What are Your Early Warning Signs?

Do you know what your early warning signs that things are letting you know that you are feeling worse? They can be subtle but with self awareness it’s possible to catch yourself before you head into a difficult time or at least understand what is going on. Understanding myself is a huge advantage in helping myself. Mindfulness has helped me to develop my self awareness.

To get to know myself I had to stop dissociating and focus on my own behavioral indicators. I am painfully self aware of my behaviors at times and at others I am in survival mode. I dislike survival mode as it can be a scary place for me. Living more in the moment and focusing on right now in my meditation practice has enabled me to be more present. This was also a painful process of getting real with myself and stop living in denial about what is going on with me.

It’s painful to write about what I am like when I am well because I wonder if I was ever really well or was I masking my symptoms to survive. My mind jumps to being critical and almost wistful about different times in my life when I appeared to be well to the outside world. It was a lie though as I was in survival mode and running away from my mental health issues. I coped the best I could for a long time. I am having to take a lot of deep breathes in going trough to find “healthy me” and unfortunately, that is still pretty elusive.

What am I like when I am feeling well?

Full of ideas, plans, and hope

Lots of energy for solving problems, making plans for work projects

Energy for working out

Being active and going outside a lot


Daily hygiene stuff is not an issue or a chore

Regularly clean, do laundry, ect

Good posture

Eating meals and snack through out the day

Wanting to be around trusted people

Ok, that sucked. I have some shame to work on around the subject of the healthy me that I am not able to be right now. That’s a normal reaction but it still feels like shit. Currently, I am digging my way out of a depressive episode so there are warning signs all over the place and that irritates me. I am trying to be compassionate about this to myself. This is the work and the struggle of my life. Sometimes I am well, most times I am struggling no matter what it presents as to other people. Some of the warning signs or red flags are now glaringly obvious to me. Here are a few that I have on a list but there are more

What are the warning signs that I have found that I need to look out for?

I start isolating a LOT more. I am an introvert anyway but there is a limit to that and I start spending most of my time alone.

I notice irritability and being angry more. Not being able to stop being a grump. Griping or being negative about most things.

I stop being able to fall asleep.

I can’t remember what I am doing

It becomes difficult to express myself

Defensive postures like curling up in a ball

Inconsistent selfcare

Feeling unsafe

Anxiety increases

Nail biting

Basic hygiene becomes difficult

Feeling tired or exhausted, lack of energy

Skipping meals

Not drinking enough water

Holding my breath a lot or breathing shallow

Clenching or armoring my muscles

Racing thoughts

Inability to focus

Being aware of my early warning signs has greatly helped me to cope in healthier ways. It seems simple to know the signs and then do the things to cope but it is not easy. Some days are so difficult to be able to get up and do the healthy coping things.

Here’s a list of things I do to help myself when I notice the early warning signs:

Take deep breathes

Use the grounding techniques with the 5 senses

Emotional grounding exercises

Live as mindfully as possible

Go outside and walk around

Listen to music and focus on the here and now.

Cold water or ice for anxiety

Practice compassionate conversations with myself to talk myself through the anxiety or sadness that is happenning

Distraction like working on a project that improves my life, living area, ect

Get support from friends, family, and/or a therapist

Walk around and move more instead of sitting still with the feelings. Do stretches

I hope all that made some sense and was helpful. Lists of things can be overwhelming but if I keep things simple the coping techniques themselves is easier to cope with. I am sick and tired of feeling sick and tired but I am slowly getting back to where I want to be. I know by wanting to be something else I am causing myself pain. I just have to remember that it’s ok to be where I am right now and ok to work toward a different life too.

If this really resonated with you then I encourage you to research the WRAP(Wellness Recovery Action Plan) program by Mary Ellen Copeland, MA, MS

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