“Remember, you are your own best investment. Invest in yourself and your lifestyle. Quality of life is a key component in finding joy and maintaining self-confidence.” ~Akiroq Brost
Do you ever sacrifice your own well-being to take care of others? If this sounds like you, chances are you are doing more harm than good.
Think about when you get on an airplane. What’s the first thing they tell you?
“In case of a loss of cabin pressure, please put your own oxygen mask on first and then assist your children or other passengers.”
They tell you this because if you don’t take care of yourself first, you will pass out and die! You can only help others and save lives after you meet your own needs—not just in an emergency scenario, but also in your everyday life. This is where self-care comes in.
I used to think it was selfish to prioritize my needs over the needs of others.
I thought showing love for others meant that I had to continuously give of myself and put their needs ahead of my own. As a result, I constantly felt drained, fatigued, and exhausted. I had given all of myself away and there was nothing left for me.
Not only was I working a highly stressful job in finance, I was also launching my personal training business, which required a combined eighty-five hours per week.
To add insult to injury, I was pushing my body to its physical limits in the gym seven days a week and sleeping only four to six hours per night. As if this wasn’t enough, I was also trying to balance having a boyfriend, a social life, a family, and a kitten.
At this stage in my life it was a common occurrence to collapse on top of my bed, clothes on, after a long day only to get up and repeat the cycle all over again. Eventually depression started to creep in, and I completely stopped doing anything for the sake of enjoyment; everything became goal oriented.
I forgot who I was. I forget how to be happy. I didn’t see the value in taking time for myself to recharge, get in touch with my inner being, and assess what I really wanted out of life.
I was solely focused on making money and pleasing others, trying to buy the love I didn’t deem myself worthy of on my own. It’s called the disease to please, and it will kill you if you let it.
I kept this pace up for a period of two years with no vacation and few days off until I had no choice but to pull the brakes.
My immune system suddenly shut down, and a barrage of illness and infection ensued. My goals of being the epitome of perfection and efficiency came to an abrupt halt. The disease to please had finally caught up with me.
First I developed a potentially life-threatening case of pneumonia. Immediately after that I developed a staph infection in my neck that was literally the size of a golf ball! I then became so lethargic that getting out of bed became a huge challenge.
This lasted for months.
I had never felt so low in my life, and I knew I had to take this unfortunate series of events as an opportunity to grow and learn; otherwise, it would all be for nothing!
This was a huge kick in the pants telling me to SLOW DOWN TIM, TAKE SOME TIME FOR YOURSELF!
Finally I had gotten the message, and I knew it was time to take a step back to re-evaluate my lifestyle choices, motivations, and habits.
How could I expect to help others when I wasn’t taking care of myself? I was putting myself last. And that helps no one!
I knew it was time to stop sacrificing myself and start practicing some serious self-care.
Stop Extreme Burnout and Exhaustion Before it Stops You
If you neglect yourself for an extended period of time you will experience extreme burnout. This is when you push yourself so hard that you literally can’t go on anymore and you just collapse.
If you are concerned about extreme burnout, here are some signs you might be at risk:
- You are so completely exhausted by the end of the day that you collapse on the couch and fall asleep without realizing it.
- By the end of the week you are so fatigued you can hardly get out of bed in the morning.
- You sleep an inordinate amount of time during the weekend just to feel normal again.
- No matter how much sleep you get, you wake up exhausted.
- Caffeine is a necessity to wake up and get through the day.
- You often work so hard you forget to eat.
- You have extreme cravings for junk food and eat excessive amounts of sugar for energy.
- You binge on Netflix and other distractions to avoid being alone with your thoughts.
If you find you are at risk of burnout, or just feel you want to take better care of yourself, self-care is the answer you are looking for.
What Exactly is Self-Care?
Initially I had a lot of misconceptions about self-care; I thought it was about being eternally happy all the time. Then I realized it’s actually impossible to be happy all the time and suffering is a necessary part of life that is required for personal growth.
True self-care strengthens and deepens our connection with ourselves so we can understand how to meet our needs met from a mental, emotional, and physical standpoint.
