We have all heard the airplane instruction to “apply the oxygen mask to yourself first before assisting a child or someone else in need.” And this makes sense, you can’t help others effectively unless you first take care of yourself. Unfortunately, this analogy falls short because it suggests putting self-care first is only appropriate when circumstances are dire. But making personal wellness your top priority is actually essential every day.
I prefer Dr. Andrew Weil’s analogy about the heart itself:
“Each time the heart beats, it first pumps blood to itself, then to the rest of the body. The same is true for us as human beings. We have to take care of ourselves first, so we can take care of others.”
If the very organ that sustains us feeds itself first, shouldn’t we follow this example? If we are going to stop feeling so stretched, out of patience, out of breath and out of balance, we must learn that self-care isn’t selfish and that personal wellness is a necessary practice so we can be there for others. So how do we do it? Take one action at a time.
7 Ways to Be Good to Yourself
Vanessa Loder in MindBodyGreen has a powerful list of 7 ways to be good to yourself that will help you refocus your energy on loving and nurturing yourself.
1. Take a 15-minute time out: When you start to feel maxxed out is precisely the time to take a break to regroup. Take a walk, have a cup of tea in the sunshine, read a chapter in a good book, meditate, or do nothing at all. Taking just a few minutes to regain perspective will be well worth it.
2. Just say no: Over-commitment has become a badge of honor, but the results of it are anything but. The stress of not completing all of the duties required or the damage it does to other higher priorities in your life will far out-weigh the benefits of being involved. So next time you feel the urge to volunteer for a committee or say yes to another social engagement, exercise your power to say no.
3. Cultivate leisure and play time: We’ve come to believe that if there is no purpose in an activity, it isn’t worthwhile. But many scientific studies have shown otherwise. Taking time to enjoy a hobby, like cooking or yoga, or playing a game with your spouse, child, or pet, can reinvigorate your life with simple joys.
4. Be patient with yourself: Habits take effort and time to change so don’t be discouraged if you slip into old patterns. Praise yourself for each step you take along your journey of greater self awareness and taking care of your needs. Focusing on positive self-talk and inner acceptance goes a long way.
5. Treat Yourself: It can be as simple as picking a few flowers and putting them in your favorite vase, or making yourself a refreshing smoothie. Find a way to say ‘I love you’ to yourself in some small way every day.
6. Connect and Share: There’s immense comfort and sanity in knowing you are not alone. You need to share your goals, struggles and triumphs. Actively cultivate community in person or online by finding people with similar interests or life stages. I have found a wonderfully encouraging community of Grokker enthusiasts who share and comment on favorite workout and cooking videos, and even expert yogis, trainers and chefs add comments and questions to videos, interact on forums and post about their accomplishments.
7. Use affirmation to change your inner script from “I’m selfish” to “I deserve this”: Whether you prefer affirmations or intentions, or even if you’re not sure of the difference, the key message here is to become aware of the little voice in your head and take conscious control of it. As Vanessa says in her article, “The subconscious mind likes rhymes. So the next time you are thinking of allowing your husband to clean up or do bedtime stories with the kids while you lie down with a good book, say to yourself, ‘I am taking care of me, guilt free,’ and then DO IT.”
Mike Robbins says, “True self-care is about honoring ourselves, caring for ourselves, nurturing ourselves, and loving ourselves — both for our own benefit and for the benefit of everyone around us. Self-care is fundamental to not only our personal well-being but also to our relationships with the people closest to us. It empowers us to be more available and generous with the people around us in an authentic way, while modeling to them how we want to be treated.” And if that isn’t enough, just read PsyBlog’s explanation of how easily stress is transferred between people, and you’ll see why taking care of yourself first is really the kindest thing you can do for everyone you love.
In honor of Women’s Health Week, pick one thing above you can do for yourself today and let it be a step towards greater personal wellness and an example to those around you of the value and worth you know you possess. You can even make a pledge to be a Well Woman and join women around the country in living longer, healthier, happier lives.
Tell us about your wellness journey in the forum. I’d love to hear from you.