you supplying your body with whole, nourishing foods?

7. You’re in debt.

A white piggy bank

Do you know how much you earn and spend each month? And do you have a clear picture of what’s essential in your life?

Debt can be paralyzing, and if you’re ignoring a mounting stack of bills because it’s too stressful to face, then there’s little question that it’s time to take action.

When we get into the nasty habit of spending more than we earn, it causes an imbalance in our financial well-being, and that creates stress that can show up in the form of physical illness.

The Financial Dimension of Self-Care: Are you managing your finances wisely?

8. You’re disorganized.

Are you constantly digging through piles of clutter to find what you need? Do you frequently forget appointments or lose important items? Does frazzled describe your usual state of being?

When we’re over-scheduled or over-committed, it’s easy to become disorganized — especially when we aren’t getting enough sleep to begin with.

But when our personal spaces are well organized and we’re able to find what we need, we can focus and think more clearly.

The Environmental Dimension of Self-Care: Are your personal spaces making it easy for you to live the life you desire?

9. You hate your job.

“I hate my job!” is something I hear more and more from clients and strangers alike. One day, while working on a project in a local coffee shop, I heard similar complaints from three different tables nearby. One man remarked that the only reason he was staying at his dreadful job was because he needed the health insurance. Another claimed that he needed the job to save enough money to put his child through college. And another simply said she’d been doing her current job for so long that she didn’t know what else she could do.

The truth is, most of us stick with what’s familiar because it’s less risky, even when we know it’s not what we were designed to do. But moving toward what makes us feel alive, whether it’s a slow progression or a bold life change, is what enables us to experience more joy and beauty.

The Aptitudinal Dimension of Self-Care: Is your career allowing you to live your life’s purpose?

10. Your emotions are calling the shots.

Do you let your emotions make your decisions for you? Or do you wait to make important decisions until you are clear and focused?

When we make decisions that are driven by strong emotions, we often set ourselves up for more stress. In a reactive state, when we’re highly emotional, we don’t always make choices that are in our best interests.

The Emotional Dimension of Self-Care: Do you only make important decisions when you are calm and clear-headed? 

If you answered ‘no’ to any of the questions above, it might be time to design (or redesign) a self-care practice that better supports you.

Your body is trying to tell you what it needs. Are you listening?

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