Intelligent Self-Care; Putting Yourself First
When was the last time you put yourself first, in any given situation? If you’re like the majority of people, it’s probably been awhile. We tend to get caught up in the rush of a busy life and leave very little time to focus on our own self-care. Between work, family, and kids it seems like there’s rarely a moment to breathe, let alone do anything simply to make ourselves feel good. When you make time for everything and everyone else, but leave no time for yourself, it will eventually leave you feeling depleted and empty. Self-care is an important component in your overall health – mental and physical – and it’s important that you find ways to make it a priority, no matter how busy you are.
The good news is, there are several ways that you can adopt healthier habits and start putting yourself first for once (and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time). Here are 25 simple ways that you can begin putting yourself first and make self-care a top priority – let’s dig in!
- Practice Self-Reflection: Getting in touch with who you really are and what you want is a great way to begin making self-care a priority. Self-reflection gives you the opportunity to really evaluate your life – your thoughts, choices, attitudes and behaviors that have brought you to your current situation. If you’ve been putting self-care on the backburner, you could start to ask yourself questions like, “What is a choice I can make this week based on my needs alone,” or “How can I be more intentional with my time today?” You don’t have to spend a lot of time on this – 5 to 10 minutes a day is all you need to start. Once you begin reflecting on what is really important to you, making yourself a priority will be a much easier process.
- Say No: Setting boundaries and learning to say no more often is probably one of the best things you could ever do. It allows you to get back in the driver’s seat and have more control over your own life. We often say we don’t have time for self-care because we are so busy, however, that’s only because we’ve said yes to everyone else’s demands. Instead of filling up your schedule in this way, start saying no to mundane tasks and leave more time for what you really want to do. You’ll start to see that you do have time to read that book or see that movie or take a much-needed bubble bath. No is a full sentence and it works wonders on helping you make self-care a priority in your life.
- Take a 15-minute walk: Making the time to take a walk every single day is one of the simplest ways to prioritize self-care in your busy life. It’s a great way to reduce stress, lighten your mood and just make you feel better. Plus, walking is a natural energy booster – no caffeine needed. Take 10-15 minutes out of your day to step outside and breathe some fresh air. Without your phone. Taking a digital time out during your daily walk allows you to be more in touch with your thoughts. You give yourself the opportunity to be fully present and notice things you would have otherwise missed while scrolling mindlessly through your phone.
- Spoil Yourself: How often do you neglect your own needs, because you’re too busy saying yes to everyone else? Probably too often. It’s time to start saying yes to a little indulgence once in a while just for fun. It doesn’t have to be anything that breaks the bank – just take a little time out for YOU. Treat yourself to a good book or a relaxing massage. Buy yourself your favorite snack and eat it with zero guilt. Take a short road trip and explore someplace you’ve always wanted to go. Try a bold new lipstick. Blast your favorite music and have a dance party in the kitchen. Put your needs first for once and make spoiling yourself a priority.
- Learn Something New: You should never get to a point where you stop learning, especially with the unlimited number of resources at our fingertips today. Plus, giving yourself the gift of knowledge is one of the best things you can do. What is something you’d like to learn? Write out a list of things that interest you and research online courses, books, videos, etc, that will allow you to expand your knowledge on that given topic. Maybe you want to learn more about the Civil War or begin hand-lettering things for an Etsy shop. Whatever it is, you can find a course out there and start learning something new today.
- Social Media Detox: Technology has become our lifeline to the world. We rarely spend a moment without our phones and mindlessly scroll social media to fill up our time. In fact, we tend to spend more time scrolling through the highlights of other people’s lives than we do on our own self-care. It’s time to put down your phone for once. Take a break from social media and allow yourself to be fully present. Take note of how much time you spend on social media each day. Set boundaries – only allow yourself to check social media at certain times of the day. Turn off your notifications. Schedule downtime on your phone so you won’t be tempted to peek. Social media addiction is a very real thing and can negatively affect your mental and physical wellbeing.
