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How to Put Self-Care First: Tips for Busy People

Janis is a licensed professional counselor in Washington, DC. Areas of specialty include grief, loss, life transition, and trauma recovery.

Taking a jog on an early, sunny morning is a perfect self-care activity to start the day.

Taking a jog on an early, sunny morning is a perfect self-care activity to start the day.

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.

The Importance of Self-Care

“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

Taking Care of Self Compared to Taking 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.

Take a Break and Nurture Yourself

Take time to detach from constant giving and spend a little time away pampering yourself.

Take time to detach from constant giving and spend a little time away pampering 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 who lose the ability to set proper boundaries. They often end up taking care of others in every situation first, and neglect taking care of self.

Self-Care Benefits You and Those You Help

“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

One should never underestimate the power of nutritious food to maintain good health and stamina.

One should never underestimate the power of nutritious food to maintain good health and stamina.

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.
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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 specialtake 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 journaljournal 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

Meditation is a popular form of self-care which begins on the inside.

Meditation is a popular form of self-care which begins on the inside.

Self-Care Without Guilt

“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.

A Brief Note About the Pandemic

The world is changing constantly and has recently given us a lot of unexpected down time. The duration of the pandemic forced us to use this time to engage in self-care and exercise routines with more intention. Make a commitment to start taking better care of yourself today by adding some of the activities above to your daily regimen.

Taking Time to Put Yourself First

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2015 Janis Leslie Evans


Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on June 26, 2017:

Thank you much, Audrey, for reading and commenting. I'm so glad you liked the tips. I need to practice a lot of them much more.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on June 25, 2017:

A wonderful and important message. I've been setting some boundaries and it feels mighty good. Balancing the amount of time and energy we give to others is a great lesson to learn. Love your ideas and tips on ways to take care of ourselves first.

Thanks Jan.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on July 27, 2016:

Thank you very much, Vellur. It is difficult to be consistent with taking care of ourselves but so important. I appreciate your visit and comment.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on July 26, 2016:

Useful tips on how to look after self first. Only if we look after ourselves, we can be fit to look after others. Great article, voted up.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on June 23, 2016:

Thanks so much, Denise, for the validation. I wrote it for me, too. I'm a work-in-progress when it comes to self-care. I appreciate your visit.

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on June 23, 2016:

I am a living testimony of the need for this information. At the age of 40, I experienced burnout from not taking adequate care of myself. I lived my life for everyone else, including my family, my church work, and anyone else who needed me. I had to make some difficult decisions and learn how to do the very things that you are advocating here to get my life back on track. It works!

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on March 06, 2016:

That's good to know that meditation has made a difference in your life. Glad you found this hub useful. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment.

Shaloo Walia from India on March 06, 2016:

Very useful tips! And I agree that meditation is the best form of self-care. I have been meditating since 2008 and it has worked wonders for me.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on January 04, 2016:

Thank you, word. This is a subject very near and dear to me because I need to take better care myself. I appreciate your visit and comments. Blessings!

Al Wordlaw from Chicago on January 04, 2016:

I loved this Jan, self-care is the best gift to self. Great subject, great ideas and great hub. Thank you, God bless!

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on January 04, 2016:

You are quite welcome, stricktlydating. Thank you for taking the time to read it.

StrictlyQuotes from Australia on January 04, 2016:

I got some really good tips from this article. Thank you!

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on October 28, 2015:

Thank you very much, Audrey, for your visit. Self-care is so important.

Audrey Howitt from California on October 28, 2015:

We have to find ways to take care of ourselves--this is such a complete article on the subject--really well done!!

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on October 19, 2015:

I appreciate that, Rabadi. Karma is a beautiful thing. Thanks for your visit.

TruthisReal from New York on October 18, 2015:

I love taking the time out to read your hubs! So enlightening and I believe that when we do things for others the universe rewards us in miraculous ways. Great work!

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on October 18, 2015:

Thank you very much, social thoughts. I wrote it because it speaks in volumes to me as well. I wish I had more time to write like I used to. I'm pleased it resonated with you. So many people are in the same boat, never enough time for self. I appreciate your comment and visit.

social thoughts from New York on October 18, 2015:


I have been so busy trying to get things done that I haven't had time to read people's articles or write my own in a while because of this exact kind of thing! So, this one really spoke to me. Thanks for sharing all of this. It is so well-written, too!

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on October 11, 2015:

Hi Venkatahari. I appreciate her, too, for choosing this hub. She's a very helpful and generous hubber. I'm happy you found it and enjoyed reading it. Thank you for your enthusiastic comment.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on October 11, 2015:

Wow! This is a great article. I missed it till now. What an excellent advice. I should be thankful to Susannah Birch for sharing it on G+. I came to this from there now.

