Self first isn’t selfish

I’ve developed a bad habit of putting other people’s needs ahead of my own.

I’ve developed a bad habit of putting other people’s needs ahead of my own. Actually, I’ve had this habit my entire life, but lately it’s been getting worse.

I know. What mother doesn’t do that? The smart ones, that’s who.

There’s a great analogy about being in an emergency on an airplane and placing the oxygen mask on yourself first so you’re able to help those around you. It makes perfect sense. But do I typically help myself before others? Not usually. And I’m especially not doing it now.

I’m writing this article in the wee hours of the morning, not because I’ve woken up early or stayed up late, but because I didn’t go to bed at all. I’ve been pulling a lot of all-nighters recently and only getting three to five hours of sleep the rest of the time. That lack of sleep is catching up with me.

I’m more forgetful, less productive and absolutely exhausted. And when it comes time for column writing, I often feel empty, like I have nothing to offer.

“You need some me-time,” my 12-year-old daughter, Daisy said yesterday. I agree. I do.

For many months I’ve been putting myself on the back burner while concentrating on helping other people. I haven’t been taking care of myself physically or mentally, and nodding off at the computer while in an upright position has become a common occurrence.

This time last year I was doing far better. Despite being extremely busy, I still managed to hike daily, eat healthy and get plenty of sleep. I was also making time to do things I enjoyed. I felt happier and more creative then; I want to feel like that again.

But with work, volunteering and family obligations, where do I find the time?

“Just do it Mom,” Daisy said. “Go away for a day and only do things for yourself to get used to it. After that, put yourself on the schedule like you did before. We’ll all be fine.”

I knew she was right. I also knew my family would benefit if I followed her advice. We are far more effective at helping others when we are at our best, so I’m going to make taking care of myself a top priority again.

Spending at least 10 minutes a day to write in a gratitude journal will be part of that plan. Every time I get into the daily routine of reminding myself of the things in life I’m thankful for, I become a more focused and positive thinker. And that mindset always helps me realize that I should be as loving and respectful to myself as I am with the people I cherish.

It also helps me understand that putting myself first isn’t selfish or bad like I grew up believing it was, it’s actually vital to the way I want to live the second half of my life. By becoming stronger and healthier, I will have much more to give my family, my friends and the world in general.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist from Kelowna.

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