Life gets busy. Especially when we have work commitments, we sometimes push aside our own wellbeing activities to keep up with the demands of work. Then, there’s family commitments and looking after kids, the elderly or pets. We also might have volunteer commitments to attend to in the community. All of these things are important, but we can’t be at our best to keep up with these commitments unless we make time for ourselves as well.
What does making yourself a priority look like? It’s that slightly uncomfortable conversation that you might need to have with work that you can’t work back late every Monday night because you need to attend yoga class which is crucial for your ongoing mental health. It’s that difficult conversation that you might need to have with your family that no, you can’t babysit the dog over the weekend because you desperately need to get out of the house for a while. You may need to tell your volunteer organisation that you need a break from your commitments because you’re getting worn out.
Making yourself a priority is about recognising that you are important, and you can’t continue to do and give the amazing work/care/love that you provide unless you have given yourself the resources that you need. Those resources could be time to yourself, making sure your physical and mental health needs are met (including nourishment and nutrition), rest and reflection, and so on. I always like to use the metaphor of being on an aeroplane when the oxygen masks drop – you need to ensure you fit your mask first before you help others.
If you haven’t checked it out already, see my previous blog post about self-care http://imatterfoundation.com.au/21-ways-to-do-self-care-in-21-days/. There are plenty of ideas there you can use to look after yourself.
Next time you write your To-Do list or put tasks in your diary or planner, have a look and see how much time you’re devoting to other people. Then look at the time and type of activities you are devoting to yourself. Are you taking your dog to get its nails trimmed when you haven’t had a pedicure in weeks? Are you cooking for your neighbours when you haven’t had time or the energy to have a relaxing home-cooked meal yourself with your family? If so, perhaps it’s time to make yourself a priority. Below is an exercise to help you do just this:
Making Yourself a Priority Exercise
Write down your diary appointments for the coming week. For each day, see how you are spending your time (as described above). For each day write down one thing that you are going to do to put yourself first. For instance, you may write finish work on time and go to yoga class. Your next day you may write prepare dinner early so I can spend the evening reading my favourite book. If you don’t end up going to yoga class or reading your favourite book, you need to do something else that evening instead. For instance, you might cook and prepare your meals for the week ahead so you can eat healthily.
Samantha Bane has qualifications in psychology and has experience working as a Mental Health Support Worker. She has written a book called “The Little Book of Self-Care: 100 Ideas to Help Nourish Your Mind, Body and Soul”. She blogs monthly for I Matter Foundation and develops her public speaking skills at Toastmasters.