5 Symptoms of Self-Neglect and 5 Self-Nurturing Cures

5 Symptoms of Self-Neglect and 5 Self-Nurturing Cures by Kelley Grimes | #AspireMag

“Train yourself to listen to that small voice that tells us 

what’s important and what’s not.” 

~Sue Grafton 

Have you been listening to and attending to everyone else’s needs but your own lately and found yourself feeling overwhelmed and exhausted? Have you been living this way for so long that it just feels normal? Well if so you are not alone. Many people, especially women, focus on meeting everyone else’s needs in their personal and professional lives, which leaves little time and energy left to meet their own needs.  

When we give more of ourselves than we have to give without nurturing and rejuvenating ourselves, we end up living from a deficit. Like with our bank accounts, if we spend more money than we have and do not deposit more we end up in debt. Most of us would be very concerned if we overdrew on our bank account, but often live from this deficit model in our personal lives. We may be unaware that we are engaged in a habit of self-neglect, but this is what happens when we give more to others than we give to ourselves.   

It is not surprising that we do not easily identify our self-neglect, as we have been fulfilling the role of caregiver in our lives for so long and so masterfully that we may have forgotten our own needs were important. In the process of feeling overwhelmed by all our responsibilities, we have come to believe that there is something wrong with us because everyone else seems to have figured out how to be happy in their lives. But I remind you again, you are not alone. I have heard from hundreds of women that they feel the same way and have struggled to listen to the small voice within telling them what is important and what is not. 

Here is an invitation to begin the process of training ourselves to listen to what we need. Start by forgiving yourself for not including you in your caregiving and with self-compassion and curiosity explore the following symptoms of self-neglect to see if you are currently suffering from them. I call these symptoms of self-neglect our red flags to remind us that we need to nurture and rejuvenate ourselves. Do you recognize any of your red flags from the symptoms below? 

Symptom #1 – Irritability and Impatience 

Do you ever find yourself feeling irritable and impatient? Often when we have given more than we have to give, we end up feeling resentful and unappreciated. When this happens we often feel irritable and impatient with others or ourselves. If you find yourself responding impatiently or reacting from a place of frustration, look at the situation and ask yourself if you have given more than you have to give. Then try the following self-nurturing cure: 

Self-Nurturing CureConnect to Your Breath 

Your best and most accessible tool for calming yourself is your breath. If you are feeling irritable, impatient or anxious, pause, and take a deep breath. Focus on your breath moving in and out for a few rounds. Connecting consciously to the present moment through your breath will give you a moment to pause, identify what is really bothering you, help you calm down, and allow you to respond rather than react from your frustration. The present moment frees us from past regrets and future anxieties and supports us in connecting to how we feel and what we need. Recognizing what you need is the first step in transforming your habit of self-neglect. Give yourself permission to connect to your breath throughout the day.  

Symptom #2 – Chronic Stress and Overwhelm 

Do you find yourself feeling stressed and overwhelmed by all of the responsibilities in your life? Often when we have nurtured everyone in our lives but ourselves, we end up feeling chronically stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted. When we have no reserve of energy, any new challenge can feel overwhelming and we get hooked in a stress cycle that impacts our bodies, minds, and emotions. This chronic stress leads to the next symptom of self-neglect – illness, and impairs our ability to listen to the small voice within that tells us what is important and what is not. As a result, we can get hooked by drama in our lives, which usually causes more stress and overwhelm. Instead, try the following self-nurturing cure: 

Self-Nurturing Cure: Ground Yourself in Gratitude 

Regularly writing down and acknowledging all we are grateful for transforms our difficulties into lessons and decreases our stress and overwhelm.  When we cultivate a practice of gratitude, we are able to view challenging situations as opportunities to learn and grow. Focusing on our blessings makes the drama fade away and highlights what is really important in our lives. 

Symptom #3 – Illness 

Do you get sick easily, feel exhausted much of the time, or struggle feeling anxious or depressed? Our habit of self-neglect consistently undermines our physical and mental health and leaves us vulnerable to becoming ill. Sometimes we wait to care for ourselves until we are forced to as a result of being sick. Let’s choose instead to regularly nurture ourselves so we can avoid getting sick. Try the next self-nurturing cure to fend off this symptom.  

Self-Nurturing Cure: Choose to Rest 

Sleep provides mental and physical renewal, increased energy and improved mood. Getting enough sleep is vital for our memory, quality of life, clarity of thinking, creativity, and even helps us live longer. Choosing to rest supports our physical, mental and brain health and is essential to prevent illness. Give yourself permission to rest not only when you are sick but on a daily basis to nurture yourself. 

