what are your red flags?

Often, we are encouraged to look at red flags in others. What is this person doing or saying that doesn’t align with me, my values, my perspective? What are the things that others do, whether intentionally or not, that make me feel angry, frustrated, anxious, sad?

Over the past couple of years, a huge part of this journey that I’m on has been recognising my red flags, for me. What are the things that I do which create environments I don’t want to be in? We all have a part to play in our lives, we all have choices that we make that contribute to the surroundings we find ourselves in. When in a conflicting situation, it is difficult to look at yourself and not default only to pointing and blaming. Being able to step back to gain some perspective is, of course, needed in a one-on-one conflict, but how do we recognise our own spirals? How do we take responsibility for ourselves in those moments?

Even with the best of intentions, the greatest of plans, the many written coping strategies, we can get pushed off kilter – by others, but also by ourselves. This last month has been a very off-kilter one for me. I ended last year not knowing if I’d have any work at the beginning of this year so I said yes to too much and ended up back in a stressful cycle that was sapping me of joy. Despite having projects to work on that I really love and enjoy, there wasn’t any space to breathe between them. Since the world ‘reopened’ post-pandemic I’ve been monitoring myself and finding my Red Flags. The moments that show me I’m slipping – to note them down, recognise them, not be afraid of them and begin to rectify them – whatever that looks like.

Mine are:

  1. Getting disorganised. I’m generally a pretty organised person so when I start forgetting things I know there’s too much in my brain
  2. Insomnia. Closely followed by the scattiness is the departure of a full night’s sleep as I start remembering things I forgot at 4am
  3. Too much coffee. Starting a new day without enough sleep the day before I start hitting the coffee hard even though after my third, there’s no more caffeine kicking in
  4. Stomach pit. Starting to get overwhelmed the discomfort starts gathering in my stomach as a pit of despair
  5. My back goes – in one way or another – telling me it’s time to slow down. This time it came in a neck crick which wouldn’t go away, I left it for a week until I gave in. When I finally went to the chiropractor, he told me my central nervous system wasn’t regulating and my body was stuck in fight or flight mode.

When I see these red flags flare up, I know it’s time to stop, take a step back and reassess to get back on track. I’m learning music production at the moment and a key message I’m learning is to strip back before adding more and it’s something that I’m applying to all areas of my life. Strip back so you can add with intention, and with a plan. I recently read this article by Emma Gannon about the trap of always thinking we need more. I’ve constantly got ideas, always want to learn and challenge myself but sometimes, too much is exactly that – too much.

When you’re living a self-employed life and you are the linchpin to your own success, it can feel hard to stop. Hard to not say yes to things. Hard to not fall into career FOMO (fear of missing out). The challenge for me is to allow myself to be truly and present and thankful for the incredible projects I work on because I’ve also allowed myself time to rest and reset.

If you struggle with overwhelm and/or taking on too much, I encourage you to keep an eye out for your red flags. Where do they show up? What do they feel like? How did you get there? When they last flared up, how did you get back on track?

Life is ups and downs, it’s natural – can’t have the highs if we don’t have some low’s. How we recover from those low’s is what matters.

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