Taking Care of Yourself First
“Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our own needs first, then we can give from our surplus, our abundance.”- Jennifer Louden
“Physicians promise us that if we do not take time to be well, we most assuredly will take time later on to be ill.”- Jeffrey R. Holland
We hear all the time how we need to take of ourselves; how important it is to take care of our own selves before others. It’s easy to see this as selfish; however, it is not. By taking care of yourself, you allow yourself have more energy and compassion required to take care of others. When you are run down and exhausted, helping others becomes a chore and detrimental to your health.
The big question, however, is: How do I take care of myself? Unfortunately, like many answers in life, the answer to this question is different for everybody. Some things that help certain people calm down, stress others. So how can you figure out what self-care is for you?
First, you need to know the difference between self-care and self-indulgence. According to the article Self-care in a toxic world, self-indulgence “is characterized by avoidance of the effortful and substitution of quick and easy antidotes”. Have you ever come home from a long day at work and thought I’m going to sit on the couch, watch a movie, and eat this entire pint of ice cream? I have. I use the excuse that “I deserve this, today was a really hard day.” This is not self-care, this is self-indulgence. This is an easy antidote that may make you feel better in that moment, but not in the long term.
Self-care, according to this same article means “choosing behaviors that balance the effects of emotional and physical stressors: exercising, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep , practicing yoga or meditation or relaxation techniques, abstaining from substance abuse, pursuing creative outlets, engaging in psychotherapy. Also essential to self-care is learning to self-soothe or calm our physical and emotional distress.” By this definition, self-care is taking care of your needs in way that will help you long term.
So what are some ways we can practice this long-term self care? The blogpost, Don’t Forget Yourself: The Importance of Self Care , states “self-care only works when you listen to your body, and do what you want without resistance”. Listen to your body and figure out when it is telling you it needs a break. When your body needs a break and you ignore it and continue to try to keep working through it, you are less productive. Now, most of us can’t drop everything during work when our bodies tell us we need a break, so what can we do during this time? This same blog suggests taking 60 second breaks to do something different. Whether this is quickly reading about something you are interested in, looking at pictures of different places, or letting your mind wander, just find something that helps you relax for a bit. Do this about three times throughout your work day. You’ll be amazed with the results. Also, make sure that during your lunch break, you are away from your desk and doing something that is not work related.
When you are not at work, listen to your body and try doing whatever it wants in the moment. For example, if you feel like your body wants exercise, do some push-ups or go for a walk. If your body feels like it needs to rest, lay on the couch, listen to music, and read a book. Do what you have time for and make the time to help your body get what it needs.
Need some more specific ideas to try? The Youtube video, How To Practice Self Care, gives three ways to help your mind, body, and spirit. The first thing they suggest is to get 20 minutes of alone time. They suggest no phone, no computer, and no TV. Just time to be with yourself. Read a couple pages of a book, sit in the tub and listen to music, or meditate. This gives you time to connect with yourself and check in. Try relaxing for 20 minutes a day. The second thing they suggest is to always say yes to yourself. If someone asks you to do something, but you already have too much on your plate, say yes to yourself, by saying no to them. If you know you can help and want to say yes to yourself, by saying yes to them. Always make sure you are taking care of yourself first.The last thing they suggest is to be aware of what you are eating. We are what we eat. If we eat healthy we will have more energy. If we eat poorly, we will be more tired and slow.
Remember that self-care is not selfish or indulgent. It is needed. Help others by helping your self first.
“As with your automobile, be alert to rising temperatures, excessive speed, or a tank low on fuel. . . make the requisite adjustments. Fatigue is the common enemy of us all—so slow down, rest up, replenish, and refill.” -Jeffrey R. Holland