Symptom #4 – Negative Self-Talk 

Do you notice when you begin judging and criticizing yourself or does your negative self-talk sneak up on you? Often when we are overwhelmed and exhausted our negative self-talk becomes louder and more consistent. When we are overwhelmed we often believe that we can’t do anything well or that we are not good enough and we may criticize and judge ourselves more as a result. Our negative self-talk is a powerful symptom of our habit of self-neglect and can be cured by the following self-nurturing practice: 

Self-Nurturing CureBe Kind to Yourself 

You have the power to interrupt your negative self-talk by being compassionate to yourself and treating yourself like a dear friend. Choose to use kind and loving words when you talk to yourself and create a positive affirmation or mantra to use whenever you find yourself being critical or judgmental. Being kind to ourselves is essential to listening to the small voice within telling us what is important and what is not, so cultivate self-compassion every day.  

Symptom #5 – Feeling Stuck 

Do you just wish things were different in your life but don’t know how to change them? Often when we spend our time caring for everyone in our lives except ourselves, we end up stuck in a habit of self-neglect that leads to feeling stuck in an overall way. When we feel stuck, we feel hopeless, which reinforces all the other symptoms of self-neglect. The most effective way to get unstuck is to move. 

Self-Nurturing Cure: Connect with Nature 

Being in nature, walking on the beach or taking a stroll outside your office or home can transform your perspective instantly. Connecting with nature rejuvenates like nothing else and gets you in touch with the profound beauty all around you. Nature is an excellent teacher about process, patience, and transformation and can inspire us into action.  

Learning to identify your “red flags” or symptoms of self-neglect helps you address your self-nurturing needs more quickly and prevents more overwhelm, stress, and exhaustion. You have the power to transform your symptoms of self-neglect with self-nurturing cures to feel more empowered and confident in your life. The beauty of self-nurturing is the ripple effects created in your life improving your health, wealth and all your relationships. The more filled up you are the more you will be able to give authentically of your heart and the better you will feel in the process. 

May you embrace these self-nurturing cures as you transform your habit of self-neglect, nurturing peace in the world from the inside out! 


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Kelley Grimes, MSW About Kelley Grimes, MSW

Kelley Grimes, MSW, is a counselor, speaker,internationally best selling author and self-nurturing expert. She ispassionate about empowering overwhelmed and exhausted individuals to live withmore peace, joy, and meaning through the practice of self-nurturing. Kelleyalso provides professional and leadership development to organizationsdedicated to making the world a better place. She is married to an artist, hastwo empowered daughters, and loves singing with a small women’s group. Learn more at www.CultivatingPeaceandJoy.com and download your free Self-Nurturing Mobile App.

  • Lore Raymond

    Appreciating your wisdom, “…The beauty of self-nurturing is the ripple effects created in your life improving your health, wealth and all your relationships. The more filled up you are the more you will be able to give authentically of your heart and the better you will feel in the process.”
    I am seeing this more and moreclearly all the time. It all starts with me… Blessings for the love you bring to me and many through your word wisdom, Kelley. xo

  • Barb Parcells

    I need to pass this on to my daughter. At 45 she is everything to everyone else but herself (and looks a lot like her mother at that age). I got older and wiser, but she may need a little gentle push in the right direction! Thanks.

  • Joanna Brown

    Thanks for your wisdom. An area that is easy to fall into and something I forget to work on for sure.

  • For many years I worked in an “industry” that was not conducive to self-care — martyrdom was not only tolerated, it was encouraged. Needless to say, it was difficult to supervise staff there. They didn’t trust my insistence on self-nurturing. Not. One. Bit. It’s a pleasure to see that this is changing and this post is part of that.

  • Susan Wilking Horan

    TY Kelley ~ Choosing to Rest is the Key for me. Thank you for the important reminder!

  • Heather Kamine

    The more we learn to nurture ourselves the more a habit that becomes verses the negative. This world was meant for a joyous happy life and that starts from the inside out. Thanks for this wonderful post and great reminders.

  • Love your post, yes and I think once we really greet each moment with gratitude we feel a shift that helps us truly follow the path of our heart that leads to one being kinder more loving to self _ xxoo

  • This is such a lovely reminder Kelly. The wisdom here is something I truly needed to absorb. Thank you!
    xoxo, Z~