Learning to put yourself first without guilt will lead to a happier, healthier, life.
It’s as simple as that.
How many things do you do each week, on a regular basis, that are just for you?
I bet I lost most of you by now. It’s time to change that.
As women, we learn to be caretakers. In fact, many of us are taught that putting ourselves before others is “selfish” or “self-centered”. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. I think of it like the oxygen masks on an airplane. Secure you own mask first before you try to help others. The airlines don’t say this because they believe self-care is the most important first step. They say it because if you put your own mask on, you’re more likely to be able to assist – and even save – other people.
Self-care works the same way.
By caring for yourself, you energize your mind and body and have more to give to those you love. Depriving yourself of care depletes you, leaving you empty with nothing to share with others.
How to get started prioritizing yourself
If you’re anything like me, the most difficult part of any change is getting started. I think about it, make lists, do research, then think some more. Taking the first step can feel overwhelming.
The trick is to keep it simple and start small.
Make yourself a priority in small ways to begin. Carve out a few minutes of your day that you set aside just for you. I started with 15 minutes on my treadmill each weekday morning after my husband left for work. It doesn’t sound like a lot but think about it. 15 minutes per weekday is an hour and 15 minutes every week. That’s 65 hours per year!! Think about what you can do in 65 hours.
Small increments add up.
Consider the consequences of doing nothing
Not prioritizing your own needs can have several negative results. Here’s a list of just a few:
- You can feel tired and depressed
- Your sleep routine may suffer
- Irritation and jealousy of others could interfere with your relationships
- Your health may suffer including increased potential for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes
- A lack of motivation may creep in resulting in less desire to even try to take care of yourself
- Stress levels will escalate
Every journey starts with a single step. Start small, tell your loved ones that you are working on self-care and some things will change for them, and commit to a routine.
Here are some additional tips to help you to prioritize you.
Organization will help you to find small windows of time to claim as your own. Write out your routine and identify things that you can stop doing, decrease, or hand off to others.
Taking care of yourself includes caring for your body. Eating well provides the right fuel to keep you going. Remember the old adage, “you are what you eat!”
Watch your alcohol and caffeine intake
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I love both! Unfortunately, as we age we become less able to handle either. They interfere with our sleep and can make us feel foggy, even cranky.
Get up and move
Note that I did not say “exercise”. I just said “move”. Activity, even small actions like walking around your house, get your blood flowing and more oxygen to your brain. It also stretches out your body and releases tension. Make yourself move throughout the day.
There, now I did say it!! Exercise is good (actually great) for your body and mind!
Create a firm nighttime cutoff
Set a time for yourself when you stop all work and relax. It could be 7:00PM, 9:00PM, even 11:00PM if you’re a late night persons. Pick a time that works for you and allows an opportunity for you to wind down before going to bed each night.
Make this a priority! After this time you should do no work, no housework, no TV, etc. It’s a way to ensure you have at least a few moments everyday when you disengage.
Get enough sleep
We all know the benefits of good sleep. You’ll feel well rested, think more clearly, and have better overall health. According to Web MD, poor sleep also leads to weight gain! But did you also know that it is good for your emotional well being? People who sleep well are happier and experience less stress than those who don’t.
Schedule your time
Mark your calendar with the time you set aside for yourself. Do it first, before you fit other things in.
Watch out for social media
You likely spend far more time on social media than you even realize. Get a social media timer app and put it on your phone. I did this and was horrified to learn how much time I wasted scrolling and strolling through social media. Horrified!!
Pull out a pencil and paper and write a description of yourself without mentioning your children, grandchildren, or job. Write a list of things you’d like to try, learn, and experience. Go back weekly and revise your description of yourself. Hone in on the person you are today and the one you’d like to be. If those are the same, great! If not, that’s okay. Take it one day at a time.
Find your passion
Identify a passion project you’d like to take on then do it.
Spend time in nature
“Being in nature is good for us. It can improve our physical and psychological health…When we’ve put people in [natural] environments, it decreases heart rate, decreases blood pressure, decreases stress cortisol, [and] improves psychological well-being.”Psychology Today Magazine
Stop doing other people’s work
You know what I’m talking about. You walk around your house or workplace and you see things that need to be done – laundry on the floor, toner cartridges empty, or unwashed dishes. These tasks are not your responsibility but you do them anyway, eating into time that you could use to focus on yourself. You’re afraid if you don’t do them, who will?
Let it go!
If they don’t get done, assuming it’s not a matter of life or limb, so what? Think it through, what is worse – the task not getting done or your blood pressure continuing to creep up due to lack of self care???
Lean into relationships
Part of prioritizing you is making sure your relationships are rewarding. Yet so many of us lose the ability to enjoy our loved ones because we are so focused on “taking care of” them. Lean into your relationships. Spend time with your spouse, friends, children and other family and friends. Visit them, talk with them, go for a walk. Just enjoy being with them.
Taking time to put yourself first without guilt doesn’t have to be impossible. Find small things you can do to start then increase over time. You will improve your life, your health, and your happiness. You’ll also become better able to share yourself with those you love!
For more ideas about staying social & engaged in midlife and beyond enjoy:
The Importance of Trying New Things in Midlife
Finding Perspective and Happiness in Midlife