Why It Matters to Take Care of Yourself First (And How to Do It)

Do you ever get that feeling that you’re being pulled into a million directions until you feel like you’ve lost your center, your essence, and your being? Everybody wants you to do something for them, and, of course, you want to help, and you want to be there for them, be their rock, a shoulder to cry on. You know you need to take care of yourself, but that takes a back seat.

The feeling of satisfaction you receive when you help someone is undeniable; when you are there for them, you feel needed. There’s a price to pay, of course.

This emotion or feeling of acknowledgment comes with that price. It’s like a double-edged sword. You keep giving and giving until you feel drained, emptied, and you can’t recognize yourself anymore.

You ask yourself, “How does doing so much good leave you feeling so empty?”

You beg your soul to feed on all the good it’s doing, but it continues to feel starved You can’t escape the cycle because you’re stuck on repeat, and no one seems to want to click on the next button anytime soon.

Here, we are going to help you learn how to take care of yourself and become the best possible version of you, so that you really can be there for those that need you when the time comes.

What It Means to Take Care of Yourself

This is the million-dollar question, right? The answer to this question can either make or break you because the difference between self-care and being self-centered is thin. Taking the wrong step onto the wrong side could mean absolute self-destruction. So how do you find this balance? Does this mean making irrational decisions at work where you give up everything? No. Does this mean being so self-absorbed in your own needs that you begin to develop a blind spot to others? Definitely not.

Taking care of yourself is simply realizing that you’re also important. It means not to unnecessarily and constantly ignore your needs and the things that make you feel good. It can be best described as helping others by helping yourself first. It means prioritizing your happiness and fulfillment without infringing on others.

Let’s face it, we’ll always be needed by people around us—friends, families, and even coworkers—but most importantly, you’re also needed by you. Which would be your priority? Shouldn’t you extend the same kindness and consideration to yourself as you do to those around you? If you’re looking to live your best life, the answer should be a resounding yes.

Common Misconceptions Around Self-Care

Over the years, the idea of learning how to take care of yourself has moved through various misconceptions and myths. Fortunately, these are beginning to change as people realize just how important self-care really is. Here are some of the most common misconceptions that need to be busted.

Making Self-Care a Priority Is Selfish

This serves as one of the significant reasons for feeling guilty when we decide to put ourselves first. A kinder, more realistic way of looking at it would be to realize that taking care of yourself replenishes you and helps you take care of your loved ones better. You’ll practically be of no use if you’re constantly being depleted. Ask yourself if you’re really willing to sacrifice your joy and mental health.

People Always Need Your Help

There is a vast difference between being there when you’re needed and constantly hovering and waiting to magically fix everyone’s problem. As hard as it is to hear, you’re not the hero of the world. It is not your duty to save everyone. Not to mention that doing this would only rob the people around you of the ability to learn from their experiences. This inadvertently leads to a toxic relationship with constant dependence.

Boundaries Will Push People Away

There is a law that states you attract what you display. If you present yourself as always available or a rescuer, you’ll attract people that need rescuing. If you don’t set boundaries on how you should be treated, you’ll be continuously probed and pushed until you’re practically living for others, and your life doesn’t seem to be yours anymore. People will always test your limits and sometimes take advantage of your seemingly good nature. For this reason, boundaries are necessary and, yes, healthy.

It’s Bad to Expect Something in Return

While you would like to believe your actions are totally selfless and you expect nothing in return, we often feel resentful when our actions aren’t reciprocated. It would seem easy to blame others, but you have to realize that to take care of yourself is your responsibility, and although some people might take advantage, you need to understand when to set the limit and keep some of that love for yourself.

Your Worth Is Based on Others’ Opinions

Primarily, it all boils down to placing your value on other people’s opinions or desires for you. It all centers on our self-esteem and the confidence to sometimes say no when the situation calls for it. Realize that if you’re loved, you will always be loved for who you are, not what you can provide or offer.

Why It’s Important to Take Care of Yourself

Are you still doubting that it’s important to take care of yourself? It’s time to put that guilt away, because the effects are magical, and the results are practically life-changing.

Improved Productivity

Self-care helps to bring into sharp focus the things that actually matter to you. Placing priorities enables you to focus and direct your energy toward what’s important to you.

