Learning to prioritize yourself and to claim time for what’s important to you is critical for long term success with health and wellness. Staying on track, finding the time, and maintaining motivation can be major challenges when you are trying to develop new habits. It’s all-too-easy for healthy eating, exercise, and self-care activities to be pushed down to the bottom of a to-do list. We’ve all been there at some point—you get worn out and lose your motivation or you just can’t figure out how to fit it all in your already busy calendar.
When life gets busy, personal priorities, self-care, or “me-time” may start to feel nonessential and tends to drift off your radar. Many smart, busy people get stuck in the mindset trap of believing that self-care is selfish or a luxury—something you can get to later, but I’m here to tell you it’s the opposite.
The way you care for yourself matters. The way you prioritize yourself affects your health and fitness goals as well as the time that you can devote to them. It affects your eating. emotional eating, including stress eating which sky rockets when you aren’t getting what you need in other areas of your life. When you are at the bottom of your priority list, it affects how you show up in your relationships. If you struggle with the false belief that making yourself a priority is “selfish,” know that prioritizing self-care sets a powerful example for others in your life.
Like getting new tires for your car, prioritizing your self-care is what allows you to run smoothly and to bring your best to your other priorities and challenges, even when you hit the speed bumps. There are glaring consequences to not putting yourself first:
· less energy and motivation to follow through on your goals
· easily distracted and less focused
· relationships often suffer because your stress level has increased
· interrupted sleep
· creativity suffers which often times means less play and fun
· feelings of deprivation, irritable, impatient and easily frustrated
· health is negatively impacted
· we look to other vices such as stress eating, smoking, drinking too much, emotional eating, and other time wasters
When you’re not a priority, you simply don’t function at your best and your ability to contribute to those around you is compromised.
Here are a few things you can do:
· Claiming 10-15 minutes a day for yourself is a great place to start. It won’t take away from your productivity, it will increase it. Use this time to connect with yourself and to pay attention to how you feel and what you need. Journal, walk, meditate, take a lavender bath. Try not to save this for the end of the day when you are too tired to move and your brain has stopped working. Pay yourself first or, if necessary, take a break during your day.
· Adopt the following mantras: “I’m doing my best,” and “I can’t do it all.” They are true. Put them where you can see them and remind yourself of them frequently.
· Each evening identify your top three personal action items for the next day and decide when you will accomplish them. A fifteen-minute walk that you take is better than the 45 minute one you couldn’t fit in. If possible, knock out your personal priorities early in the day.
· Plan for food that fuels you—especially when time is tight. Don’t skip breakfast, have a plan for lunch, and don’t starve yourself before dinner. Make sure you have the groceries that you need. Choose foods that are appealing. No starvation diets.
· Cut the multitasking. It stresses us out and makes us less effective. Practice focusing on doing one thing at a time. You won’t get it perfect, but that’s okay, remember step number two.
· Take emotional eating seriously. It’s often a signal that life is out of balance and your personal priorities need more attention. Emotional eating happens when our spirit or our life isn’t getting fed the intangible things we need or crave. If you wonder about how to stop emotional eating, it starts with paying attention and developing ways of caring for ourselves instead of turning to food. When we do this, huge changes are possible. This can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Learning to prioritize your own needs is a process, but you don’t have to get it perfect to see big benefits.
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