How to Put Self-Care First: Tips for Givers and Busy People
Self-Care Means Putting Yourself First
Self-Care First: Avoid Giving Too Much and Running on Empty
How often do you find yourself so over-extended that you don't realize you're exhausted until you stop moving? Many of us who give so much on a regular basis, seldom realize the extent to which we're running on empty. Until we take the time to stop, rest, and refuel, we compromise our health and lower our capacity to give to those we love and want to assist.
Whether we are moms and dads stretched too thin, committee members wearing several hats, or community organizers running out of human resources, we must recognize the urgency of increasing better self-care by putting ourselves first. This involves making a priority of self-care by taking a serious look at how much we are giving to others versus how much we give to ourselves. The poll below asks this question. Pause for a moment to take the poll and see where you fall.
Taking Care of Self Compared to Taking Care of Others
On average, what percentage of time is put toward care of self versus care of others?
Self-Care Is Essential: The "Oxygen Mask" Metaphor
The instructions we receive on an aircraft to put on our own oxygen masks first is quite literal. In order to ensure the survival of both a minor child and an adult, it is essential that the adult place him or herself in a survivable position to care for the child. The odds of survival for both are increased when the adult puts his mask on first.
The same type of instruction should apply to those who are busy-body, high energy givers, particularly those who provide ongoing volunteer services, church ministry, and community outreach to needy and at-risk populations. Heavy involvement in such activities can deplete the body, mind, and soul if the givers, who give of their time regularly, are not proactive about self-care.
Metaphorically, we need our "oxygen" in the form of breaks and outlets that allow us time to "breathe." Taking "me time," by periodically detaching from our obligations, gives us time to refuel and sustain our lives and our ability to keep giving at optimal levels.
“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
― Eleanor Brownn
Take a Break and Nurture Yourself
Put Yourself First and Take Some "Me Time"
The phrase "me time" has become a common way in popular culture to describe the need to make "self" a priority as a solo act in "time-out" mode. It is now acceptable to be a little selfish in our self-care pursuits. So, if you are still struggling with this notion, release any feelings of guilt, get a sitter if necessary, and schedule a regular time of the week to do something relaxing, peaceful, or fun. Better yet, schedule a time each day to focus on yourself and no one else. Use that time to engage in some type of self-nurturing activity to rejuvenate. By scheduling these activities, you are creating a routine with the mindset that your self-care is a first priority.
Start to think of your pre-scheduled "me time" as sacred. It should take precedence over everything else except for emergencies and unexpected circumstances that may need your immediate attention. However, keep in mind that even emergencies need to be assessed and prioritized accordingly to determine real or perceived urgency. This is part of the problem with givers and busy people who lose the ability to set boundaries. They end up taking care of others in every situation first, and neglect taking care of self.
“Self-care is never a selfish act - it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”
― Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
Increase Good Nutrition Habits by Eating Well
Self-Care Tips: Detach, Escape, Refuel, and Reset
The following list of self-care tips includes activities that givers and busy people like you should intentionally make part of your routine. Doing so will help strike a balance between taking care of the needs of others as you take better care of yourself. These helpful tips fall into four categories of self-care. The distinct categories cover four specific goal areas to address: detach, escape, refuel, and reset. As you engage in each activity, you are meeting one of the four goals.
1. Detach: Remove yourself physically, step away, set boundaries
- Take some time off —take a break from your giving activities as you would take time off from work; the demands of unpaid work can be just as taxing as your job.
- Selfishly say "NO!"—learn to set boundaries and let go of any unnecessary guilt that causes you to over-extend yourself and possibly burnout.
- Take brief getaway trips—consciously change your environment by stepping outside of the giving arena for brief spells; take in new sights and sounds, even for a day, to get a new perspective and appreciation of what life has to offer.
2. Escape: Reclaim yourself, nurture, pamper
- Take a hot bath—luxuriate in a nice hot bath complete with oils, bath gels, candles, aromas, and soft music to stimulate all of your senses and tune out the rest of the world; at the end of a busy day or before bed, a soothing bath session will relax and calm the body and soul.
- Take a walk or light jog —discover or re-engage physically with nature by taking in the sun or cold breeze with a quiet walk or run through your neighborhood or area park.
- Treat yourself to something special—take a spa treatment, massage, manicure, or pedicure to remind yourself of what you deserve: a time to feel special and acknowledge your worth and value.
- Engage in arts and crafts—pottery or jewelry making, coloring, crocheting, and knitting are outlets that provide creative escape activities for anyone looking for new and interesting ways to relax.
3. Refuel: Feed yourself, restore, replenish
- Eat well and improve your nutritional intake—good health, stamina, and energy level are directly affected by what we eat; the body needs proper nutrients to sustain through the workout we give it; scheduling time to eat is also important instead of eating on the run as busy people do so often.
- Sleep well and get proper rest—do not underestimate the need to get a good night's sleep and rest; it is during deep and restful sleep that the body heals and replenishes; we run the risk of physical and mental fatigue, compromised immune systems, and illnesses when we don't make rest a priority.
4. Reset: Empty, refill, gain new perspective
- Meditate—centering, breathing, and stillness are all critical components of meditation which has been proven to help givers and busy people rejuvenate as they make self-care a priority.
- Spiritually cleanse and renew—take time to get back in touch with your goals and purpose in life; self-reflection and soul-searching provide the perfect context in which we identify and/or redefine the motivations behind what we're doing and why we're doing it.
- Freestyle write in a journal—journal writing is a magical, cathartic way to release thoughts and emotions that build up after a time; it's also a great way to formulate goals and track your progress of self-care.
Meditation Is the Ultimate Form of Self-Care
“For those of you who struggle with guilt regarding self-care, answer this question: What greater gift can you give to those you love than your own wholeness?”
― Shannon Tanner, Worthy: The POWER of Wholeness
Summary and Recommendations
The purpose of this article was to provide givers and busy people with practical self-care tips. One of the hardest things for giving, compassionate, and generous people is putting themselves first. Self-sacrificial behaviors are looked upon as valiant and as a sign of a good heart. However, in the long run, neglecting too much of yourself and your own needs does not help you or the persons you want to help. Depleting your faculties to the point of exhaustion is unhealthy for the mind, body, and spirit and will eventually leave you with nothing left to give.
The video below speaks to this notion of sacrificing the self and feeling guilty about engaging in self-care. Dr. Bill Crawford, psychologist and speaker, does an excellent job of dispelling the myths about the idea of self-care being a "self-centered" activity. Take a listen as he emphasizes the importance of self-care. Make a commitment to start taking better care of yourself today by adding some of the activities above to your daily regimen.
Putting Yourself First Is Not a Self-Centered Activity
Taking Time to Put Yourself First
How many days per week, including weekends, do you engage in activities of self-care?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
© 2015 Janis Leslie Evans