- Spend Time Alone: On the flip side of the coin, spending time alone is important when prioritizing self-care in your life. We all need it. Life is hectic and we rarely give ourselves a moment to slow down and recharge, let alone be by ourselves when doing so. When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, on edge and anxious, you need to reflect on what your body may be telling you. Spending even a small amount of time alone each day can help clear your head and relax your mind. It allows you to be present with your own thoughts so you can tune in to what you truly want and need.
- Journal Your Thoughts: Pick up a notebook and pen and start getting real with your thoughts. We don’t spend nearly enough time doing this. Our minds become cluttered with the chaos of daily life and we lose touch with ourselves in the process. Start your day with a quick journal entry. Let your random thoughts fly on the pages and let go of the idea that it has to be perfect. Write down your wins, your worries, your mess ups and everything in between. Start each day with a clear head – you’ll feel so much better when you do.
- Plan Your Meals: Meal planning is a great way to get organized in the kitchen. It takes the stress out of wondering what’s for dinner and can also save big bucks on the grocery bill. Pick one day a week to plan out your meals, make a grocery list and go shopping. When you already have a list in hand, you won’t be tempted to throw random things in the cart as you walk the aisles. You’ll also be more likely to make healthier choices when you plan ahead and know what you’re going for. It takes the guesswork out of mealtime and gives you much more control over your health and nutrition.
- Get Organized: A great way to fully immerse yourself into the self-care zone, is to organize your mental and physical space. Organization is, after all, a form of self-care because it gives you peace of mind, decreases stress and allows you to spend time on things OTHER than more organizing. Start by prioritizing what really deserves a place on your overall to-do list. Do a mental brain dump. Clean out junk drawers. Purge your closets. Toss out broken toys or donate unused household items. Unsubscribe from email lists. Start a budget. Make your bed. Set out clothing the night before. By getting organized now, you allow yourself more time for self-care and less time to get distracted by random clutter.
- Create a Vision Board: There is nothing more therapeutic than taking time to envision all the amazing things you want out of life – and then putting it on paper where you can reflect on it every single day. Creating a vision board is a great way to get more in touch with the things that are truly important to you. It gets your wheels spinning about how you can improve yourself, inside and out and helps you envision your future in a more positive light. It’s about bringing those wants, needs, hopes and dreams to the surface and putting out an intentional affirmation that you believe in yourself enough to achieve them.
- Take a Road Trip: When was the last time you offered yourself a short break from reality to get away from the familiar and see some new sights? There are some days you just need to get in the car and go with nothing but an open road and a playlist of your favorite songs to keep you company. A road trip can be just the thing you need to relax, unwind and get away from the daily stressors of life. It gives you the chance to be alone with your thoughts and reflect on who you are and what you really want – something we lose sight of in the chaos of daily life.
- Let Go of Perfection: We are bombarded by fake perfection everywhere we turn – social media, movies, magazines etc. It’s hard to get away from it and even harder to measure up to something so unattainable. For this reason, it’s so important to let go of the idea that you need to be perfect. When you allow yourself to get caught up in this game, your mental, physical and emotional health can suffer. Take care of yourself, do what is right for you and be intentional about the choices you make.Life is a unique journey for every one – stop trying to measure up to something that isn’t even part of your story.
- Have a GY$T day: GY$T simply means Get Your $tuff (or whatever other word you choose to insert) together.It’s easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated when you have a list of tedious to-dos piling up. A GY$T day allows you to take care of all those things in one swoop so you can be more focused and organized for the coming week. Pick a day that works with your schedule and do all the things that make you feel better about your life. Maybe you need to pamper yourself more, so you take time for a face mask and a relaxing bubble bath. Maybe you need a day to clean and organize your space or pay some nagging bills. Setting aside a dedicated day to get your life together (or at least feel like it) will give you the boost you need to get through the rest of the week.
