Unless you want major regrets when you’re older, stop ignoring these 8 wake-up calls

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It’s normal to feel some regret for what passes you by as you get older.

The best-laid plans go wrong, or we make decisions that don’t work out as we’d intended.

But, sometimes, our hopes and plans wither on the vine because we fail to take action that’s within our control.

And often when we look back in hindsight, we realize we ignored the red flags showing us that valuable opportunities were passing us by.

So to avoid having major regrets as you get older, it’s important to pay attention to the wake-up calls life is giving you.

Here are 8 of the most common:

1. Health scares.

Good health is one of the most important things you can bring with you as you get older.


Because everything else hinges on it. In particular, your quality of life.

Your body often sends you messages if you aren’t taking care of your health.

A lot of illnesses or health problems don’t just pop up overnight. Instead, they start as a small or inconsequential thing that slowly builds until it’s something you can no longer ignore.

Of course, that doesn’t mean your body will always send you messages, far from it. However, there are a lot of issues that could be prevented through proactive efforts and regular checkups.

Take type 2 diabetes, for example. Many people are diagnosed with pre-diabetes first or warned by a medical professional that they are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they do not make lifestyle changes immediately. This is a clear wake-up call to make a change before things worsen.

2. Chronic stress and burnout.

Are you feeling weary of work? Relationships? Life in general?

If you are, I don’t blame you. Life is stressful.

It can take a lot of energy and mental strength just to get through the day. And it’s only by topping up those energy reserves by doing things that replenish you that you can keep going.

Think about it in terms of an energy bank balance. There may be some days that are particularly stressful or busy when you withdraw more energy than you deposit.

You might be able to sustain that for a week or two, so long as you then have a decent period where you do things that deposit a lot of energy back into your account.

But if you’re constantly withdrawing more energy than you’re putting in, your account is eventually going to get overdrawn, or worse. You’re then left with nothing to withdraw.

This is burnout.

You may be chronically exhausted, unable to do even basic care tasks, and physically unable to get out of bed. The only thing that will fix burnout is rest and a complete reduction or removal of demands.

It’s hugely disruptive and can take months or longer to recover.

So keep an eye out for feelings of chronic exhaustion, persistent stress, and anxiety. These are signs you are burning through your physical, mental, and emotional fuel and you need to take action to replenish your energy supplies and keep them topped up going forward.

3. Dwelling on unresolved issues.

A lack of closure often causes regrets because you are left forever searching for answers.

In life, you may find yourself in a difficult situation where things don’t go the way you had hoped but you don’t know why.

In a best-case scenario, you’d experience that difficult situation, work through the hard times, and then come out the other side with a deeper understanding and a resolution.

But we don’t always get the answers we’d hoped for, or even any answers at all. Getting closure from a difficult situation can be a luxury rather than a certainty.

Sometimes, you have to find closure for yourself by accepting the unknown.

If you find yourself often dwelling on issues that happened long ago and it’s stopping you from moving on and living a happy life now, this is a warning sign you should pay attention to. 

If you can’t find closure on your own, you may want to reach out to a therapist to help.

4. Declining social connections.

Relationships are so important throughout life, but it’s often as you get older, that you inevitably start losing people to life circumstances.

You may grow apart as life takes you in different directions. Marriage, kids, and careers all command a lot of time and attention. And of course, as time moves on, friends, acquaintances, and loved ones pass away.

Unless you’re a solitary creature who has always preferred to be on your own, it’s important not to let your social connections dissolve.

You may have family and/or a busy work schedule now which keeps you occupied and amused, but things change. Kids move out, careers end, parents age and relationships can break down.

If you don’t put the effort into maintaining your friendships they can easily dwindle to nothing, and then when you need those connections the most, they’re no longer there.

Friendships can be difficult to re-establish once they’re gone, so it’s important to heed the warning signs when you notice them.

5. People expressing concern for your well-being.

We don’t always have clear insight into ourselves or the way we’re living.

Sometimes, it takes a third-party perspective to identify that something is wrong and needs to change.

That’s why it’s so important to seriously consider other people’s opinions when they express concern for your well-being.

They may be seeing something you’re not and they’re trying to warn you.

Take a change in your behavior or personality, for example. This can often be a sign of stress or other health conditions, both physical and mental.

We often don’t notice changes in our behavior or personality, either because it’s just something that shifts inside us, or because we’re unconsciously suppressing it.

But to other people, it may be glaringly obvious, and their observations could be wake-up calls that shouldn’t be ignored.

6. Unhealthy coping skills.

The way you cope with the difficulties of life often lays the foundation for your future well-being.

For example, if you’re facing a difficult time and you turn to the bottle to numb yourself instead of dealing with the emotions, you may continue to take that path instead of confronting the issue.

In that scenario, not only do you still have to deal with the problem and any issues of regret, but you also have to deal with whatever negative effects the alcohol brings.

You may not consider yourself to have a dependence, but using drink, or any unhealthy coping strategy, to deal with or bury your problems, is a serious issue that causes many physical and mental health problems that you may overlook until it’s too late.

So take an inventory of your coping skills. Are they healthy? Do they help you to face up to and work through the difficult things you experience, or do you use them to ignore or bury your problems?

If most of your coping skills are the latter, let this be your wake-up call.

A lack of healthy coping skills is a warning. It means you’re either not dealing with issues or you’re dealing with them in a way that will cause you more problems than resolutions.

7. Persistent regret.

This one may seem a little obvious. If you’re living a life full of continuous regrets, it stands to reason you’re going to experience some pretty major regret when you get older.

Of course, it’s normal to have a few regrets and look back on things you could have done better. None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes.

But it’s not healthy to dwell on those mistakes and persistently regret the choices you make—or don’t make—to the point where it negatively affects your emotions and mental health.

If you find yourself constantly regretting things you’ve done or haven’t done, or you’re constantly feeling bad about your behaviors and actions, it’s a warning sign you should take seriously.

It could be that you are making poor life choices and you need to change. Or perhaps you struggle with decision paralysis and overwhelm which leads you to avoid taking any action, leading to missed opportunities.

Or maybe the choices you are making are just fine, but whatever you do, you find yourself dissatisfied and wondering whether the grass might have been greener had you made a different choice.

Whatever the reason for these persistent regrets, you may find it beneficial to work through it with a therapist to break the pattern before it’s too late.

8. Feeling a lack of purpose or fulfillment.

A lack of fulfillment or purpose in your life often points to a much larger issue.

Typically, it means you aren’t pursuing or accomplishing your goals and dreams.

Accomplishing a goal often provides fulfillment because you’ve completed something that makes you feel good.

Often it’s not even the achievement that provides the most fulfillment, but the pursuit itself.

If you’re not setting yourself goals, you’re denying yourself the opportunity to feel that sense of pursuit and progress.

The need for fulfillment and purpose is natural. Most of us set goals, big and small, every day without even realizing that’s what we’re doing. They motivate us to get up and get things done, and give us something to look forward to or work towards.

If you’re feeling aimless or like you’re lacking direction, this is a wake-up call.

Setting yourself little challenges or tasks to achieve each day, week, month, year, etc., and working towards them can start you out on the path toward purpose.

That’s got to be better than waking up 10 years from now feeling regret and despair about a life unfulfilled.

About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.