Lately, you haven’t felt like yourself. Maybe you’re feeling extra anxious, a nervousness that’s taken up residence inside your stomach. Maybe you feel uncomfortable in your own skin. Maybe you’re experiencing a deep self-doubt, which you’ve never felt before. Maybe you feel disconnected from yourself.
Maybe you can’t pinpoint it. (Yet.) But all you know is that you feel off.*
Many people stop feeling like themselves after experiencing a major life event or major role change, said Dezryelle Arcieri, LMFT, a psychotherapist and yoga instructor in Seattle. Maybe you recently moved or started a new job. Maybe you just ended a relationship or got married. Maybe you had a baby or are grieving the loss of a loved one.
Another culprit is making decisions that aren’t in line with your values, habits and actions, said Marni Goldberg, LMFT, LPCC, a psychotherapist in La Jolla, Calif. Maybe you’ve started smoking or drinking more than usual. Maybe you’ve started spending time with a different group of people.
Similarly, our behavior can change after starting a new relationship. “You may say ‘yes’ to many things that you don’t want to do, stop speaking up about things that are important to you, or give up all your alone time to spend it with someone else, and the result could be a sense of losing yourself,” Goldberg said.
Even though feeling disconnected from yourself is uncomfortable, frustrating and disorienting, the good news is that there are many ways to reconnect—like the below tips.
When they don’t feel like themselves, some people rush to correct the distress they’re feeling. This can “lead to impulsive behaviors or rash decision-making that may be counter-productive,” Arcieri said. This might be anything from quitting your job to cashing out your retirement. Which is why she suggested starting with these grounding exercises to decrease any discomfort:
- Sit comfortably in a chair. Feel your sit bones in the chair. Feel the weight of your body. And feel yourself being supported by the chair. Next turn your attention to your feet. Notice how they feel inside your shoes. Wiggle your toes. Dig your heels into the ground. Notice the sensations in your feet and legs. Put your hands on your thighs. Gently squeeze and massage the tops of your thighs, and repeat to yourself, “These are my legs.” “Slowly turn your head side to side, scan the room, notice what or who you can see, mentally labeling all the things or people around you.”
- Label food in alphabetical order, such as: Apple, Burrito, Casserole, Donut, Éclair, French fries. Or think of a movie (such as “Titanic”). Then name another movie with the last letter of the initial movie (such as “Cars”), and keep going.
Arcieri suggested journaling to gain a deeper understanding of what’s causing the disconnect. For instance, examine what events precipitated you not feeling like yourself, she said.
She also suggested this prompt: “Describe or imagine a place where you feel safe and supported. What objects of comfort are present in this space? Is it indoor or outdoor? Who is with you in this safe space? What do you do in this safe space?”
Goldberg suggested reflecting on this question: “What is it about your thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors that has led you to feel like things are ‘off’ for you?” For instance, maybe you’ve started silencing yourself to please others. Maybe you’ve started doubting your work, which typically isn’t an issue for you. Maybe you’re feeling anxious because you agreed to do something you don’t want to do, she said.
This kind of self-reflection helps you to make thoughtful decisions about how you’d like to move forward.
Arcieri suggested turning to activities that help you feel like yourself. This might be cooking and reading. It might be practicing yoga and swimming laps. It might be maintaining a certain routine, such as waking up at 7 a.m., taking a 20-minute walk, meditating for a few minutes and eating breakfast while listening to your favorite music.
Getting Back to Basics
“When you notice that you’re feeling disconnected from yourself, it can be very helpful to get back to the basics,” Goldberg said. She suggested exploring what is most important to you, and making a list of your personal values and passions. (You can search for values checklists online.)
It’s also helpful to draw a balance wheel for a visual of what areas of your life might be out of balance, Goldberg said. Think of this wheel as a pie chart. Each slice represents a part of your life, such as family, work, spirituality and movement. Give each slice a percentage of the day that you’d like to spend on it. Compare where your current percentages are with where you’d like them to be. Finally, you can work on restructuring “your daily routine to include the things that are most important to you, and help you to feel grounded.”
Feeling disconnected from yourself is distressing. It is upsetting. Thankfully, you can reconnect. Try the above tips. If you’re still feeling this way, consider seeing a therapist.