Do you juggle your family and marriage and long hours at your job and friends and the errands of everyday life?  Do you put yourself last on the list of people to take care of?  I know that I do it sometimes and when I do, it’s stressful and overwhelming.  Let’s all take a page from Simone Biles’s book and learn how to take care of yourself first.

According to Cheryl Richardson, in her book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care, “When you catch yourself saying things such as ‘I don’t ever have time to do what I really want to do,’ What you’re really saying is:  ‘I don’t take time for my own needs.'”

Why do we feel that we have to put everyone (and I mean everyone) in front of our own needs?  I don’t even remember this being drilled into me as a child, but it appears to have been a lesson that I learned. For some reason, even though I’m the youngest in my family, I would find myself taking care of them and sometimes, their family.  How did that happen?  Why do I feel compelled to take care of everyone else?

All that giving takes a toll.  It empties not only our energy tanks but our emotional tanks, too.  And once that happens, we don’t have anything left to give to anyone, never mind ourselves!  It’s time to look inwards and take care of your needs first — and yes, this even applies to parents of young children.  If you are trying to parent from a place of stress and lack, then how do you even get to enjoy being a parent?

The first item of business is learning to say no to others.  And while this isn’t a post about learning how to say no, there are two things to remember when considering requests.  Weigh it against both your energy tank and your emotional tank.  

Do you have enough fuel in both to even consider it?  But wait, even if the fuel is there, consider the impact the request will have on all the other things that you hold important…family, your time, etc.  Only then will you have the information you need in order to make the best decision. Read Disappoint Others by Learning How to Say No for more advice on how to turn others down when you don’t have the time.

Self Care Suggestions:

Here are some ideas on how to put yourself first in order to add more fuel to your reserve tanks. Not all of these ideas are perfect for everyone.  Find what resonates with you and try it and then if you like it, try to make it a regular habit.

Journal It

Writing, whether it’s a journal, or Morning Pages, or even just a list of things that are on your mind, can help you to “write it” out of your system  Which helps to put things into perspective, alleviates stress, and can help you clarify what’s important and what’s not important.  

I do Morning Pages as soon as I get up.  Julie Cameron writes that the goal is to write three pages when you first get up in the morning.  It doesn’t matter what you write, how you write it, or even if you’re just writing the same word or sentence over and over again.  The point is the process of writing and how it helps to get the garbage out.  You can find out more about Morning Pages in her book The Artist’s Way.

Pamper Yourself

I know that pampering yourself seems decadent, but I’m here to tell you it’s a necessity.  Pampering doesn’t mean you have to spend gobs of money at the Spa, although a regular massage is good for anything that ails you. You can also try a Mani/Pedi or even Floating, which is something that I wrote about in Floating Can Be Magic for Your Pain.

But you don’t have to spend a lot of money to pamper yourself.  Put some Epsom Salts in your tub and soaking away the aches and pains?  When I was younger, I liked to do this on a Sunday night, after my son was in bed before the new week began.  Just a little bit of relaxation before all the hectic running around.

But pampering yourself doesn’t necessarily have to do with spas or baths. How about pampering your emotional need? Laugh with your friends. Curl up in a corner with your favorite book.  Go to a paint night or learn how to crochet or knit. Take any fun class that might be offered through the park and rec or Y in your town. The key is finding what works for you.

Mental Health Check-Up

Yes, a mental health check-up.  You get a physical for your body every year, don’t you?  How about getting a mental health check-up too?  But even if you’re not up to that yet, how about reading at least one new self-help book each year?  You know what areas you need to work on, so find a book that addresses one of those areas.  

If you’re not sure where to start try Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz.  I’m fascinated by this book because Maltz started as a plastic surgeon whose patients, after having drastically altered their face through surgery, would look in the mirror and think that nothing had changed.  His research, in order to help his patients move forward, is now the basis for other self-help gurus.  (Think Tony Robbins and others.)

While you’re at it, this is also a good time to learn how to meditate. Meditation can relax you and increase your sense of calm, peace, and balance. You reduce the overload in your brain (that monkey mind) and reduce negative emotions while increasing clarity and creativity among others. If you think meditation is too hard, then please read, Meditation is Hard, What Else Can I Do in order to find techniques to ease into meditation.

Get Enough Sleep

It’s really as simple as that.  If you’re getting up at 5 am, but not going to sleep until midnight, then you are siphoning the fuel in both your energy and emotional tanks.

According to the Mayo Clinic, adults need a minimum of 7 hours of good sleep a night. Restless nights interfere with quality sleep which is important for good health, including mental health. They suggest minimizing light and sound, making sure you’re comfortable and following a routine.

The best way to figure out when you need to go to sleep each night is to work backward from the time you get up in the morning. If you want to get up at 5 am in the morning, then you need to be in bed before 10 pm at night.

Keep in mind, this is just a small list.  Depending on what works for you there are other options such as exercising, painting, gardening, dancing, working on your car, cooking, etc. The point is to find something that works for you.  What I consider refueling my tank and what you consider refueling yours are usually two different things.  So what works for you?