I failed to show up—again.
I was a small group leader for our church’s youth group, and I knew I should have been there to connect with the girls and lead them through conversation after the lesson.
But I just couldn’t.
It felt daunting. Like it was too much.
And it wasn’t just youth group. I didn’t want to go anywhere.
Work? No, thanks.
Classes? As much as I loved to learn, being around people just felt too overwhelming.
Church? Squeeze my eyes shut and tell myself it’s okay to take a break for a week or two… or three or four.
This was back when I was a college student. And over the years, I have learned that isolating myself from others is a clear sign to me that I am not in a good place mentally or emotionally.
What kind of signs do you have?
Today, I am going to help you identify those signs in your own life so you can take a more proactive approach to your health emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
What Signs Tell You You’re Not Doing Well?
We’re all familiar with symptoms that let us know we are not feeling well physically. A fever, cough, or runny nose sends us running for medicine to help us feel better.
But I’ve noticed that we each have symptoms that tell us we’re not doing well on a more personal level.
One of mine is isolating myself from others. This is different from setting appropriate boundaries and deciding what I’m going to be involved in and what I’m not. It’s also different from taking time off for a break. Isolating myself looks like shutting myself off from other people and failing to show up for my commitments.
God has wired us each differently, so what signals to me that I’m not doing okay will be different than what signals to you that you’re not doing well.
Sometimes it’s our frustration level or general grumpiness.
Sometimes it’s emotional eating or when we stop taking our daily walk.
I want you to look back over the past seasons of your life and name some of the ways that showed up in your life.
- Did you eat too much? Did you not eat at all?
- Did you oversleep every day? Or maybe you found it hard to sleep at all.
- Did you stop taking showers or cleaning up the house?
- Maybe you indulged in a little bit too much coffee or soda or other drink.
- Maybe you’re one where your blood pressure gets too high. Or you get migraines or headaches when you’re stressed.
What is it for you?
Learning to Pay Attention
Now, none of this is going to do you any good if you aren’t paying attention to what’s going on in your life, right? If you’re just flying through your days and barely catching your breath, you’re going to miss it.
You’ve got to have at least a few minutes every day or every week where you can reflect and evaluate how you are doing.
- How am I feeling this week physically?
- Is anything different or out of the ordinary?
- Have I been closing myself off from others or taking my walk every day?
Whatever signs you just identified, you want to work those into your questions.
- Is my blood pressure high?
- What have I been eating this week?
- Am I still making it to the gym?
You have to pay attention and take notice.
What to Do When You’re Not Doing Well
If you notice any of these signs in your daily or weekly review, you can start to explore why and then take the necessary steps to deal with it.
Pinpoint the cause
First, you want to try to pinpoint the cause. Why are all these symptoms showing up? What’s bothering you?
You might know right away. Maybe something happened at work and you’re really bothered by it and not sure how to respond. Maybe your friend said something hurtful to you. Go ahead and name that situation.
But if you don’t know the cause, this is where you can start to do some reflecting and experimenting.
You can ask God to show you what’s bothering you. He might not reveal it to you right away, but chances are, it will come to you within the next day or two as you’re going about life as usual.
You can also start to experiment with a few things. Now, remember that in a good science experiment, you’re only supposed to change one variable at a time and see if that makes a difference. So start small.
- Try getting a full 8 hours of sleep.
- Try eating healthier foods.
- Try cutting out caffeine.
- Try spending time with your spouse.
- Try to sit for just five minutes alone every day.
Whatever you think the problem might be, that’s where you start. And if it doesn’t make your symptoms go away, you then try something else.
Take steps to deal with it
Once you identify the cause, you can then take steps to deal with it.
You realize that you’re down because you’ve been too busy to spend any real time with your family, and that’s really important to you. So you decide to block off time on the calendar each week for family time.
Or you realize that, as an introvert, you’re not getting enough time to yourself. You may not be able to get a full day away, but you know you could get 10 minutes here and there, and you determine to take advantage of those times.
Sometimes it means you have to ask for help. If you’ve got too much going on at work and it doesn’t appear to be getting better soon, you might need to talk to your supervisor and see if you can let go of some tasks or pass them along to someone else.
I’ve found that once I can figure out the cause, the solution is usually pretty easy to figure out—at least on paper. And then you can go about implementing it the best you can.
Journal Prompt: How Do I Know I Am Not Doing Well?
Here is your journal prompt for this week: How do I know I am not doing well?
Jot down answers as they come to mind. By creating this list, you’ll be able to notice when you are struggling and when you might need to take a break or take some other course of action to care for yourself.
If you’d like, once you identify those signs for you, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share. Sometimes naming things like this in the presence of someone else can make a huge difference in the power they hold over you. You start to notice them more easily. And if not me, then maybe your spouse or a good friend.
Remember, if you’ve not yet left a rating for the podcast, that would be a huge help in reaching more women who are looking for encouragement and care during these hard seasons of life. Just open the show on your podcast player and scroll down a bit, and you should see a place to give it a certain number of stars.
God, we know that life isn’t always easy, and there are so many times we’re just going, going, going and don’t realize how much we are really struggling. I pray that You would help us to slow down and pay attention to both our bodies and our souls. Show us where we might be holding onto bitterness or frustration, jealousy or anger. Reveal when we are struggling with doubt or loneliness or fear. Show us those places where we hurt and help us take steps to care for ourselves in a way that is honoring and holy to You. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
- Episode 103: 6 Strategies to Manage Overwhelm, Stress, and Change
- Episode 65: Learn to Linger with What Provokes You
Learn more and register for Journal Gently, an 8-week program designed to help you use writing as a way to process hurt, grief, and trauma with God.