I am too much happy to read this hub. You have stated everything so perfectly here. Thanks a lot, Jan.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on September 30, 2015:

Oh, that's great news, MsLizzy. I'm so grateful to WryLilt for doing that. I'm also happy that this article resonated with you. I think we can all relate to self-care or lack of thereof. Thank you so much for your visit, nice to see you.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on September 30, 2015:

Hi, jan-

I found your article posted to G+ from WryLilt. How interesting and timely. We were just discussing this very thing the other day in a group I attend.

Excellent points and well done! Kudos!

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on September 28, 2015:

Thank you kindly, Paola. I appreciate you sharing it on Twitter. Thanks for stopping by.

Paola Bassanese from Ireland on September 28, 2015:

What a wonderful article! I totally agree with the "put the oxygen mask on first" philosophy - if you don't look after your health, you can't help other people. I've shared it on twitter.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on September 22, 2015:

Hi Chitrangada! Good to see you. I'm glad you found this article helpful. I believe it is very important and hope a lot of readers utilize it. You are spot on about women neglecting themselves. I think this will resonate more with women than men. It's just our nature to give so much and over-extend. Thank you very much for your comments and for sharing this hub. I'm grateful.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 22, 2015:

Very important and interesting hub!

I do believe that unless we are healthy and happy ourselves, we cannot take care of others. But most of us, especially women are guilty of neglecting ourselves. Your tips and suggestions are very useful and made me think of my schedule. Will follow your advice and take care of myself.

Your polls are interesting. Sharing on HP!

Thank you for sharing!

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on September 18, 2015:

Being the caregiver to a loved one is a very special kind of giving with different dynamics. It's an on-going form of love that is difficult on the family. Bless you, your wife, and your children. Thank you for commenting and visiting, Jodah.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on September 17, 2015:

Very helpful and much needed hub Jan. I am my wife's carer b Thank you for sharing.ut I do try to take the time to look after my own needs as much as possible eg exercise, walks, my writing. About twice each year she also goes to stay with our children in other towns for a few weeks so I get respite at those times to recharge and do other things I don't normally have time for.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on September 17, 2015:

You are very welcome, MsDora. Truthfully speaking, I wrote this hub for myself. I need these principles, too. It came literally straight from the heart. Thank you so much for your visit, glad you can relate.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on September 17, 2015:

Thank you and very well put, Blossom. I'm grateful for your comment and visit.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 17, 2015:

I certainly need this, being the 24-hr caregiver that I am. Detach, Escape, Refuel, and Reset is a principle I could live by. Thanks especially for reminding me of the importance of meditation.

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on September 17, 2015:

Yes, we were given bodies and we need to care for them. When Jesus condensed the Ten Commandments into two, the second one said, 'and love your neighbour as yourself.' Sure, we're to love and care for our neighbour, but we need to do the same for ourselves as well. A great hub.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on September 17, 2015:

Yes, manatita, it is all about love; loving ourselves as much as we love others, completing the cirlce of how God loves us. We must take care of the temple.

manatita44 from london on September 17, 2015:

A wonderful Hub Jan,

I like it a lot. Very practical and indeed essential advice for healthy living. I suppose it's all about loving oneself expressed another way. We cannot give if we do not have. My Teacher use to say this. Continue ... in Love and Light.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on September 17, 2015:

Thank you very much for your wonderful testimony, Dana, on the value of self-care. It's good to hear a success story from experience. I appreciate your visit and comment.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on September 17, 2015:

Great, WillStarr. Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for your visit.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on September 17, 2015:

Yes, Clive, you do write a lot of hubs. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read one of mine. Take good care.

Clive Williams from Jamaica on September 17, 2015:

yes, i need to take better care of myself before i fade away writing hubs

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on September 17, 2015:

Great advice, and at just the right moment!

Dana Tate from LOS ANGELES on September 17, 2015:

I had a problem saying no, and felt so guilty if I couldn't assist people when they needed me; especially family. Then I became burned out and slightly resentful because I felt taken advantage of by some. I attended this class at church about setting boundaries- and it was life changing for me. I learned that even in ministry work it is okay to say-no! I started taking me time, getting foot massages and facials, or taking small get- away trips. When I return I am refreshed, replenished and renewed. I had to learn if I'm not at my best I can't be useful to anyone else. Taking care of myself is my number one priority. Thanks for sharing. Very useful.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on September 17, 2015:

Thank you kindly, Carolyn. I appreciate your visit.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on September 17, 2015:

Thank you, Bill. It is my hope that the message will spread far and wide.

Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on September 17, 2015:

Thank you very much for taking the time to read.

Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on September 17, 2015:

I like the "Oxygen Mask" Metaphor. Well done!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 17, 2015:

An extremely important message, Jan. We are no good to anyone else if we are not healthy and happy ourselves. Love it!

OGOCHUKWU from NIGERIA on September 17, 2015:

A very profound and excellent work.

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