Health: Why I regularly put myself first


We all wear many hats in our lives. We are employees, parents, children, friends, cooks, cleaners, chauffeurs, coaches, caregivers and often many more. We have so much that we need to do and on top of that we add many things that we want to do. Where do we find the energy to achieve all of that? Do we do it to the detriment of our own health and wellbeing?

“I know this sounds crazy, but I am convinced that a major reason many people don’t achieve greatness or even reach for it is because they just don’t have the energy. They aren’t taking care of themselves. We all need to do a better job of this, for ourselves and in support of others. Remember, it doesn’t matter how great your vision is, you cannot muster the will to overcome adversity or marshal the energy to hustle tirelessly if you’re out of breath or stuck on the couch.” Lewis Howes, The School of Greatness.

It is very easy to fall into the trap of putting everyone and everything ahead of our own needs and wants. This is particularly true for parents. It seems that for mothers in particular, there is an expectation that our every waking moment will be focussed on the children, that our every thought and action will put them first. Of course it is very important that our children’s needs are catered for and their safety and security is ensured but I propose that sometimes we must put ourselves first and everyone else second.

Put on your own oxygen mask first.

Think about the times you have sat on an aeroplane and listened to the safety briefing. They are very clear that should the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling, you must put your own mask on first before attending to others. Why is that?  Wouldn’t it be the right thing to do to put our children’s masks on first, to make sure they are safe? No! If your own body is not receiving oxygen and you pass out, then you won’t be much use to anyone and may have just endangered your children’s lives as well by doing so.

It’s very easy to fall into bad habits and overlook the signs that something needs to change. How often do we continue to do something even when we know it’s not working? It’s as if there’s something in our brains stopping us from taking a step back, assessing the situation and changing our approach.

Taking time to notice the small things can make a big difference.

My vaccuum cleaner just wasn’t working properly the other day. It’s a hand held and I was holding down the switch but it was only working on and off. I kept checking to see if I was actually holding down the trigger correctly and getting a little frustrated at why it wasn’t working as I expected. Finally I realised I would need to do something differently. I turned it off, walked over to the bin, opened the filter panel, tipped out the 1/4 cup of sand collected there, shook out the filter, put it back together and finished the vacuuming with no further trouble.

If I hadn’t done this, what would have happened? I would have continued to be frustrated, the floor would have remained dirty and quite possibly I would have burnt out the vaccuum resulting in a rather expensive trip to the shop to replace it. Those few minutes of stopping, considering and changing my approach avoided all of those negative consequences.

Put your health first regularly to ensure that everyone gets the attention they need.

Constantly putting others first and ignoring our own health is just like trying to vacuum with that half working machine. Maybe we convince ourselves that we don’t have time to sort it out, maybe the possibilities of what could be wrong are too difficult to consider or perhaps we convince ourselves that we’re not important enough to spend the time on.

Is it being selfish to take time each day to care for our own mental, physical and emotional health Absolutely not! We should make it a priority. If we are going to be the best employees, parents, children, friends, cooks, cleaners, chauffeurs, coaches and caregivers we can be, we need to put on our own oxygen masks and take care of ourselves first.

I challenge you to take some time today to do something just for you. Feel free to share in the comments below. You may just help another person in need.

2 thoughts on “Health: Why I regularly put myself first

  1. I LOVE THIS. I watched my mom nurture and care for me and my siblings and for the past 15 years she has struggled with chronic illnesses and her quality of life is not what she wants, nor what I want for her. I’m choosing to live my life differently and want to coach other caregivers how to do this. We have to break the martyr mom cycle. Any time I need to rationalize why I’m working out or taking time for myself, I picture my health when I’m older and what kind of grandma I want to be in my golden years. I also think about what kind of mom and father I want my children to grow up to be. I don’t want them to be overwhelmed and unhealthy. Taking care of our health now is definitely easier said than done with all the competing priorities but it is possible. You won’t find the time for it…if it’s important to you, you’ll make the time.

    1. I am at the point where I schedule time for myself into each day. As you say, we will never simple find the time, we must be sure to make it. I have long since stopped feeling guilty. I know that I am a much better mother when I take the time to care for myself. I see caring for myself as just an extension of caring for my children as it not only benefits me but benefits them too.

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