We live in a fast-paced society that tends to discourage us from prioritizing our physical and mental well-being. Often times we are praised for things like working 60 hours a week, being able to function off four hours sleep, and never missing a school party, function, or social event. These turn into a competition of who is working the hardest and even bragging about how “exhausted or stressed” we are – because we wear it as a badge of honor of that’s what it takes to be successful.
Our culture praises a “go hard” tendency and doesn’t reward the benefits of being physically and mentally healthy. Which is such a shame! Because our health is the only thing that will bring us joy in the long run, it will govern how we live the rest of our lives, and the quality of our life in the future!
Because of this, we sometimes miss the signs that we aren’t taking care of ourselves well enough. We put up with constant fatigue, nagging pains, anxiety and treat it as “normal” or think, “I’m just getting older.” But we shouldn’t just put up with these things – we need to make time for ourselves and focus on finding a solution to these physical and mental symptoms.
So, here are my Top 5 Signs that you aren’t taking care of yourself well enough, and you need to do something about it – ASAP! As you’re reading, if this is you – don’t freak out. We wouldn’t just leave you hanging without giving you ways to fix it! We’ve got a step by step guide to get you started taking better care of yourself at the end. So just keep reading! Like Dory on Finding Nemo…. just keep reading, just keep reading…
- You Constantly Get Sick
If you are constantly catching every cold, virus, and flu that goes around your work or from your kids, it’s often because your immune system is weakened and not up to the task of fighting off illnesses. The immune system can be weakened by a number of factors – unhealthy diet, poor exercise routine, and also high on the list is stress. When your body isn’t handling and processing stress in the appropriate way – we get stuck in a stress response, also known as the fight or flight response. When you’re stuck in this stress response, it weakens the immune system. Everyone catches the occasional cold, but a sign of a weakened immune system is when you catch everything going around, and it takes you forever to get over it – you spend the next month hacking up a lung before you catch the next thing going around. This is a huge sign your overall physical and mental well-being may be suffering.
- You’re Always Tired
There may be plenty of reasons why you’re constantly tired. Maybe you have a schedule that doesn’t allow you to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night, you may have trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, or a racing mind and anxiety that’s preventing you from falling asleep. No matter the reason, it’s still a significant problem that needs to be addressed. The long-term effects of chronic sleep deprivation include heart problems, depression, memory issues, and impaired judgement.
A major cause to fatigue and trouble sleeping can be again, your body is stuck in this chronic stress response state. Think of it as a pendulum that swings so far over to the stress response – the other side is completely absent – the part responsible for sleep, digestion, healing, growth & repair. These things suffer when your body is chronically stressed.
- You Never Feel Great, Even If You Aren’t ‘Sick’
Maybe you aren’t sick, but you still don’t feel ‘good’. You wake up feeling drained, with low energy and rely on caffeine to get you by. Maybe you still have a headache, digestive issues, or other chronic issues that you’ve just learned to live with and are your “normal”. Well, I think you know what I’m going to say – but I’ll say it anyway, it’s not normal. It isn’t normal to have headaches multiple times a week. It isn’t normal to have constant digestive issues. It isn’t normal to avoid getting down on the floor and playing with your kids or grandkids because you know it will cause you too much pain – and you may not be able to get back up. These are signs – signs your body isn’t functioning well physically and you need to spend some time and focus on self-care.
- You Feel Anxious, Irritable, or On Edge
Now, we’re all human. We have moments where we feel angry, frustrated, or on the verge of tears. But if you constantly feel irritable and anxious, it could be a sign that your body is burnt out. It has been stuck in a chronic state of stress, which activates your body’s stress response – leaving you feeling anxious, more reactive in nature, and irritable. If you find yourself constantly getting angry or upset over things you know are irrational, it’s time to take a closer look at how you’re taking care of yourself.
- You’re Dependent on Caffeine or Alcohol
Ok, I know I’m going to strike a chord with this one. And I get it – I love coffee. I mean, really love coffee. I look forward to it in the morning, I love the smell, I love everything about it. So I hear you – and I’m not going tell you never drink coffee again. Because if that’s the case – I’m out.
BUT if you need a massive amount of caffeine to get through the day – and by massive I mean like over four cups of coffee a day. If you are constantly drinking coffee to get through the day it’s probably because you have poor quality sleep, and wake up already feeling exhausted in the morning. If that is the case – I will direct you back to #2. When your body is stuck in a stress response state, it causes trouble settling down and getting into a deep, good quality state of sleep.
And speaking of stress, it’s also a red flag when you start to rely on a few glasses of wine per night to deal with stress, anxiety, or sleep issues. AGAIN – I’m not saying never have a drink. BUT if you have noticed your intake has crept up from occasional use to daily, and from 1-2 glasses to 4; then it may be time to take a close look at the reasons why and deal with those specifically. If it’s trouble sleeping, for example, it’s true that alcohol can make you fall asleep faster, but it severely impacts the quality of your sleep – and that will leave you waking still feeling exhausted.
The Bottom Line
Honestly, I feel like quite the Debbie Downer right now. So let’s turn that around right now. My goal is not to make you feel bad, but to point out a few things that you probably haven’t even considered. You are so busy taking care of your family, work, social gatherings that you’ve put yourself at the bottom of the list, possibly without even knowing it. I put this together so hopefully (if this sounds like you) to help you realize you need to take some time for yourself and focus on self-care. These are signs your body is stuck in a chronic state of stress and needs help returning back to balance. We see this all the time. It’s because we focus on the nervous system and helping your body process stress successfully – so you don’t get stuck in this chronic stress response state. AND you see important changes like less anxiety, better sleep, less headaches or migraines, and improved immune system.
We see many women turn their health around by a series of events. Remember the step-by-step process I talked about earlier? Well, I delivered…
- You have to actually decide that your mental and physical health are suffering and you need to focus on self-care. You. Are. Worth. It.
- When your body is stuck in a stress response state – it is likely that there is an issue with the nervous system and it’s ability to handle stress (that’s why people are in our office).
- Once our body is in a better, more balanced state we need to focus energy on healing. That includes making better decisions about what we fuel our bodies with. Eating more whole foods – fruits, veggies, fats, and protein and cutting out those things we know are not serving our bodies. This also may include helping our bodies function better by other wellness products, like supplements and essential oils.
- Our bodies are meant to move! Not only for physical health, but for mental health also. It is one of the best things to reduce anxiety, improve mood, and increase energy.
- We need to take time for ourselves in our hobbies, meditation, journaling, church, or interests – whatever it is that you know helps your mind, body, and soul.
Schedule it, do it. THIS is self-care and I think if we can prioritize it for ourselves, we can help our communities see how important it is and start making shifts in our rat-race culture. (Big goals, I know – but, it starts one person, one family, and one community at a time!)
Keep your stick on the ice… we’re all in this together,
Dr. Bethany Cannon