- Get Enough Sleep: Prioritizing sleep is so important for your overall health and wellness. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation impacts your physical, mental and emotional health and has been linked to depression, anxiety, weight gain and many more negative side effects. It’s much harder to cope with the daily stress of life when you’re walking around in a groggy daze and you can’t possibly operate at 100%. Try starting a bedtime routine for yourself. Make an effort to go to bed at the same time every night and turn off all electronic devices an hour before so your brain has some downtime. Sleep is vital and a great place to begin on your self-care journey.
- Ask for help: When you need help, ask for it. It’s as simple as that. Too often, we don’t want to burden anyone with our problems, so we attempt to handle everything 100% on our own. This is a lonely path to take and will only lead to feelings of overwhelm and unhappiness. You’ll waste so much of your time and energy trying to find your own solutions when could easily just reach out to someone else for a little assistance. As humans, we need connection. We desire to contribute and make a difference in someone else’s life. So, with that being said, let go of your pride and open yourself up to a little help now and then.
- Eliminate Toxic People: If you really want to put yourself first, it’s so important that you eliminate anyone who brings your down. Take a look at the people in your life –friends, family, co-workers. Do they support you and push you to be the best version of yourself? Or do they discourage you from success and drain you with negativity? Let go of anyone who spends more time putting your down than building you up. Establish firm boundaries (see also ‘How To Be Assertive Without Being Rude‘) or cut ties with any relationship that makes you feel less than 100% worthy. You don’t need people in your life that distract you or direct you away from who you are truly meant to be.
- Watch Your Words: Pay attention to the words you use when you speak to yourself. Are those words encouraging and positive or negative and spiteful? Mostly everyone suffers from negative self-talk from time to time. However, when your inner voice constantly criticizes your every flaw and makes you feel unworthy, it’s time to realize there’s a problem. Negative self-talk is damaging to your overall health and self-esteem long before you even realize what’s happening (see also our article on personal integrity). Awareness is the first step to flipping the switch and putting yourself back in the driver’s seat. Start by challenging your negative thoughts anytime you notice one come about. Use this time to reflect on where the thoughts are coming from and how you can turn them around to support a more positive way of thinking.
- Feed Your Mind: One of the most important things you can do for your mental health is to feed your mind inspiration and positivity on a daily basis. With all the resources at your fingertips, the options are limitless when it comes to choosing a medium. Find a favorite podcast or choose an uplifting Ted Talk. Read (or listen to) a book, seek out inspirational YouTube Videos or watch a documentary. Set aside a little time each day to give yourself a boost of positivity. Not only will you feel better, but it will open your mind to all the possibilities life has to offer and inspire you to become an even better version of yourself.
- Practice Gratitude: There is something so powerful about appreciating what you already have. When you actively choose to love your life and all the things in it, the result is a life-changing shift in perspective about what is truly important. Practicing gratitude is one of the most basic forms of self-care that you can adopt into your daily routine. It costs nothing and you can easily get started with just a journal and a pen. Take time each morning to write down a few things you’re thankful for. Do this at night too. In fact, do it as often as you need to until it becomes like second nature. As gratitude becomes more of a habit, you’ll start to notice more – the joy, the beauty and all the miracles in life that surround you.
- Let Go of Guilt: Putting yourself first is 100% necessary if you want to show up in the world as the best possible version of YOU. It’s not selfish, contrary to what we’ve told ourselves, yet there is so much guilt surrounding the idea of routine self-care. The first step to letting go of this guilt is to understand what it means (or doesn’t mean) to put yourself first (see also ‘The Power Of Letting Go: Why It’s Good For Your Anger And Stress Levels‘). This doesn’t mean that you disregard everyone else and only care about yourself from this moment on. It doesn’t mean that you need to stop helping others. It only means that you prioritize your needs first and then move down the line in order of importance. You can’t be of service to others when you are depleted and empty. The whole world benefits when you set aside your guilt and begin making yourself a priority.
There are so many different ways to incorporate self-care into your life and it’s one of the best things you can do for your overall health and happiness. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, just a commitment that you are going to start showing yourself more love, simply because you deserve it. Be patient with yourself through the process. Through small, simple steps each day, you can transform into a better possible version of yourself and begin changing the course of your life.
Find beauty in your world!