Five Ways to Put You First (and why you should)

On this Mother’s Day, we would like to thank and appreciate all of the Moms out in the world. And let’s be clear here, in our opinion, you need not have given birth to be a Mom. We equate “Mom,” or even more generically, “Parent,” to anyone who is a caretaker. As Bessie Anderson Stanley stated: “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” So, we salute you: Moms, Dads, Grandparents, Friends, Therapists, Social Workers, Teachers, Nurses, Doctors, Pet Owners, Gardeners, Spouses, Volunteers, Soldiers, the list goes on.

You spend so much of your life taking care of other life, sometimes it’s easy to put your needs second, third, even last. You’re tired. You’re stressed. And you do it in the name of love. And there is no greater gift than to give of yourself, and there is no greater reward than to give of yourself. But while so many cultures value self-sacrifice, it’s important to remember you deserve to put you first. There’s a reason that airline safety guides always tell you to put your own mask on before helping another, and it’s because you cannot take care of anyone (or anything) else if you are not well. Today we discuss a few key ways how you can (and why you should) put yourself first.

  1. Stop feeling guilty. Along with money, guilt is one of the key reasons people report stress. Repeat after us: It is not all your fault. Unfortunate or uncomfortable circumstances are rarely the cause of one person. There are almost always multiple underlying factors and reasons for something to happen. We put ourselves on trial for too many reasons. For one, you probably feel guilty for feeling like you need to put yourself first. This is false. If you are hitting your breaking point, or even if you feel like you just need alone time, this is perfectly normal. You must listen to your heart and body; it’s a perfectly sound system that will guide you to what you need. Guilt for something you need is wrong. Flip the circumstances – If your teenager came home from school and said he/she had a really rough day and just needs to nap, would you condemn him/her? No. Give yourself the same courtesy you give others
  2. Buy yourself something you really want. You probably talk yourself out of hundreds of purchases every month. You may not even consciously realize you’re doing it because you’re trained to value your money (as you should). Yet, constant deprivation leads to depression and anxiety. This doesn’t mean you need to go on a shopping bender and create thousands of dollars of credit card debt, but go ahead and buy that one expensive lipstick, that deliciously calming candle, or even save for the beautiful new handbag. While material items are not the key to happiness, if buying a little something for yourself will make you feel happy, then do it (then refer to point number one).
  3. Learn to just say no. It’s likely you’re pulled in dozens of different directions on a weekly basis. You’re invited here, you should go there, you’re supposed to do that. The feeling of obligation is often created by a combination of guilt and expectation. But whose expectation? If you really don’t want to be somewhere or don’t want to do something, then say no. Even if you do want to do something, but the ability to adequately fulfill the expectation of completing it is causing you some anxiety, then say no. Now, we don’t suggest you say no to everything, and become some type of antisocial hermit, but discern between obligations. Not showing up for your friend’s wedding will probably be very hurtful to your friend, but skipping out one week from after-work cocktails won’t cause any long-term damage to relationships. The key is learning to say no from the very beginning. Don’t try and smooth situations over with a vapid or insipid “maybe” or “I’ll get back to you.” Just politely decline from the very beginning. A few simple, practical examples: “Joan, thanks so much for the invitation to grab dinner this weekend, but I’m going to have to pass; I absolutely need to finish this project I’m working on.” “I would love the chance to sit on the PTA this year, but between all of my current obligations, I don’t believe I will give the position the amount of time it deserves.” Believe us, people will appreciate you politely declining so much more than saying yes and copping out or not meeting expectations — think about it, wouldn’t you?
  4. Ask for help. We always joke that “adulting” is hard…because it is. Between work, family, and chores, even the smallest tasks can become overwhelming. It’s okay to ask for help. Even Atlas became tired of carrying the world on his shoulders, and he was a god. It’s perfectly fine to delegate tasks to help you out. Ask kids and/or spouses to help with chores, or even hire a cleaning service one time to just come in and give the place a good scrubbing. Ask grandma, or hire a babysitter, and go out for an evening. You can even ask for help at work. A real life example – I was teaching a book I had never taught before, it was keeping me awake at night, and finally, I bit the bullet and asked a fellow teacher for help. She was so enthusiastic to share her plans, I realized all of the anxiety I was creating about asking for help was in my own head. Don’t worry about asking for help; it’s all about reciprocity. You would help a friend in need if you could, right?
  5. Schedule an appointment with yourself. When you visit a professional, whether it’s a doctor or salon, you’re asked to make an appointment, and you respect that time. Even working or attending school is the same as keeping an appointment. You need to do this for yourself. Whether it’s once a week to go to yoga class, get a manicure, catch up on your favorite TV shows, or once a day to read your book, go for a walk, or take a bubble bath, you need to schedule a time with yourself when you will not allow for distractions. Be present in that moment and savor it. Even more importantly, respect that time as you would any other appointment. If you kept skipping your oil-change appointments, your engine would eventually fail; your well-being is the same.

So, on this Mother’s Day, and everyday, we encourage you to remember that you are important and you deserve it. Putting you first isn’t selfishness or weakness, it’s quite the opposite – it’s empowering and respecting your health and mentality.

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