Your single most important job in life is taking care of yourself — period.
Your intuition, body, and physiology are all wired to keep you alive and well. But most of my clients truly believe that loving someone means consistently putting that person's needs above their own. They think being a good mom, partner, sister, or friend means putting someone else first.
Over time, consistently casting your own needs aside for the benefit of others can become a self-care crisis. As a psychologist and coach for top executives and leaders, I often work with clients who have given the world their everything and hardly have any energy left to give time or consideration to themselves.
Why Is Self-Care Important to Well-Being?
In the process of putting others before themselves, my clients end up wrecked with anxiety, stress, and worry. It's hard for them to enjoy the good things, and everything in their world feels like a chore. Over time, their never-ending schedules show up on their bodies as illness or disease.
When you push past your limits, you deplete your body's stores of energy, hormones, and serotonin. Blame your physiology’s fight-or-flight response — in order to compensate for pushing ourselves too far, the brain sends out an SOS signal and starts pulling in cortisol from your adrenals. If you keep going, adrenal fatigue will set in. Without your natural supply of serotonin and other mood regulators, you will lose the ability to actually enjoy the things you're doing.
If you keep giving everything away without taking any time for self-care, you will show up as a partial version of yourself to the very people you wanted to nurture. If you want to be there for the people you love, you need to be there for yourself first.
How Your Lack of Self-Care Is Harming Those Around You
When you show up in life overworked, stressed, and anxious, it transfers to the people you love. Friends and family who are sensitive or impressionable can actually inherit your problems through observation. They feel what you feel through empathy.
In my practice, I've seen kids and young adults internalize the problems of their parents to the extent that their own bodies start to suffer. High hormone levels ultimately become automatic physiological responses to most aspects of their daily living. I have seen a teen test high in cortisol (a stress hormone) as what I believe to be a result of the energy they were absorbing from their overworked and anxious parents.
Why Your Perception of Selfishness Is All Wrong
Many people mistakenly believe that those who put themselves first are selfish. That simply isn’t true. In order to really, truly put yourself first, you have to understand who you are and what you need to be happy and healthy. That kind of deep understanding and self-awareness won’t bring out superficial desires. The things you really need to be your best self are the ones that benefit everybody.
I'm giving you permission to put yourself first. It’s time to start saying yes to the things you really want to do and no to all the others. Life has never been as interesting as it is today — we have never had this much awareness and range of possible experiences. We are addicted to movement, to being busy. We keep going and pushing ourselves even though we feel the negative consequences of doing so. It has to stop.
Resting is not an option — it is a requirement for good health. To keep you from falling down that slippery slope of overworked exhaustion, schedule time to rest and relax. Resting will mean different things to different people, but overall it should allow your body proper recuperation time from your busy schedule.
It all comes down to being present in your life and understanding how your mind and body react positively and negatively to different events, people, and places.
When you are anxious, stressed, or unhappy, you bring that energy into everything you do. Ask yourself — when am I comfortable, happy, and healthy, and what do I need in order to show up like that in the world? Being a happy, healthy you is hands down the best gift you can give to your loved ones.
- 20 Ideas To Squeeze In A Little Self-Care, No Matter How Busy You Are
- 5 Reasons Putting Yourself First Is The Opposite Of Selfish
- Rest: The Importance Of Slowing Down
Photo credit: iStock Photo