Learning how to put yourself first sounds easier than it is. Our culture tends to reward selflessness, and most of us feel guilty about prioritizing our own needs over those of other people.
However, never looking out for yourself is a fast-track path to burnout. Let’s take a look at little ways you can adjust your thinking to look after number one, and those situations where it is necessary.
How to Put Yourself First?
With so many pressures and responsibilities in our busy modern lives, here are some simple ways to ensure your self-care doesn’t sit on the back burner:
1. Take Time to Connect With Yourself
It is all too easy to rush headlong into every day and forget to take a moment to stop and think. If you are a people pleaser, you probably automatically agree to whatever is asked of you, without considering whether it is detrimental to you.
Being mindful is all about being in the moment, and taking stock of how you feel both physically and mentally. If you are serious about your long-term health, it is vital to decide when you have reached your limits, and be able to identify when you are not feeling at your best.
Should you be asked to help out at an event, pick up an extra shift, or do a ‘quick’ favor for a friend, take a moment before you say yes. If you are feeling tired, run-down, or experiencing a few aches and pains, it might be time to say no.
2. Manage Your Own Time
Our time is our own, but sometimes we forget that WE control what we do with each day. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to – within reason – and acknowledging the value of your time is important to be able to put yourself first.
Map out your plans for the day, and prioritize those things that hold great value for you. Don’t be tempted to cross out the long hot bath you have been looking forward to, or postpone your hair appointment till next week because other last-minute tasks crop up.
Taking care of yourself puts you in a better position to give time, energy, and support when it is needed. Make sure that you place as much value on allocating time to your own needs, as you do on using it to carry out duties for other people.
3. Say No and Mean It
We all want to say yes – yes, we can help; yes, we are here for you; yes, I can do that for you. It becomes a habit, whereby we are the fall-back for every friend and colleague who needs a helping hand.
It is great to be able to offer people your support and to be regarded as the kind of person who is willing and able to help out when they are needed. However, if you always say yes, you establish a pattern of behavior that becomes hard to break away from. If you don’t have the time, then say so! If you don’t feel comfortable with something that is being asked of you, allow yourself to say no!
You don’t need to say yes every time to be a good friend, and maintaining the importance of your boundaries will mean that when you do say yes, you mean it.
When Is It Necessary to Put Yourself First?
There are some situations where it is less about boundaries, and more about the vital need to look after your needs.
1. When you are feeling run down
If you are tired, burning out, or feeling the stress mounting up, now is the time you need to stop looking out for others and start concentrating on yourself. Stress causes no end of physical and mental health issues and ignoring it will not solve the problem.
2. When you feel taken for granted
Being helpful feels great, but if you feel that your kindness is being manipulated or your efforts are taken as a given, you need to put up your boundaries. Feeling unappreciated could make you resentful of those times when you do help out, and damage your relationships in the long run.
3. When you are experiencing aches and pains
Our bodies will always let us know when it is time to slow down. Little niggles are easy to ignore, but they could be a symptom of a potentially more serious problem. Slow down, give yourself time to recuperate, and you will be fighting fit next time your help is needed.
4. When you aren’t setting the example you would like to
Albert Schweitzer said that ‘example is not the main thing influencing others, it is the only thing’. If you feel that you are constantly rushing around and not taking any time for yourself, your children will see this as the norm. Teaching our kids about self-care is important for their development, so if you don’t feel like you are showing them the value of putting themselves first, perhaps take a step back – and explain to them why.
5. When you are neglecting your relationships
If your spouse, partner, or family are starting to feel ignored, it is time to evaluate how you allocate your time and make sure that you take care of your relationships with those closest to you before you consider anything else. Your closest family matter more to you than any other commitment, so if they are feeling left out of your busy schedule, decide to prioritize with your own needs in mind.
We have all heard the phrase ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’, and it remains true. Putting yourself first is not selfish; it is essential self-care to make sure that you meet your own needs and keep your health in check before committing to anything else that takes away from it.
Spending a little time on self-care along with knowing when you need to put yourself first makes you a healthier, happier person – and all the more capable of being a great friend, partner, and colleague when you are needed.
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