Self-care builds your connection with who you are at the core of your being so that when the tides of life get rough, you are anchored and don’t get swept away.
It helps you to not sweat the small stuff and prevents burnout and exhaustion. Ultimately, a self-care practice will allow you to understand yourself, find your passion and purpose, and take you on the path to live a fulfilled life.
It’s not easy to break bad habits, especially if you’ve spent years putting other people’s needs before your own. Here are some tips on how you can start to treat yo’self!
Self-Care Ideas for Mental Health
- Relax and allow yourself to do nothing (no cellphones allowed!)
- Read an educational book with a focus on personal growth
- Listen to an educational podcast (news is not included as educational)
- Play with your pet
- Cuddle your significant other
- Do something that makes you smile
- Create something artistic or play an instrument
- Listen to music you love
- Practice gratitude with a gratitude journal
Self-Care Ideas for Emotional Health
- Forgive someone you have been holding a grudge against
- Do something that’s scared you that you’ve always wanted to do
- Focus on your own needs and goals instead of comparing yourself to others
- Practice compassion for yourself
- Take a break from social media
- Allow yourself to feel your feelings instead of running from them or distracting yourself
- Read a fictional book that lifts your spirits
- Take a break from technology—unplug
- Help someone and don’t expect anything in return
- Practice positive affirmations (Example: You are enough just as you are right now in this moment.)
- Write down a few things you appreciate yourself
Self-Care Ideas for Physical Health
- Practice deep breathing
- Move to music you love
- Get adequate sleep
- Lift weights
- Play a sport
- Go outside—get some sunlight on your skin
- Try yoga or another mindful movement practice (also good for your mental health)
- Eat healthfully (i.e.: fruits and veggies, unrefined foods)
- Look in a mirror and love your body as it is right now, without judgment
How a Daily Self-Care Practice Changed My Life
Self-care saved me from extreme burnout. It wasn’t easy to slow down and find time for myself throughout the day, so instead, I get up early and devote one hour of time to myself.
I created a daily self-care routine that starts my day off on a positive note. This positivity bleeds over into other aspects of my life, and it’s been life-changing.
I used to be miserable getting up for work in the morning. Now getting up is enjoyable because I have something to look forward to like going to the gym, listening to a podcast, or meditating. I’ve noticed I’m generally happier and filled with a sense of gratitude for my blessings in life.
I also lost twelve pounds in eight weeks, even after reducing the amount of time I spent in the gym, by reducing daily stress triggers and practicing healthful eating. Previously, I’d put a lot of stress on my body with my lifestyle and excessive working out. This stress created a hormone response in the body that actually made me gain fat instead of losing it!
My big weight loss secret: stress reduction, moderate exercise, and mindful eating! It also helps that I’ve shifted my mindset; whereas I used to work out just to look hot, I now focus on my health and aging gracefully.
My gratitude practice is another important part of my daily self-care routine. By practicing gratitude I’m able to find more moments of joy in my daily life and I’m much more attentive to those I love. With mindfulness and meditation practice I experience less anxiety, stress, and negative thinking.
Self-care has allowed me to be aware of the constant neurotic thought patterns I’ve developed that hold me back and make me feel inadequate or like I don’t measure up. I can see more clearly how these patterns are essentially bad habits.
And just like any bad habit? They can be broken! It’s been a huge confidence booster.
Mindfulness helped me identify and overcome fear and self-doubt and work up the courage to start following my passion of writing and helping others after years of telling myself I wasn’t good enough.
And here we are today!
If you are like me and you take care of everyone in your life except for yourself, I implore you to try some of the thirty self-care tips I shared above. It really is of the utmost importance not only for your own health, but for the health and well-being of everyone you care about as well.
I know it’s hard to find time for self-care; that’s why I recommend scheduling one hour of time every single day just for you. Self-care might seem silly or frivolous, but it literally saved my life.
And it just might do the same for you!
Timothy James is a health and wellness coach specializing in weight loss and lean muscle gain.
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