Health & Wellness Articles

Put Yourself First

Reach Other Goals by Starting With Your Self

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You’re a parent, school volunteer, Little League coach, and trusted assistant to your boss. You’ve been up since 6 a.m., made breakfast, packed lunches, cleaned the house, chauffeured the neighborhood kids, helped with homework, read bedtime stories, and finished extra work from the office.It’s 11:30.You’re exhausted.And, in about six-and-a-half hours you’ll begin the whole 24-hour cycle…again.

If you find yourself saying ‘Stop the merry-go-round, I want to get off!’ you’re not alone. Most of us—especially women, but men too (hey, there are reasons that men die younger than women)—have at some time found ourselves at the bottom of the heap when it comes to taking care of our needs.

The problem with that is that if we don’t take care of ourselves, sooner or later we won’t be of much use to anyone else—or to ourselves. Just as the airline attendant tells you to put on your own oxygen mask in an emergency before helping a child with theirs, you must take care of your own basic needs before you can attend to the needs of others. What’s more, being busy is not necessarily the same as being productive with meaningful activity. (Do the workaholics you know really accomplish that much more in proportion to the time they invest?)

If “putting yourself first” (a common admonition) sounds too selfish or too hard, try something simpler: put yourself on an equal footing with those you love and tend to. Do you insist that they get enough sleep? Start making that a priority for yourself too. Do you give them time for fun and socializing with friends? Then you do the same! Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: human beings must meet their basic needs before they can move on to higher-level goals. Since most of us already know that we should take care of ourselves—but often have trouble figuring out how to do it, here are some guidelines for getting there:
  • Preserve your physical health with adequate sleep, exercise, and nutrition.
  • Value your emotional health as much as the physical, with a support system of friends and a willingness to laugh—especially at yourself.
  • Schedule fun activities on a regular basis—it’s just as important to plan pleasure as it is to plan work.
  • Identify “busy behaviors” (or people) that drain your time and energy but aren’t really important, then dump ‘em, or at least minimize their hold on you.
  • Kill two birds with one stone, combining family time with exercise, for example, which benefits everyone involved.
  • Try to look at the problems in your life with new eyes to find solutions. If you’re a new mom, for instance, see if you can trade childcare with another new mom to get some time for yourself.
  • Learn to say “No!” Your “yes” is valuable and should not be automatic. Instead, reserve it for the things that are most important to you.
  • Don’t try to change every problem area in your life all at once. Start with one or two items, then expand as you get things under control.
Your life should be like a checking account, balancing out on a regular basis so that you always have assets to draw upon. By making even small deposits—taking care of yourself with a 10-minute walk or a nutritious meal—you’ll be amazed at the interest you’ll reap.
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About The Author

Rebecca Pratt Rebecca Pratt
A freelance writer who contributes to various newspapers and magazines, Becky loves covering ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Member Comments

  • Thanks for the birthday wish, the article on take time for ME! every one must take time no matter what or burn out can happen. I was a good one for not being able to say no when I was asked to volunteer when my daughter's were young, I never took the time for me. Now that I am retired I am really enjoying my time, I also live one day at a time, I am able to let go of issues that I cannot control that happen yesterday if they need attention I resolve it, and tomorrow may never be mine. I enjoy every precious moment in a day, when I meet some I like to share if they want to talk socializing is great. I love to eat well and try to get some kind of exercise in at least 4 times a week. - 3/30/2016 4:53:45 PM
  • ROSEMARY957
    Thank You for the birthday wish, I am now on this sight again. i started this sight when it was the older sight, and got used to it and when it changed. I got confused and stopped using it. Now I am back. I have bought a fitbit and am again putting myself first.
    Rosemry957 - 3/15/2016 8:53:17 AM
  • Thank you for my birthday wishes and the article on putting yourself first! I really appreciate it. I am turning 66- and I have seen more days in the past than I will see in the future. That is ok- I am purposefully living the remainder of my days with intention and a healthy lifestyle.
    I know that I will be passing someday into Eternal Life with My Creator. I don't want to rush the process for sure. - 2/20/2016 4:16:07 PM
  • KEVBROW
    Thank you for the Birthday wishes, I am having a relaxing day after reaching 71. After loosing 2st in last 4 months, have hit a virtual brick wall but am sure I will be back on track before Xmas
    Merry Christmas all - 11/26/2015 11:42:04 AM
  • Thank you for the birthday wishes. It is my 70th and I'm celebrating by having my annual mammogram and a bone density test. Then I'm going to follow Dick Van Dyke's advice and KEEP MOVING! I'm looking forward to a better year. - 10/20/2015 1:34:48 AM
  • WILLIAMHJ
    Thank you! Your Birthday wishes brightened me up - and gave me good advice. Today, I became 66 (not old by many standards), but became aware of time passing and losing contact with so many I knew. I live alone and have no family, but your message to look after myself has given me new hope for the next year. Since retirement earlier this year, I have taken the plunge to join two gyms and am careful what I eat. My weight is slowly dropping (have lost over 4 Kg/9 lbs) in the last three months and am so glad for the encouragement of Sparkpeople and its members. My Practice Nurse tells me how Spiritual I've become recently. Birthdays can be such awkward moments, but my new motto is now Onwards and Upwards and am looking forward to my new year. To all who share my Birthday, I hope you make the most of the day and enjoy your new milestone. - 10/19/2015 5:41:08 AM
  • SPIKEVOLLEY
    Thank you, feeling a little lonely this morning on my BD, but sometimes just relaxing by yourself is the best rest. - 10/18/2015 8:26:28 AM
  • MICHAELLEARNS
    Being mindful is an important part of any undertaking. One becomes aware of his/her surrounding; his next actions, imminent danger or upcoming accomplishment. I'm sure your reader will benefit from this, too. http://bit.ly/min
    dful_people - 7/30/2015 11:58:30 AM
  • Thanks for the birthday greeting! I recommend everyone take your day of birth off work and plan something you enjoy!!! It is a very special date. - 7/22/2015 8:54:51 PM
  • SKABIZ0
    Thank you so much for the Birthday wish and the message about putting yourself first. I, too, had talked myself out of doing something special for myself today. - 6/20/2015 10:31:46 AM
  • NINABORT
    Thanks for Birthday Sparks...Your words and subjects are inspiring. Great thoughts to build upon. - 4/15/2015 11:51:25 AM
  • BQUEEN57
    Thank you for the Birthday wishes! - 3/16/2015 4:19:26 PM
  • DARKANDLOVELY7
    Thank you for the birthday wishes. - 3/2/2015 6:00:35 AM
  • ISETTE1
    thank you for my birthday message =) - 11/6/2014 4:44:13 AM
  • DEBBYD49
    Thank you for the birthday card and messages to help me take time for ME! - 11/3/2014 8:58:29 AM

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