In my career as a licensed massage therapist, I would sometimes volunteer at oncology units providing massage for cancer survivors completing treatment. During my time there, I noticed something peculiar: it was often the person bringing the patient to therapy that looked as if they needed to de-stress. I started to become more observant of people outside of the hospital and noticed a lot of similarities. I began to wonder: have the stresses of life blinded us from the beauty? Are we as a society taking enough time to care for ourselves?
Stop for a moment…take a deep breath…look in the mirror. Who are you? Are you happy? How do you feel at this present moment? How many roles are you playing in this life? Are you taking enough time for yourself or are you spending the majority of your time caring for others? Life is sometimes overwhelming and hard, but it is also beautiful and full of wonder. Are you able to slow down and notice the beauty? The hard truth is that the ability to find beauty and be happy in this life is solely up to you – no one else can find it for you.
Taking the time to care for yourself is an extremely important, yet often overlooked action you can take to enhance your well-being. After all, how can we even begin to think about taking care and showing love to others if we do not show ourselves that same love? According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, those who choose to make taking care of themselves a priority are often healthier and more resilient in the face of hardship. Below are some steps that you can take to start making your own health and happiness a priority.
Tips for Prioritizing Self-Care
Recognize that we cannot take care of others if we fail to take care of ourselves. So ask yourself: Am I doing all that I can to live a purposeful life that will make me happy? If the answer is no, that’s totally okay! You have to start somewhere, right?
#2 Take an Objective Look Inside Yourself
Look at yourself in that mirror again. Try taking an objective look at yourself – who is looking back at you in the mirror? Someone who is tired or well-rested? Stressed or balanced? Unhappy or happy? What advice or help would offer that person? Be candid and give yourself some “real-talk”. This is a great way to not only check in with yourself but also to become familiar with taking a judgment-free look at yourself.
#3 Take Action
Think about how frustrating it is to offer someone advice only for them not to take it. Do not be that person. Make a list of action items and feel satisfied as you start checking them off. Make appointments, put action items on your calendar for yourself and do not cancel them to make room for other people. Put yourself first for a change.
#4 Learn That It’s Okay to Say NO
If you just do not have the time or simply really do not want to do something, it is acceptable to deny the request. If the word “NO” is not in your vocabulary or you get anxious just thinking about saying it, practice using the phrase “I’m very sorry but that is just not going to be possible for me at this time”. Put the phrase into your own words and practice in that mirror again! Do not leave it open-ended. Close the discussion politely and change the topic.
#5 Find a Support System
Find a buddy who will not only hold you accountable but also offer encouragement. Find the courage to ask for help or guidance for yourself. Contrary to popular belief, we cannot do it all. The good news is we ALL are doing this thing called life together; find a friend, a family member, or even a therapist that you can confide in – it will make all of the difference in helping you find balance in your life.
#6 Get Moving
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is exercise. There is indisputable evidence that adding exercise to your daily regimen can increase your quality of life. From making you happier and more confident to fighting off chronic disease, exercise can positively impact almost every area of your life. Make time for physical activities that you truly enjoy. Walking, running, yoga, an old high school sport you forgot about, and even cleaning your house are all perfect ways to add a little joy to your life. Make sure to set up a regular schedule; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. You deserve this time!
#7 Schedule a Massage
If you are dealing with any aches and pains or simply just want to relax, getting a massage is likely to do the trick. The National Institutes of Health provide links to multiple peer-reviewed journals that provide compelling evidence that massage therapy can help to ease an overwhelmed and stressed mind in addition to offering effective pain relief.
Take time for yourself – I cannot stress this enough! It is literally impossible to “pour from an empty glass”. Taking some “you time” not only benefits you – it also has a positive impact on those around you. Make it a goal to do something for yourself each day – your entire body will thank you.