Put Yourself First

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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Member Comments

Absolutely! Report
Interesting Thank you Report
It is like breathing the oxygen first after a plane wreck. Report
thank you Report
I will learn to say no Report
You musttttt Report
Reading this was just at the right timing. I really struggle with self about taking time away from quite a bit of family responsibilities to go with sisters to stay in a cabin on top of Tenn mountain for 8 days. I agreed due to might not get another chance. This was a quiet, easy flow stay in cabin for day or go into town to stroll about the sights. Not getting on blasted productive thing finished or worked on. Did take my weights to exercise. Spent evenings learning to play Dominos. Discovered it was a nice way to be with them. By the way. Is there such a term used in that game as, "Why you Domino Wh_ _ _!" Other sister was howling with laughter. Report
it's just me most of the time but still needed to think about this Report
Mothers have a hard time "Putting themselves first" Report
TOMATOCAFEGAL
HArd to do at times. Learning and achieving positive goals though. Report
MUSICNUT
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Putting myself first is something I need to work on. Report
Thank you! Report
thank you Report
Thanks Report


 

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.