Hillel says “If I am not for myself who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I?” In other words, we have an obligation to take care of our world, our community, and our family, but it is also appropriate to take care of ourselves. As the New Year approaches, and many of us think about resolutions for 2017, I loved a short article by Karen Baskin on the meQuilibrium website called 5 Ways (and Whys) to Put Yourself First and have excerpted it below.
We know that most of us have more things to do than there are hours in the day. And we often only stop to re-charge when there is something special going on.Though it may be hard to make time to put ourselves first, doing so has a long term payoff. It keeps us healthy, makes us happier, reduces anxiety and depression, and increases our ability to bounce back when things get tough.
Karen Baskin recommended trying the following five ways for making your well-being a top priority:
- Sleep Purposefully. Sleep is the foundation of wellbeing … it’s pivotal for stamina, health, mental focus, and emotion regulation. Take simple steps towards better sleep like setting a regular bedtime, making your bedroom a sleep-only zone (no devices), and keeping your space quiet and dark. Having trouble falling asleep due to anxiety? Create a sleep mantra, like “Things always look better in the light of day” or “None of my problems are so big that they can’t wait until tomorrow.” Try keeping a journal by your bedside to collect any thoughts that would otherwise keep you up at night.
2. Check in with your self-talk: We get mixed messages about self-care. The media tells us that we should eat healthy food, exercise, and be mindful, but also buy tons of products to better ourselves because we’re not yet good enough. No matter how much you go through the motions of self-care, if your head’s not in it, you won’t feel the full effects. That’s why it’s important to cheer yourself on—remind yourself that self-care is a work in progress, and don’t beat yourself up for not being in that “zen” state of mind yet. Any step you take today is a step in the right direction.
3. Get Active. Who can work out when there’s work to be done? The trick is to find simple ways to weave activity into your life. You don’t need to train for a marathon: Do small things every day that keep you moving. Schedule time for an activity you enjoy. Be kind to yourself and start small. You’re more likely to keep at it if you maintain manageable goals. If you’re just starting out, aim for 30 minutes, three times a week. Finally, set a specific benchmark: Instead of something sweeping like, “I want to get fit,” focus on a precise goal, such as, “This week, I’ll take three walks before lunch.”
4. Journal: It sounds simple, or maybe tedious. Many of us ditched the diary after junior high. But there are serious health benefits to getting your thoughts down on paper. The APA found that while venting to a friend or family member can be a release, it doesn’t measure up to the benefits of writing. People who keep a journal cope better with trauma, daily stress, and even have better immune systems!
5. Advocate for Yourself: Whether it’s to your boss, to your friends, or to that inner voice in your head that’s pushing for a late-night email check instead of going to sleep, stand up for what you need and deserve. Only you have the power to know what’s best for you. Making yourself a priority means checking in with what you deserve—and making sure that you’re getting it. The more you honor that voice in your head that wants what’s best for you, the more you’ll convince yourself that you are worthy of respect and care, and the more others will start treating you as such. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Kara Baskin is a Boston-based journalist who writes about food, health, wellbeing, and lifestyle for The Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Women’s Health, and AARP’s Life Reimagined. She’s also the author of “Size Matters: The Hard Facts About Male Sexuality That Every Woman Should Know” (Random House). Find her on Twitter @kcbaskin