What are the Signs of Lack of Self-Care? … First Step is Self-Awareness

Dr John Ng 5 min read

WHO estimates that 1 out of 4 people will develop some form of mental disorder at one stage or another in life. In Singapore, it is in 1 in 7.

450 million people generally suffer from mental disorders. Of these 154 millions suffer from depression. What is worrying is that these disorders are often subjected to social isolation, poor quality of life and increased mortality.

Whether you believe in God or not, our bodies have auto-warning functions to keep a check on us. Because our bodies and minds can only handle so much.

For example, sleep drive is your biological pressure to sleep. When you first wake up, it’s low, depending on the quality of your rest. If you have had a few bad nights, it can become so strong, it pushes you to sleep when the time isn’t right: In a meeting, while driving or caring for someone who matters to you.

The first step towards greater Self-Care is Self-Awareness. What must you be aware of?

    1. Frequent Illnesses: According to a study by the Singapore Health Promotion Board, 67% of Singaporeans have stress-related illness. In the past, whenever I over-stressed and have less sleep, my immune system is down and I find myself falling sick more frequently and more easily. If you find yourself popping more vitamins, drinking more Red Bulls or coffee to keep you going, then, this is one of the first warning signs. If you persist in this lifestyle, you will experience regular headaches, repeating body aches, or even recurring migraines.
    2. Sleep Deprivation and Insomnia: A study by Health Promotion Board shows that one out of three Singaporeans is losing sleep because of work. Sometimes, you feel you can do with less and less sleep. Don’t deceive yourself. It is just your body getting accustomed to it. Sleep deprivation has serious consequences like lack of alertness, loss of creativity and reduced productivity and performance at work. Drowsy driving causes 1 million crashes, 500,000 injuries, and 8,000 deaths each year in the U.S. I will talk more about sleep in another article.
  1. High Stress and Emotional Exhaustion: In the same study cited earlier, 1 out of 4 Singaporeans feels highly stressed at work. 60% of Singaporeans feel mental fatigue at work. Many times, before my heart attack, I really felt tired, stressed and mentally exhausted but I just ignored it I knew about it. But my adrenalin pushed me on.

How do I know? I was not as alert and sharp. I tend to brush it aside. I knew I was operating at most 70% capacity. The WFH situation  can aggravate our stress because we have to juggle between increased work demands and unrealistic family expectations.

  1. Anxiety and Burnout: Fortunately, I had not experienced that. I believe my heart attack was a warning sign. In the latest study, 74% of Singaporeans are anxious about economic issues, with a majority worrying about unemployment issues during this Covid-19 pandemic. These may include anxiety over job prospects, retrenchment, waning reserves, and family obligations.

An accountant was so afraid that he would be retrenched amid the Covid-19 pandemic that he could not concentrate at work, his productivity plummeted and he began to suffer from anxiety and insomnia. Here’s a self-assessment you can take to see if you are burning out.

  1. Substance Abuse and Addiction: Some people deal with their stress by smoking more and/or consuming alcohol excessively. Others rely on medication or drugs to keep them high and stay alert. They depend on drugs to reduce their anxieties. Of course, these abuses can lead to addictions, which will be hard to undo.


  1. Depression & Suicides: Unfortunately, I have a few friends, who had succumbed to depression. These people were so driven, so energetic and so passionate. One day they woke up feeling useless, feeling low energy and losing their sense of purpose. Like any rubber band, when it is over-stretched. It loses its elasticity. Some have taken their own lives as a result.

Unfortunately, we see the rise in suicide attempts and suicides among the dormitory workers due to prolonged periods of isolation, family issues and movement restrictions. I believe, if not managed, this worrying trend will worsen, affecting even other groups. Thankfully, the Singapore Government has taken serious steps to address these issues.

Which of these is affecting you? Next week, I will share with you why it is so difficult to do self-care, even though you see symptoms affecting you.

Dr John Ng
Chief Passionary Officer,
Meta Consulting

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