We’re going to try to guess something about you. Are you ready? We have a feeling that it’s not especially unusual for you to sacrifice what you want and need in order to keep up with a busy schedule or to make sure that other people around you are happy. Does that sound familiar? We thought so. And we think it’s time we helped you figure out how to prioritize yourself and your emotional health!
Why? Because you so obviously deserve it!
Some level of stress and self-sacrifice is, unfortunately, kind of par for the course sometimes. But there are ways to be more intentional about prioritizing yourself. Here are some of our favorites…
Create extra time for yourself.
It’s easy to feel as though there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Whether you’re rushing to complete tasks at the office or hustling to keep things running smoothly at home (or doing both!), you probably LOL at the mere thought that there might be a spare minute — let alone hour — available to tend to your emotional health and practice self-care. How to prioritize yourself when life is so crazy?
It’s simple: make a little extra time.
Set your alarm a few minutes earlier than you absolutely need to, build in a little extra time at the office so you can afford to take breaks here and there, or commit to an extra half-hour before bed spent without distractions or tasks. What you do with that time is up to you (you might even find some ideas further down on this list!), but no matter what you decide, you’ll feel better knowing that there’s dedicated space in your day set aside just for you.
Pay attention to your body.
It’s going to be really difficult for you to truly take care of yourself and your emotional health if you’re not genuinely in tune with the messages your body is trying to send. How to prioritize you when you don’t even know what you need? How can you put yourself at the top of your list if you’re ignoring signals that you need to rest and refuel?
If you can’t focus on anything, step away from your to-do list and take a mental breather.
If you’re hungry, get yourself a nutritious snack or meal.
If your body feels stiff, stretch first thing in the morning or take an online yoga class.
Practice saying “no.”
All too often, we feel like we have to say “yes” to everything. Yes to taking on new responsibilities, yes to playdates for kids, yes to social commitments, yes to hosting family for a spontaneous weekend visit… and the list goes on.
According to a 2017 article in the New York Times, our human tendency to say “yes” all the time comes from the fact that we thrive on reciprocity. We can’t help but “be socially obliging, and the word no feels like a confrontation that threatens a potential bond.” This leads to overcommitting, which can exhaust our energy, finances, and pretty much everything else.
In order to get more comfortable with saying “no” so you can have more time to prioritize yourself, the article suggests using the phrase “I don’t” instead of “I can’t” and by coming up with a handy list of anchor phrases you can have ready to go when someone asks you to commit to something you may otherwise have agreed to. You can also start practicing saying “no” in lower stakes situations — like when you’re asked to sign up for a store credit card or when a telemarketer calls your home — so that it feels more natural when the stakes get higher.
Don’t be afraid to look for support.
Sometimes, prioritizing yourself means recognizing that you need just a little extra help. If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or even a light case of the winter blues, you deserve to give yourself and those feelings the attention they deserve.
Remember: there’s no shame in talking to a therapist, life coach, counselor, or other health professional! It’s actually a great way to invest in your mental and emotional health and can empower you to work through some of the stresses and feelings that are creating obstacles in your daily life. According to the American Psychological Association, spending time with a therapist can also help you develop healthier, more effective habits.
Ask for help!
In some cases, asking for help might look like seeing a counselor or therapist. In other cases, it might look like calling in reinforcements on your regular responsibilities so that you have less stress and more time.
If you’re wondering how to prioritize yourself and practice more self-care, you might want to start by delegating. Ask your colleague to step in and take some work off your plate. See if your friend might be able to handle carpool with the kids for a few days this week. Tell your partner that you could really use their support with household chores.
Just because you can do everything doesn’t mean you should. Asking for help will free up time and valuable brain space so that you can get more serious about taking care of your emotional health. Plus, we’re willing to bet that your loved ones would jump at the chance to make your life a little easier.
Give yourself a compliment.
According to Syracuse University, positive self-talk can help you relax and manage stress — both key factors in taking care of your emotional health.
To practice positive self-talk, start by paying closer attention to the way you think or talk about yourself already. Put all the negative stuff into a box! Change the tides by working positive self-talk into your routine every, single day. Think — or even say out loud! — nice things about yourself at random moments during your commute, workout, workday, or while you’re getting ready in the morning.
Over time, all those compliments and positive self-talk will give you a boost in self-confidence and can also improve your overall outlook.
Pare down your schedule.
Simplify, simplify, simplify!
Pull out that pesky to-do list and think critically about how urgent each item on there actually is. We’re pretty, pretty sure there’s at least one item that you can put off until another, less hectic day.
Next time you’re wondering how to prioritize yourself and your emotional health, do this exercise for the day, the week, or even the month. Paring down your schedule will give you much-needed space to focus on what you need to feel and be your best.
Try mindfulness practices.
Meditation, breathwork, journaling, and other mindfulness practices aren’t for everyone, but they have proven effective tools for plenty of people who are working out how to prioritize themselves and improve mental health. They might be worth investigating, even if you are on the skeptical side.
According to the University of Washington, mindfulness practices can improve mood, reduce stress, make it easier to cope with pain, boost brain function, and event support weight management. If even one of these benefits sounds good to you, trying meditation or journaling could be a great way to prioritize yourself.
Don’t let people project their feelings on to you.
Just because someone in your life is feeling stressed or anxious about a situation, it doesn’t mean you have to feel stressed or anxious about that situation. Any time you start to absorb another person’s feelings, you’re basically making them more important than you are… and that’s obviously not how to prioritize yourself (duh).
Next time you feel yourself starting to do this, remove yourself from the situation if you can or take a few deep breaths. Remind yourself that you don’t have to share the same stress, anxiety, or anger as the other person. Getting into this habit will really benefit your emotional health and well-being.
Practice good health and wellness habits.
Good nutrition and a regular workout routine offer a slew of advantages for your body, so making time to meal prep and exercise is a key element of making yourself a priority.
Don’t slack off on the habits that make you feel your best physically — a great yoga class, a booty-busting workout, a walk outside with friends, and a well-rounded meal all deserve a spot at the top of your priority list if they make you feel good!