Do you often put others ahead of you and forget to look after yourself? I know I do this regularly. It may be partly because I grew up in a household where I didn’t matter much. Children were supposed to be seen and not heard. My opinions didn’t matter much either and the adults ruled in an authoritarian manner. Whatever the reason, many of us tend to be martyrs and we don’t look after ourselves as we should. This is the number one mistake that we make that leads to misery and depression. Self care is vital to withstand the strains and pressure of modern day living.
How to look after yourself
It may seem ludicrous to write the above title but for some people, self care is an alien concept.
Learn to say “No” and stop being a people pleaser. You wil find that people still like you afterwards. I have always found it difficult to say “No” and often go out of my way for others. When I do this though, I end up running myself ragged and exhausted. Learning to maintain bealthy boundaries is a great skill when it comes to looking after yourself. The more you say “no” the easier it becomes. You will free up more time for yourself and have a higher quality of life if you treat your time as important.
Spend time with inspiring people
Wherever you can, spend time with people that inspire you and lift you up. When we spread ourselves thinly and stay in the company of toxic people, it erodes our inner self. We end up emotionally and physically drained. Identify the ‘takers’ and ‘users’ in your life and make a determined effort to see less of them. Cut them out completely if you can. This may seem brutal but toxic people are poisonous for your well being. Some toxic people are unavoidable but at least if you know who they are you can protect yourself and be more aware of when they try to manipulate you or try to make you feel bad about yourself.
Be active and engaged
I am the worst when it comes to being active. I can barely get out to walk my dog (and feel constantly guilty about it). I am getting better at getting out and being more active and when I do, I feel great. Exercise is great for the body, mind and soul. You don’t have to go to a gym, just get more active in general. Walk up stairs instead of taking the lift. Walk instead of driving where possible – small steps towards being more active is a good start. Get out and about, chat to strangers. Engage with others. Compliment strangers. Giving back to the world is good for us and makes us feel we are living a worthwhile life. Give to others and care about the environment – feeling connected to the world around us is important for our sense of self and identity.
Limit the self criticism
We all have an inner bully but we don’t have to listen to it. It’s always going to be there trying to scare us into not doing things but we can learn to ignore it. Monitor your self critical talk and do your best to stop it when it happens. You are not fat and stupid, you are unique with many good qualities. Focus on your strengths and minimise your weaknesses. We could all focus on our negative qualities and wallow in self hatred or we van choose to find the good that we like in ourselves – far more productive and useful!
Be kind to yourself
Give yourself a break. We all make mistakes. Accept that failure is a way to learn rather than the opposite of success. It’s all about your perception. Optimists are good at choosing the thoughts that help them to feel good about themselves. Pessimists are good at looking at all that is wrong. Who do you think is happier? It makes no sense to constantly berate yourself. Go for a massage, spoil yourself regularly and treat yourself like you would a dear friend. Another trick is to imagine your 5 year old self. Now that you are an adult, would you criticise that 5 year old looking up at you with innocent trusting eyes? No you wouldn’t, so don’t do it now. That little 5 year old is still inside everyone of us and needs to feel love and cherished. Learn to give this to yourself because the world can be erratic at offering love consistently.
Look after your physical health
This is the obvious one but it’s one we all find hard to do. Eating well and taking care of our bodies can seem a chore but when you do it, it’s a great feeling. I find it a chore but when I do a beauty regimen of creams and conditioning my hair etc but it makes me feel wonderful afterwards. It’s a psychological lift as well as a physical one. Leave the guilt alone though if you can’t always keep up the self care 100% but, like me, be a work in progress. All steps in the right direction count.
Allow yourself time to be selfish. To have fun and put yourself first. I allow myself naps and never feel guilty about it. I look at rest and relaxation as part of my self care routine. It’s okay to do nothing and just enjoy your time doing whatever you like. We are conditioned to belive the opposite – almost like a modern day conspiracy. Fight against that and feel proud of yourself when you draw the line and take time out to do whatever the heck you please.
Self care should come before anything else. When we feel refreshed and well taken care off we have so much more to give. If we are running on empty we put our mental and physical health at risk.