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6 Small Ways to Put Yourself First

When life gets busy, it can get difficult to look after your own needs. Here are some simple ways in which you can start prioritising yourself.

By Shreya Maji
05 Nov 2021

If you have ever looked up self-care on the internet or social media, it is possible that you have come across the oxygen mask analogy: just as airplanes advice you to put on your own oxygen mask first in an emergency situation before you help others put on theirs, you must prioritise your own well-being if you want to devote your energy to looking after the needs of others. But often, this is easier said than done. Between your packed work schedule, housework and keeping up with your social obligations, putting yourself first can seem difficult. Additionally, the gendered expectations you face if you are a woman, or cultural norms that make looking after your family a social duty, can make it impossible to stop and think about your own needs and desires.

But prioritising yourself is not selfish; it is responsible. If you constantly deplete yourself of energy without doing anything to recharge it, you will soon exhaust yourself or experience burnout. When you look after yourself, you have more drive for your actions and positivity for the people around you. Your job will feel rewarding and you will have energy for recreational activities. Your coworkers, your family, your friends and your partner will get to experience the best version of you. If you struggle with prioritising yourself, you are definitely not alone. But you can start caring for yourself through some very simple steps.

 

1. Make time for sleep

Statistics Canada, in their 2017 Health Report, says that insufficient duration and poor quality of sleep is associated with irritability, stress, depression, obesity and even cardiovascular diseases. Your work might be keeping you up after midnight, or your early morning chores might make you wake up much before you hit the ideal 7 to 8 hours of sleep that all adults need. Try to arrange your routine in a way that allows you to have the necessary hours of rest. If you have problems falling asleep or staying asleep, create healthy habits before your bedtime, such as picking up a book instead of your smartphone, doing your skincare routine before you go to bed, and staying away from caffeine late in the day.

 

2. Work it out

Putting yourself first can start with prioritising your own fitness. Fitness is not just about your physical health—exercise releases endorphins (hormones that make you feel good) and aids in getting good sleep. When you are fit and functioning, you can tackle what life brings on much more easily, and you are able to show up for other people in your life. Workouts do not have to be boring. Try out various options like zumba, dance workouts, cycling or running. Even fun activities like jumping rope or hula hooping can function as exercises.

 

3. Cook yourself a nourishing meal

Skipping breakfast or getting takeaway for dinner every night might save you time and effort, but in the long run, it is doing your body no good. Getting sufficient healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, complex carbs and protein through proper meals is worth the investment. Cooking these meals at home can help you save money, and ensure you are getting the proper nutrients. Research published in the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science in 2014 also says that cooking can have therapeutic benefits, by giving us a sense of agency and belongingness. Start out small, such as recreating your favourite childhood dishes, and don’t forget to savour the experience.

 

4. Take out time for yourself

This is perhaps a no-brainer, yet this is the one we struggle with the most. It might be impossible for you to meditate every day or get a relaxing massage, but taking even fifteen minutes out of your busy schedule to do something that relaxes you can be a monumental step towards prioritising yourself. Apply a face mask, put on some music, watch a couple of laughter-inducing videos, take a power nap, or simply do nothing during this time.

 

5. Pick up that hobby you always wanted to start

As children, we might have taken art lessons or gone to dance classes, but as we grow up, we slowly find ourselves giving up these fun activities. Give your mind a break by finding a hobby or reintroducing yourself to an old one, such as gardening, reading books, playing board games, journaling or learning a new language. Research published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics in 2020 says that hobbies offer an unparalleled level of mental engagement, meaning that they completely take your mind off of your work or stressful circumstances. A hobby can make you feel relaxed, happy, and better equipped to handle life’s stressors. What’s more: the time you spend cultivating a hobby is time you devote entirely to yourself.

 

6. Practice self-affirmations

The important aspect of self-care is the “self” part, and this includes how you view yourself and how you talk to yourself. Rather than dwelling on your mistakes and being critical of your personal flaws, try to celebrate your small successes, and talk to yourself with kindness and love. Positive affirmations are rooted in science: they activate the region of your brain associated with releasing endorphins. Try to speak affirmations out aloud in the morning or before bedtime. Some of these may include “I will not compare myself to others”, “I am doing my best every day” and “I love myself for who I am.”

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