It could be any typical evening: Dinner is cooking, my partner is doing things in the kitchen, and my child is playing in their room. I could be on the couch reading or folding laundry in the bedroom when my partner comes and asks me something, or my child starts making noises while they play.
Suddenly my internal dialogue is a long series of uuuuggggghhhhh noises while I feel my adrenaline rising.
This is my body screaming that I’m overdue for some “me” time.
As a mom, partner, and woman in this society, it can be easy to get caught up in a cycle of constantly doing things for other people. However, it’s essential to make sure we take care of ourselves, too. Sometimes that means stepping away from it all to spend some time on your own.
By not giving ourselves this time to recharge, we run the risk of burning out, both emotionally and physically.
Luckily, I’ve come to recognize the warning signs that I’m pushing myself too much. Below is a list of five ways my mind and body signal that I’m overdue for some time on my own and what changes I make to ensure I’m properly looking after myself.
1. Nothing sounds fun anymore
One of the earliest indicators that I’m in need of some time to myself is when things just don’t sound enjoyable. I may find myself complaining internally about being bored or procrastinating on creative projects I normally would have looked forward to doing.
It’s as if my spirit needs to recharge before it can take on anything that involves expending creative energy.
When I notice this happening, I realize it’s time for a “me date.” This may be as simple as going to the library and browsing for an hour or getting myself a tea and looking at Pinterest for new art project ideas.
Inevitably, the combination of a bit of alone time along with some new inspiration will get my creative juices flowing again.
2. I find myself wanting to eat ALL the things
I’ve learned over the years that I’m an emotional eater. So, when I find myself suddenly craving all the snacks in the house, it’s a good reminder to check in with myself and see what’s going on internally.
Generally, if I find myself reaching for the chips or chocolate, it’s because I’m seeking an escape through my taste buds.
Sometimes I’ll acknowledge that I’m stressed and run myself a hot bath, taking a book and my snacks with me. Other times I’ll ask myself what I actually need; it’s not the snacks but rather a huge glass of water and lemon along with some quiet time sitting on the back porch.
By noticing my desire to emotionally eat and checking in with myself, I can determine whether it’s really the food I want (sometimes it is!) or what I’m actually craving is a break.
3. I’m overwhelmed by the little things
Usually I’m very adept at juggling multiple responsibilities while keeping calm. However, sometimes I find myself getting overwhelmed by the smallest things.
Maybe I notice partway through making dinner that I’m missing an ingredient and become emotionally paralyzed trying to figure out a substitution. Or I realize after leaving the store that I forgot to buy shampoo and burst into tears.
Anytime I notice that I’m no longer able to roll with these things and am instead stopped by them, it’s a good indicator to myself that I’ve got too much on my plate and need to take a break. Usually this is a good time for me to practice self-care. This includes:
- Giving myself a firm reality check. Is this situation really the end of the world?
- Finding out if my basic needs are met. Am I hungry? Do I need to drink some water? Would I feel better if I lie down for a few minutes?
- Reaching out for help. For example, I may ask my partner to pick up shampoo while they’re out.
By taking some of those little things off my plate, I’m able to regain some time to myself to properly relax and recharge.
4. I start snapping at my loved ones
I pride myself on generally being pretty even-tempered. So when little noises my child makes get under my skin, or when I get frustrated by my partner asking me a question, I know something is up.
When I find myself getting grumpy and snappy with my loved ones, I’ll put myself in what my family and I call a “self-imposed timeout.” This is reserved for when one of us realizes they’ve reached their limit and really need to take a few minutes away.
For me, I’ll often go into the bedroom and take some deep breaths and practice grounding techniques, such as rubbing a smooth stone or smelling some essential oils. I may play a game on my phone for a few minutes or just pet the cat.
During this time I’ll also reflect on what I’m actually needing in that moment.
When I’m eventually ready to interact with people again, I’ll go back and apologize for snapping. I’ll let my child or partner know what was going on, and, if necessary, let them know that there’s something I need.
5. I want to hide in the bedroom... or bathroom... or closet…
On more than one occasion I’ve snuck into the bathroom with my phone, not because I needed to go, but because I just wanted to get a few moments of quiet. This act of actually removing myself from my family is my body telling me that I really need more alone time — and not just in my bathroom for five minutes!
When I find myself doing this or having the urge to lock myself in the bedroom (for more than just the aforementioned self-imposed timeout), then I know its really time to get away. I’ll pull out my planner and look for some time to schedule lunch with just myself. Or I’ll ask my partner if we can talk about a good time for me to get away for a few days and schedule an overnight getaway.
I almost always come back from these times refreshed and a more loving mother, a more present partner, and generally more myself.
Knowing the signs helps me take action
All of these signs are good indicators for me that I’m not taking care of myself the way I need to. When I do begin to feel these things, I can check in with myself and implement my various self-care practices.
From a hot bath and a book or a walk with a friend to a few days away from my family, these can help revive and rejuvenate both my body and mind.
And while your indicators may vary from mine, knowing what they are — and what works best to alleviate them — will help you take care of yourself.
Angie Ebba is a queer disabled artist who teaches writing workshops and performs nationwide. Angie believes in the power of art, writing, and performance to help us gain a better understanding of ourselves, build community, and make change. You can find Angie on her website, her blog, or Facebook.