Happy New Year!
Looking for a New Year’s resolution? What if you chose one that not only improves your overall mood and level of functioning but also improves your relationships with others?
Put Yourself First!
Simpler said than done, yet this is one of the most effective ways to make a significant change in your life. You see, putting yourself first comes with many potential benefits such as: less resentment, decreased anxiety/stress level, improved overall mood, improved self-esteem, and healthier interactions with loved ones… to name a few.
At one point or another, most of us will find ourselves striving to fulfill a role to the best of our abilities. We may find ourselves trying to be the best child, best spouse/partner, best parent, best friend, best coworker, best employee, etc. Although these are all valiant and caring goals to have, it is imperative to not lose ourselves in the process and to ensure that we are taking care of the most important person first…Ourselves!
If YOU are not putting yourself first, it most likely means that you are not meeting all your needs. Not having your needs met can lead you to become easily overwhelmed, anxious, irritable and resentful which can in turn create conflict in your relationships and impact your overall mood and level of functioning.
The good thing about this New Year’s resolution is that you can start with something small and manageable and add onto it as much or as little as you find fit. To help you start out, I have come up with a simple 5 step process that will help you get on track towards Putting Yourself First. Carefully review each step before you begin to implement them and don’t hesitate to reach out to me, another therapist or a wise caring friend for support and guidance.
1. Explore Your Needs and Expectations
Sit in a quiet space and ask your mind, body, and soul what you need to feel better. Is it better sleep? More downtime? More exercise? This may take more than one reflection period. It may take a few days of being mindful and honest with yourself. Sometimes it helps to envision what an “ideal day” would look like to determine your inner most needs.
2. Review Your Daily Routine
Next, examine your daily routine. Make note of where you actually dedicate your time. Identify which activities take more time and which are prioritized more than others. It may be helpful to track your day by breaking it down into an hourly schedule. Look out for time that is being wasted or misused. I’ve included a useful chart for daily monitoring. Click Here
3. List Hobbies/Interests
Make lists of: things you enjoy doing, things you haven’t done in a while but wish you did, and/or things that interest you but have never tried. Engaging in such activities is a great Self-Care technique. Self-Care is by far one of my favorite homework assignments to offer to clients. Something as simple as drinking your favorite cup of tea in a quiet corner in your home can help you recharge in the middle of a long day of work and responsibilities.
4. Set Up a Realistic Plan
Now that you have a picture of your “Ideal Day” and a clear representation of your actual day, look for ways to plug step #3 items into your daily routine. The key here is to be realistic. Start small with something that is easy and manageable. Perhaps you wake up 5min earlier on day one and start your day with a stretch. Or maybe you go to bed 5 min earlier to try to get a bit more sleep. It may seem insignificant at first, but once you realize it is doable you will be motivated to explore other options.
5. Schedule It In!
Once you have picked your activity from step #3: make it official and schedule it! Create a daily, weekly, and/or monthly routine with the activity or activities chosen. Whether you write it down on your wall calendar or add it to your phone reminders, make sure you follow through with it as you would any other important appointment or meeting. Give it the importance it deserves. This is for you! You deserve it!
This is only one way you can begin to Put Yourself First this year. Something as simple as implementing self-care on a regular basis can help you re-energize and fill your cup. If you take care of YOU first, then you will be better equipped to be there for others and improve the way you relate with others. If you decide to try this, please be kind to yourself and know that you may not get it right the first time you try it. It may not feel as rewarding at first, but don’t give up! Keep trying and if you need additional support or guidance don’t hesitate to reach out.
Learn more about the author of this post: Miriam L. Sullivan, LCPC