Today is week 2 of my Mental Health Monday posts
The second highest rated area from the survey I did in February was “Permission to Prioritize Yourself” with 78.1% of survey participants (all female, but this can apply to men too) reporting that they would like to prioritize themselves without feeling guilt or shame for doing so.
Sound the alarms…..No woman, no man, no ONE should feel they need permission to prioritize themselves. This should be a given. We need to, and should, care for ourselves above anything and anyone else. If we don’t, we won’t be able to care for anything or anyone else with any real passion, depth, or value.
As a society, particularly women, we need to stop thinking of our own needs and self- care as selfish. Instead of viewing self-prioritizing and self- care as fundamental, many of us view it as indulgence. We fear that if we share that we are getting our hair done, getting a massage, going to yoga, or taking a girls’ weekend that we will be viewed as superficial or “not busy enough”. And this could not be further from the truth. There should be zero shame in wanting to look nice, feel nice, and feel good about our outer appearances. Afterall, how we feel about our outside greatly influences how we feel on the inside.
This shame and guilt of putting ourselves first runs so deep in some of us that we don’t even take the time to prioritize our own medical appointments, check ups and well visits. Yet, we will drop everything at a moment’s notice to care for a sick spouse, child, parent, or friend.
Women (and men), we need to embrace prioritizing ourselves and taking care of our needs. We are not being selfish or indulgent when we prioritize things such as sleep, exercise, eating well, and down time. These are not privileges or luxuries; these are essentials needed to improve our overall well-being, especially our mental health.
Quick Tips for how to Help Give Yourself Permission to Prioritize You and Ideas for Self- Care
Make a list of your schedule, make a list of your priorities- are the events in your schedule non- negotiable? Are your priorities a reality or your perception? Why can’t you schedule time for self - care?
Start Small- schedule 30 mins/day that you will dedicate and devote to yourself- your wants, your needs, your passions
Be realistic- If you can dedicate 2 hours of your day to yourself- good for you, but don’t start with 2 hours a day and get frustrated and quit when it doesn’t happen- this is why I suggest 30 mins/day. You can always dial it up.
Be kind to yourself- remind yourself you are doing your best- if you don’t give yourself your allotted time for the day, or you don’t do it at all, no worries. Forgive yourself and try again tomorrow.
Watch your negative self- talk- as soon as you say or think something negative to or about yourself (e.g. “Ugh, I’m so dumb. Why can’t I get this done? I’m never going to get this/that finished. Forget it, I give up.”) Flip it and say something positive (e.g. “I’m doing the best I can. I am a good person. I am loved. I am enough. I can do this.”)
Seek counseling/therapy- individual, marriage, and/or family- do this as preventative practice. Equip yourself now with strategies and coping skills before you/your family are in crisis
Get off social media - for obvious reasons (but only after you read my posts, of course)
Sleep- try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning. If this is hard for you, try the following: no food 3 hrs before bed, no screens 1 hr before bed, play relaxing music, diffuse lavender or light a candle, turn the lights down, and read/pray/gratitude journal right before it’s lights out time
Realize that prioritizing yourself and engaging in self- care is going to take effort and, most likely, sacrifice on your part. To make room for something new in your day, something else has got to go! But, you get to decide what that something is. That’s what’s so great about prioritizing ourselves.
THE BEST step into self-care I have ever taken was establishing a consistent routine for my morning time. I get up 2 ½ hours before I have to be out the door so that I can sit alone in the quiet of my house. I pray, I read, I journal, I meditate and I move my body in some form or fashion- bike, walk, yoga, etc. And the real kicker…. I do this on the weekends too. Yep, you heard it. I don’t sleep in on Saturdays and Sundays. I get up and stick to this routine every morning, and it works wonders for my body, heart, soul and mind.
BUT….. this may not be the self- care YOU need. Again, take inventory of your beliefs, your schedule, your priorities. And do what works for you. Do what’s best for you. Maybe sleeping in IS what you need
We tend to think of ourselves in regards to the roles we need to play for others in our lives (i.e. wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, etc.) rather than thinking of ourselves as individuals. Who am I? What do I like? What are my goals/dreams? If we put ourselves first, which we should, that doesn’t mean we don’t care about the other people in our lives. It doesn’t mean we only think about ourselves. What it does mean is that we understand that if we don’t meet our own needs first then we won’t be able to give the best version of ourselves to others. If we’re running on empty how can we possibly help fill someone else’s tank? In her book Marrow Elizabeth Lesser writes, “To develop kind regard for oneself can become an act of kindness for the world if we turn the light outward as well as inward.”