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  • Teresa McKee

Prioritizing Self-Care

Take a moment to think about all the roles you have each day: parent, employee, student, caregiver, spouse, etc. The demands that others can place on our time and energy can be great. And of course we are going to do our best to care and meet the needs of others but sometimes when we are constantly striving to be our very best selves, it’s not uncommon to run ourselves into the ground. It’s no wonder we feel drained, overwhelmed, and exhausted. No matter how often someone tells you to “put your own oxygen mask on” before helping others, putting yourself first is tough. Let’s face it, prioritizing yourself was probably a challenge in 2018 and 2019. Now we need to do it Post-2020? It’s almost laughable. How do you put yourself first when it feels like you’re living through multiple disasters? The short answer: It’s hard but necessary.

If you’re struggling with prioritizing self-care, it’s helpful to start by asking yourself “why?” If you’re a parent or caregiver, the root of your hesitation might be a loved one who requires care and attention. But often—whether you are a caregiver or just, you know, an adult human—it’s more complicated than one person or relationship. You might have gendered expectations (e.g. “good women put other people first”) that make it hard to prioritize yourself. There might also be cultural norms around hard work (e.g., rest is equivalent to laziness) or specific family ideals around showing up for one another (e.g. “love means never saying no”).

These beliefs can make it harder to be unapologetic about your needs and desires. So if putting yourself first feels even slightly unpleasant, please know that you’re not alone. Journaling can help you manage your guilt or other feelings you may have. Also, cultivating a community that wants what you want for yourself can help you hold yourself accountable when it comes to putting yourself first.

Self-care is not a reward. It’s a vital piece of the ongoing process of being a human. Neglecting to care for our physical and mental needs is a recipe for anxiety, depression, anger, and health issues. It’s important to recognize that it is okay to take care of yourself. It’s actually not just okay, it’s smart to do so! There are several benefits to prioritizing self-care. Investing time in your own care can have a major impact on your mood, leading to greater optimism and positivity. It will help you to feel happier, more satisfied, and better able to cope with the challenges that life throws you. Even taking five minutes per day to nurture your physical, emotional, and mental health can be hugely beneficial to your mood.

Self-care helps you to be the best person you can be, which in turn has a positive impact on your relationships. Taking regular time to invest in your personal health allows you to be happier and more stable as an individual. This has a domino effect as it allows you to be more patient and accommodating with others and therefore have better relationships. Self-care also helps prevent burnout, reduces the negative psychological and physical effects of stress, and helps you refocus on what is true and important. Stepping away completely by getting out of town can help you recharge and come back to work with renewed energy. Even a staycation spent focusing on a hobby or home project can help you fight off burnout and reduce stress. It may seem counterintuitive, but setting time aside for yourself makes you more productive, not less. Remember you are a human being and that is enough to warrant compassion and kindness towards yourself.

As humans we are not all the same so one self-care action may not be as effective for you as it is for others. At next week’s webinar we will explore different practices that may work for you. Whether you decide you want to go for a long walk, take a hot bath, or enjoy a good movie with friends, taking self-care time is imperative. Look for small ways you can incorporate it into everyday life; for example, you might wake up 15 minutes earlier to sit with a cup of tea and practice deep breathing before the chaos of the day begins, or you might take a walk around the block on your lunch break. The more you can work self-care time into your schedule, the better you’ll be able to grow, enjoy your life, and thrive.


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