On your list of priorities, how far down have you put yourself? Are you below the children, the job and the house? Does the family pet have priority over your needs? Heck, are you even in the top ten? It is easy to rationalize why everything else in your life should come before your own wants and needs. You have obligations that need to be met. Children need to be cared for and bills need to be paid. Housework and yard work need to be done. Someone has to get the groceries and run the errands. While that is true in part, it is also somewhat misleading if you don’t pay attention to the big picture.
It is easy to rationalize taking care of yourself when you are sick. You still have obligations when you aren’t feeling well, but chances are good that you don’t feel quite as guilty for staying in bed a little later, relaxing a little more and going easier on yourself if you can justify that you need to do these things in order to feel better. Now think about this. Would you have gotten sick at all if you had done these things to begin with? Taking care of yourself works in two ways. You can either be responsive or preventative.
If you are responsive, it means you take care of yourself only when there are outward signs that you need to, such as when you catch a cold or a virus. Or, maybe you have digestive issues due to stress. Perhaps it is more serious and you have developed high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. No matter what the issue is, the point is that you waited for something to happen before you did anything for your health. To me, this is like waiting to wash your car until after you have crashed it. Does this really make sense?
Why not be preventative? If you take care of yourself on a continual basis, health issues may never arise. You may save yourself from unnecessary sickness and grief if you make your health a priority and not an option.
Think of all the benefits to putting yourself first. Let’s start with the children. Sure, there is a certain amount of obligation to take care of your children. You must make sure they have a roof over their head and that they are clothed and fed. However, are you really doing yourself any favors by doing everything for them? As the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” Do you want to help your child succeed, or force your child to rely on you to live? As parents, it is our obligation to set our children up to be productive and self-sufficient later in life. Don’t be afraid to let them do some things for themselves. You will have done them greater good in the long run.
I know you have work obligations. You have to work to be able to pay the bills to afford all of the necessities to take care of your family. Yes, I hear you and I agree with you. There are times where work takes priority. What I am talking about is when work always takes priority. If you are the type of person who always burns the candle at both ends, are you really doing yourself any favors? Sometimes less is truly more. I am not suggesting that you do not do your job or that you do not put forth your best effort. I am just saying that there is more to life than work. You have to have balance. Try to find a way to do your job smarter, not harder.
If children and work aren’t enough to keep your plate full, you have home obligations as well. If you live like the average person, you probably do not have a housekeeper or gardener on staff. These obligations lie solely with you. To make it easier on yourself, set up a schedule that will allow you to keep your home and yard looking nice but not suck up all of your time. Maybe you vacuum every Monday and dust every Thursday. Perhaps Saturday is a good time for you to mow the yard or weed the flowers. Like anything else in life, if you do the same things on a continual basis, they won’t take as long as you are essentially just touching things up and you will develop a pattern that becomes more efficient over time. And, if you miss a week does it really matter? Probably not. Let it go. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to other household members. It may not be done the way you would have done it, but it will be done and give you time to concentrate on other priorities, like yourself.
There is no need to feel guilty about putting yourself first because taking care of yourself benefits those around you as well. If you make yourself a priority, you tend to have a more positive outlook on life. And, with a positive frame of mind, you are more grateful for life and all of the blessings you have. When you feel blessed, you are happier right? And, are you more fun to be around when you are happier? Well, absolutely! Everybody wins!
If this isn’t enough to convince you to take care of yourself first, think of the health benefits. If you keep your body in a position of strength, you are either setting yourself up to fend off negative health consequences or putting yourself in a better position to deal with any health issues that may arise. Sure, some sicknesses are beyond your control. But, why not give yourself a fighting chance? Like an athlete, if you start out in a position of advantage, it is easier to keep the position of advantage. Besides, it is harder to keep up all of your other obligations when you don’t feel your best.
If having too many obligations is your issue, don’t be afraid to say no to some things. There are inevitable things that we all must do, such as weddings, funerals, graduation parties, etc. So you must take them when they come. But do you really need to be in five different committees and four different community organizations? Sure, if there is something you would enjoy doing then do it. But I am going to throw that dreaded ‘balance’ word in here again. You have to hold all things in perspective. If you are no longer finding enjoyment out of something, you are doing yourself and the organization no favors by staying involved. Let someone else with fresh ideas and renewed energy take your place. Both you and the organization will benefit from your non-selfish action to know when to say when.
Even knowing all of these things, are you still rationalizing why everything else in this world should come before you? Look at it this way, if you were talking to a friend who felt this way, what would your response be? Would you agree with them that they do not deserve to put themselves first or would you remind them that they deserve to have time to themselves, for themselves? Maybe it is time to become your own friend. Start treating yourself with kindness, encouragement and support. Make health a priority, before it makes you an option.