I’ll admit it. Taking care of myself is a lesson it took years to learn the hard way. My mom was the queen of doing for others before herself, so I guess I just imprinted from her. She couldn’t stop and teach me to “take care of yourself” since she rarely ever did.
I’m eternally grateful that she taught me the importance of serving others, but I wish she were still here for me to share with her how critical it is to take care of yourself. First.
So much of our mental health affects the state of our body and our ability to cope with the issues that stress us. Learning how to care for ourselves can change how we view and interact with the world we live in. Even better, it can improve our health, encourage weight loss, and increase our happiness.
Most importantly, it teaches us that we love ourselves, and we’re worth taking care of.
Why You Matter Most
Remember the last time you were on an airplane, and the flight attendant was giving the same old safety spiel? There’s a really important point they make about the oxygen masks. You should put yours on before you help someone else, even a small child. That used to slightly bother me, but it doesn’t anymore.
Here’s the basic reason why: you can’t help anyone else if you passed out from lack of oxygen. Boom. In survival mode, the experts flying you from point A to point B have told you to take care of yourself first.
Now I’m not advocating that you go out and become the most selfish person you know. But it’s critical that you understand that the state of your mind, body, and spirit affects your physical and mental health, which then affects your ability to truly care for people you love.
How many of us have had several long weeks of long hours at work, mixed with things like working out, taking care of a pet, working on a side business, and spending time with a boyfriend? That’s a lot to juggle at once. It leaves you exhausted and lacking any real conviction to want to give your best at a relationship. And not just with your boyfriend, but also with yourself.
When you stop to take time for yourself, to care for just you, suddenly it feels like you have more time to share with other people you care about.
Your Physical Health Depends on Self-Love
Two aspects of your physical health can be strongly affected when you don’t care for yourself first: your physical appearance and disease. Let’s break it down.
I’ve tried a number of diets and workout programs over the years from P90X to carb cycling with HIIT to 21 Day Fit Extreme. Each one kicked my butt physically, but did precious little to change my body’s appearance. Sure my muscles were tighter and stronger, but I still couldn’t see them under that layer of cushion I had. Probably the best results were on the 21 Day program, but they didn’t last long.
Looking back, I’m certain now that the reason I couldn’t get my body to look the way I thought it should was because I wanted it for the wrong reasons. Anything from just wanting to look like a model to doing it because I felt like the men in my life expected it. I didn’t do it for me or my health.
When I finally stopped and pondered about who I was physically, I had some amazing “ah ha” moments.
First, I will never be a body builder. And that’s ok.
Second, my body runs on carbs, it loves them, and I can’t function well without them. And that’s ok.
Third, a little extra cushion around my waist won’t hurt anything at all.
As soon as I connected those beliefs with myself (meaning I really internalized, accepted them, and loved myself anyway), I swear my entire workout and weight changed. It became easier, more enjoyable, and I noticed my body toning itself better than it ever had before.
I’m still not a perfectly thin and muscular girl, but I’m exactly ok with the muscles I know I have and my lovely little muffin top. (Who doesn’t love muffins anyway??)
Secrets of disease
This is a big one. And I’m going to make a disclaimer right now that I’m not a doctor and cannot diagnose someone, and you should definitely get medical advice if you have a disease or unexplained issues. I’m all for holistic and natural health, but there’s absolutely a place for medical treatments too.
Experts are beginning to acknowledge real, distinct links between emotional distress and serious diseases, as well as weight gain. Our bodies are made of pure energy that runs on many frequencies as each moving part works in its domain.
If you have stressed yourself out so much that you’re continually exhausted, then these bits of energy can’t function and connect properly. That’s when things get out of balance and can create issues such as headaches, weight gain, auto-immune diseases, or even some cancers.
I never believed how strong this connection between emotions and our health was until it happened to me. For several months, I had some crazy menstrual cycles that my doctor decided could be controlled with a new progesterone pill, which didn’t work. Suggestions from my naturopath didn’t help either. Finally, as my body became critically anemic, I waited for a specialist appointment and eventually ended up in the emergency room.
Three days later, I had a cancer diagnosis with radiation treatment being critically needed immediately. I was so shocked. And I could not process it all until I had completed the treatments.
Long story short, I had already been on a path of learning about myself and healing past traumas and feelings. As I looked into the shadows of my cancer diagnosis and treatment, I realized I had never loved myself at my core. At my feminine core. All the parts of me that made me a woman. Partly from my own negative beliefs and those of men I had dated.
All that negativity had settled into my reproductive system and misfired. And as I focused on taking care of my mother who had been battling breast cancer, I had stopped caring for myself and keeping up on doctor appointments. Ignoring my needs had weakened my body over time.
Your physical appearance and health depend on you being willing to put yourself first. To allow yourself to be the priority. Your body is depending on you for that. Be kind to yourself.
Your Mental Health Depends on You
We’ve all experienced a tension or stress headache. They’re no fun. Especially when you get them frequently. Our current world creates enormous opportunities to feel stress throughout the day. While stress can help us complete important tasks, staying in a constant state of stress is super unhealthy.
Aside from how it affects the body by draining its supply of cortisone and adrenaline, too much stress can create feelings of overwhelm, frustration, and even anger. You might even completely shut down, emotionally or physically. When you can’t control the emotional overload of stress and worry, you literally cannot cope with change and adversity. It becomes too overwhelming and can lead to panic.
Just as your body can be totally worn out after working out or moving to a new house, your mind can wear down from the constant worry and expectations you have for yourself. You’ll make poor decisions like eating unhealthy or going back to a bad relationship.
Strong mental health ensures you can still make decisions that serve you best, no matter how stressful life is around you.
You can break this cycle. That might feel impossible as we battle the stress of life under a coronavirus pandemic, but it’s not.
Now more than ever, you must take time to take mental breaks to take care of yourself first. This doesn’t include scrolling through Instagram mindlessly for hours. True mental self-care means doing things that refresh and invigorate your mind and spirit.
Let yourself make mistakes and still love yourself.
Allow a few things to slip when you’re busy without beating yourself up.
Choose to take an extra 5 minutes to yourself to just breathe and focus on your successes (no matter how small).
The more you take care of yourself mentally, the better your body will feel, and the healthier connections you’ll make with friends and family. Being mentally healthy is crucial self-care work.
The physical and mental aspects of taking care of yourself are deeply connected and critical to your overall health. Take time each day to work on taking care of yourself first. Don’t allow a serious disease or mental breakdown be the trigger that makes you practice daily self-care to prioritize yourself. Start now and be amazed at how your life feels happier and stress bounces off you when you remember to act on taking care of and loving yourself first!
Do you have stories of how you improved your life by taking care of yourself first? Comment below with your stories or questions you may have!