User Avatar KopaNov 15, 2020

3 Signs You Need to Schedule Self-Care, Stat!

There’s a reason why airlines’ in-case-of-emergency instructions include a reminder to secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Taking care of ourselves is what allows us to care for our families, our friends, and our communities. This is why the time we need to set aside for self-care activities is neither optional nor negotiable. We cannot pour from empty cups, rescue from sunken ships, or be the light when drowning in darkness. “Without self-care, our health suffers,” says Ken D. Porter, program manager at the Mood Disorders Society of Canada.

Mine did. Digestive issues, fainting spells, and chronic depression sent me to a squadron of doctors. Appointment after appointment, my blood work read fine. Doctors in different cities echoed the same sentiments. I was perfectly healthy on paper, but needed to reduce stress. Despite all my symptoms, I didn’t take their advice seriously. I was young and told myself I’d have time to relax later. Later never came. So, instead of dealing with my stress head-on, I chose avoidance. I studied, ate, drank, smoked and exercised too much and, surprise, never got better. Finally, when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a condition causing widespread pain and thought to be exacerbated by stress, I realized it was time for me to learn what my body had been trying to tell me for years: Self-care is not selfish, it is survival.

Unfortunately, too many of us put off looking after our own well‑being and expend all our energy doing for others. “We push past exhaustion and loss of focus and spiral into not sleeping or sleeping too much before we recognize that we’re overwhelmed,” says Porter. “When you start to feel worried about everything and have problems with memory or concentration, which can lead to bad decisions, you know stress and anxiety are starting to peak.”

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