“I don’t feel like myself”

We all have moments in which we “don’t feel like ourselves”, or feel as though something is “off”. We are quick to anger, feel sluggish and have to drag ourselves through the day. We might have trouble remembering things, cancel activities, or find ourselves unable to communicate with others in the way that we would like to. Sometimes we notice this feeling and try to do something about it, but in my work as a therapist I’ve noticed that rarely do we understand what factors have aligned to put us in this place that we just want to go away.

As a Washington, DC couples therapy counselor, I know that, unfortunately, sometimes we figure it out when we find ourselves in an argument with our partner or someone else close to us – everything seems to bother us, and although we don’t mean to, we often take it out on others. They might say things like “what’s with you today?” or “since when did this become a big issue”? They’re noticing that we’re “off”, too. They may be worried about us, or worried about the interaction and subsequent repercussions on your relationship together.

When we notice ourselves in this place, what can we do to get out of it? One of my core beliefs about our Silver Spring therapy is that healing and effective change must be preceded by insight. In other words, if we want to be able to shake the heavy, cloudy feeling we’re going through – we need to understand why we’re feeling that way in the first place. Being aware of what’s causing us to step off course will allow us to create a plan to tackle the specific problems head-on, and give us a feeling of empowerment in a situation in which we felt we had little control. What our specific problems are will likely depend upon who we are and what’s going on in our lives at the time. Below are some examples of things to check in with yourself about, as they can commonly change the way we feel and behave.

  • It might sound obvious, condescending even, but with life moving at the speed of light many days, the first thing we tend to let go is taking care of ourselves. Eating heavy, unhealthy food that’s convenient may save us time, but it can take a real toll on our bodies and our minds. On the same note, while exercise can feel like a luxury to squeeze into our day, it can relieve stress and improve our moods. Without it, we may be lacking an outlet.
    • (Worth noting is that certain medications for various health issues can also affect our mood and our energy levels. Consult with your doctor if you feel this is happening for you.)
  • Again, this may sound obvious – but our bodies are programmed to function optimally in certain conditions. Some of us are especially sensitive to things like temperature, pain from uncomfortable furniture, etc. – and these might impact your mood as well if they persist over time.
  • Of course, stress is a fact of life. However, sometimes we get so “used to” having stress around that we forget how much of an impact it can have on us. If we have a particularly stressful job, deadlines coming up, a lot going on in our personal lives, or even vicariously experience stress due to someone we love going through a hard time – these will have an effect on us, and may make us feel “off” if we don’t intentionally relieve the stress periodically.
  • Can’t go an hour without checking your smartphone? Feel like you can’t get a minute to yourself, whether from the kids or your boss? Getting sucked into Netflix binges? These can all cause frustration and/or anxiety, which over time can drain us and deplete our ability to cope with what’s going on around us.
  • Triggers are stimuli in the present moment that cause us to think back to a hard time in our lives, because they remind us of something that we associate with it. For example, someone who was abused as a child may be triggered by the sound of someone yelling, if their abuser yelled at them. Although nothing may be wrong at the moment, a trigger can powerfully change our mood and thought process and make it harder for us to behave the way we usually do. If you’ve gone through a hard time, try to identify your triggers and have a plan for what to do when they come up.

As a Kensington MD therapist, I can say that taking stock of what factors are influencing you can bring you great insight into what’s making you feel “off” and act in ways that you don’t like. With awareness comes the ability to take care of yourself in the ways that you need at that time – whether that be engaging in meditation or yoga to relieve stress, giving yourself permission to take that run after work, or reminding yourself to “unplug” from electronics for one day this weekend.

What have you noticed can contribute to you not feeling like yourself? What have you done to make it better? Comment below!