by Nicole Iacovoni, LCSW, Founder & Executive Clinician at Willow Tree Wellness & Counseling, LLC
I admit; sometimes I’m a hypocrite. I frequently preach about the benefits of good self care and urge everyone I meet to make self care a routine priority. Yet, I myself am guilty of not taking my own advice. I can always tell when I haven’t taken care of myself the way I should. However, it usually dawns on me far too late.
Making time for myself, doing the things that bring me happiness and pleasure, or taking space and time to be alone wasn’t always as hard as it is now. Back in the days of being single or married without children, I had ample time to indulge in long afternoons reading at the cafe, napping, or aimless window shopping. Then, life got complicated with the addition of two dogs, 2 houses, 2 kids, and 2 jobs. (Luckily, I have just one husband or things would get really tricky).
Now, I have to strategically plan “me time”. I have to carve it out, set it aside, and protect it from being invaded by unmet deadlines at work, strong urges to clean up the mess that I know will reappear in 10 minutes, and guilt about leaving my toddler when she’s begging me not to go. Sometimes I’m successful at reminding myself how much I need to be a woman before I’m a wife, a mother, or a business owner, and I follow through with my advice and plans for good self care. Other times, I give in to meeting the wants and needs of others before my own. I over-extend, over-commit, and convince myself I’ll be ok without doing whatever it was that I was looking forward to doing for myself.
Yet, time and time again, I always regret giving up self care. Because it’s happened so many times, I was forced to become more aware of my own needs, and motivate myself to put all else aside to meet them. Here’s how to tell you need better self care:
1. You feel overwhelmed.
Overwhelm is a clear sign you’ve taken on too much. Once you begin to feel like you can’t take on one more single thing, don’t take on one more single thing. Stop. If you forge ahead when your mind is telling you it needs a break, you won’t be able to organize your thoughts or your life.
2. You feel resentful.
Resentment is usually the bi-product of noticing all the people who are doing things they enjoy and hating them for it. If you find yourself pissed because people around you are happy, content, and relaxed, and you “don’t get to be”, you need to make yourself like those other people. The reason they’re content is because they made time to do what they love. You need to do the same. Don’t wait for someone to create the opportunity for you. Do it yourself.
3. You feel exhausted.
It’s fairly common for us to overestimate what we can accomplish in any given amount of time. We try to cram in as much as possible and we burn ourselves out. Knowing when we need to rest, and actually doing it, is critical self care. The work will always be there, but you’ll be useless if you don’t recharge your batteries.
4. You want to be someplace else.
When we live in the moment, we experience contentment. That is unless we’re really unhappy about what we’re doing in the moment. If you find yourself fantasizing about being somewhere else, anywhere else, it’s a sign that you need to spend some time there…wherever that is. For some, it’s in a hot bath. For others, it’s out on the town with friends. If there is a longing to escape the current moment, you’re in need of self care.
5. You’re distracted and unfocused.
Most likely, you’re thinking about to-do lists. On the one list, you have all the things you have to do, and on the other, you have all the things you want to do. When we only mark off the to-do’s on the “have to” list, we start daydreaming about what it would be like to visit the “want to list”. Not only does this sabotage accomplishing the have-to’s, but we then have even less time for the want-to’s. It’s a vicious cycle.
Self care takes many forms. It’s as unique to us as we are as individuals. What calms, soothes, and creates balance for me may irritate and annoy someone else. The important point is that we each know what to do to help ourselves feel in alignment with our true self and that we incorporate those practices into our lives on an ongoing basis. Yes, it’s challenging to make sure we make adequate time for self care, but merely being aware of when you need it can be a self care measure in and of itself.