We all know and understand the message of looking after ourselves first. Everything from the little reminder during airline safety videos to advice for first time mothers reminds us that you can’t help someone before making sure you’re safe yourself.
But it can be hard to stick to this. Most of us have someone we put at the same level as ourselves, if not before us in terms of wellbeing. All of us have at some point harmed our health by trying to care for someone else. It’s all well and good to say “look after yourself”, but when the time actually comes, all you want to do is give everything to your partner, child, friend, relative or pet. When we try and look after ourselves first we can feel guilty or worried.
So what are some ways we can take care of ourselves when really all we want to do is run around looking after other people?
1. Quiet corner.
This is first because it’s the very first thing you can do. Everything else comes in no particular order, but this is big. Find yourself a nice, quiet corner of the house to call your own and to make comfortable. Try and keep any stressful work away from it and make it pretty clear that it’s your territory and refuge. It doesn’t have to be a room. The bath, a comfy chair or even the garden could do. Wherever you are comfortable, happy and out of the way of household traffic.
2. Eat well.
Eating healthy is vital to looking after yourself. Make sure that you eat food that energizes you and refreshes you, avoid food that makes you sluggish or unwell and don’t eat too much or too little. Eat when you’re hungry and not just when you get the time. Drink plenty of fluids. Don’t let yourself get away with a diet you’d never feed someone else. You deserve as good and healthy a meal as anyone else.
Set a bedtime and stick to it as much as possible. Sure, you may get up to care for someone who is sick or to put a child back to bed, but in principle, lights out is lights out. Try and guarantee yourself a routine, some proper rest and some bedroom privacy.
4. Dress up.
Make yourself look nice every day. Maybe not dressing to the nines, but wear practical clothes you like seeing yourself in, sort your hair, put on a bit of jewelery, a dusting of makeup, get rid of hangnails and dirty hands. Seeing yourself looking good will boost your confidence and mood.
5. Have a treat.
Even if you’re making sure to eat really healthy, budget properly and stay focused, from time to time give yourself a treat. It doesn’t have to be something massive, expensive, extravagant or anything of the sort. But if you’re the sort of person who will, in a week, buy £20 of chocolate for a loved one and not allow themselves a boiled sweet for the entire seven days, you’ll understand when I say: it really isn’t that big of a deal. Have a little treat. Enjoy it.
6. Get a hobby.
Find something you can do that you love. It might be scrapbooking, painting, dancing, cooking, rappelling, sewing, anything. But find something you love and make a habit of doing it. Maybe you’ll go to a monthly book club or maybe you’ll set aside twenty minutes a day to garden. Whatever it is and however often, take some time to just be you and have fun.
No matter how healthy you’re eating, how well rested you are and how little time you have, try and find a few minutes a day to exercise. It will build your muscles, burn through fat, elevate your mood and get you fired up and ready for the next challenge. Maybe you can only manage a four minute emergency workout in the morning. Or maybe you have three hours a week to dedicate to jogging. Whatever it is, do it.
Just because you have your quiet space and bedtime doesn’t mean those are the only times and places you can relax. Sit down with the kids and read a book. Watch a film with your partner. Just soak in the bath. Do something once in a while to completely put your mind and body at ease.
9. Get out.
It can be very easy to get locked between work, home, shopping and any other closed spaces, like bars, clubs, gyms, restaurants or friends’ houses. But the great outdoors can help you in many ways. Just looking at plants can relax you, fresh air does a body good and sunlight provides life-giving Vitamin D. A brisk walk in the park once a week could make life so much easier.
Laughter being the best medicine is a commonly repeated and mocked expression. But, in reality, it does help. Laughter can provide pain relief, relax you, make you happy and boost your immune system. So find something comical, sit down and have a good laugh. Laugh even at the bad jokes, the inappropriate ones, the offensive ones, the ones you don’t like. Laugh more and you’ll feel better all round.
Do you think you look after yourself well? Or do you always put others first and yourself last? How do you look after yourself? How could you improve? Feel free to share.
TTFN and Happy Hunting!