Do you ever have those dreams of trips you always wanted to take, but you never seemed to find the time for it? Well, putting yourself first helps you cut down unnecessary laybacks that waylay any and all desires and goals.

Improved Physical Health

In biology, there are two main types of reflex actions: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic reflex action. The sympathetic reflex action is our response to emergencies, also known as the fight or flight response. Research has shown that continually stressing over issues prompts the body to respond with sympathetic actions. This reaction comes about by releasing certain hormones in the body like adrenalin, also known as epinephrine. These hormones in our bloodstream prepare the body by dilating blood vessels, increasing blood pressure, and overall stressing your body and weakening the immune system.

On the other hand, taking a chill pill and relaxing prompts the opposite reaction, which is the parasympathetic reaction that leaves you relaxed, refreshed, and strong enough to resist diseases, improving the health of your immune systems.

Once you learn how to let go of other people’s problems, you’ll find you use your sympathetic actions a lot less often, which is great for both your physical and mental health.

Higher Self-Esteem

When you regularly carve out time to do what you want for yourself, it sends a positive message to your brain and releases endorphins that improve feelings of self-worth and confidence. Besides, it allows you to discover your values and realize your passion. It’s time to recollect your thoughts and discover yourself.

How to Take Care of Yourself

There are different methods of practicing self-care, and the trick is to find which you connect with and which seems to work best with your schedule. It also depends on the area of your life they need to be applied to.

1. Emotional Self-Care

This involves accurately projecting your emotions. When it comes to your emotional health, the best idea would be to lay out your feelings as they are and prevent unnecessary suppressing of emotions. You might feel tempted to bottle up the feelings, but the healthy option would involve accepting and dealing with these emotions. Remember that although you can’t control your emotions, you control how they affect you.

Tips for Emotional Care
  • See a therapist. Although this is optional, it can be a great way to talk through your feelings and get clear on what you want and need.
  • Reminisce constantly on good memories, as this keeps you positive.
  • Keep a thought journal or diary.
  • Never be afraid to let it out and cry, and ask for help if you need it.
  • Music is famed to be the food of the soul, and research has proven that singing along to your favorite song is bound to improve your mood drastically.

2. Physical Self-Care

The benefits of self-care aren’t just limited to our minds, but it extends to show results in our physical bodies. Self-care is definitely known to improve your physical health. Even the simple act of worrying less exponentially boosts your immune system.

Tips for Physical Care
  • Practice yoga to improve your mental state and enhance muscle tone and flexibility.
  • Learn a new sport to activate the release of endorphins.
  • Take a walk and connect with the scenery and atmosphere.
  • Eat healthy to balance your hormones and offer your body everything it needs to keep you energized.
  • Ensure you get at least 7-9 hours of sleep, as this improves brain function and productivity.

3. Miscellaneous Self-Care Techniques

Take time to connect with your friends occasionally, deeply. This promotes more satisfying and meaningful relationships, which improves your overall mood.

Never be scared to say no to an invitation you’re too exhausted to enjoy. If you need it, take some time for yourself and put in some solid “me” time.

Meditation always helps. It also highlights a list of things you’re grateful for as it helps keep things in perspective while helping you appreciate the good things your life has to offer.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to take care of yourself first might be the hardest decision you’ll ever make. However, in the long run, it will also be the best decision as it will allow you to finally become the best version of yourself and achieve all those goals you’ve been waiting to tackle. Get started on self-care today.

More Self-Care Tips

We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

The Importance of Living in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

Better Health

By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being.

Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.

How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

Greater Self-Control

You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier.

Why Do We Worry?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment

Step 1: Overcome Worrying

In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:

Calm Your Mind

When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

Racing Mind

Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

So how do most people cope with painful emotions?

By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

A Wandering Mind

From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities.

Outside Influences

Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future.

Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.

Step 3: Practice Mindfulness

So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

Understand Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality.

You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.

You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article:

Mindful Breathing

While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.

You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Mindful Walking

Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?

Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.

Mindful Eating

Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

Live in the present with mindful eating.

Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss.

So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

  • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
  • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
  • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

Mindful Activities

Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

Final Thoughts

Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.

Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.

The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.

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