5 Winning Strategies to Prioritize Yourself

Photo of Randy Legaspi

By Liz Scala

Over the past several weeks I have been involved in various workshops, have had conversations with mentors and guides, and have heard other people share with me their struggles- all around saying “no”… around putting the Self first.  I am not sure why it is but human beings, especially caregivers, tend to do for others but not for themselves.  So while I am a registered nurse and share from my own experiences as such, these words can really apply to anyone in a caregiver role- a parent, an adult taking care of elderly parents, a friend, a teacher, a sibling, etc.  There are so many instances where human beings are constantly putting others first and as a result of this- putting their own care, their own health, last.

So I know that we, as nurses, continually give so much of ourselves.  While being compassionate, nurturing, and caring, which are parts of our professional and personal roles; we shouldn’t let this “giving nature” put our own self-care in jeopardy.  We must allow ourselves to rest on the other side of the giving relationship; being open to receive.  We have welcome support and help along the way.  

Why is this important?  Well, what’s the cost to our well-being if we are unable to easily receive?  Our health is at risk.  If we always give of ourselves we will burn out fast.  If we are unable to fill own self-care tank we run on empty. 

In my previous role as an inpatient psychiatric nurse, I was so fixated on helping everyone on my unit.  I used up all of my energy giving to others that I almost passed out during work!  If we are constantly taking care of others, who is taking care of us?  If we are rushing all day from one task to another, helping people around us, we won’t have enough time for ourselves.  

We might be up late getting projects done for others so our sleep or relaxation time suffers.  We could wind up with physical health concerns such as stress headaches, digestive issues, chronic fatigue, and even pain.  We have to care for our own bodies, minds, and spirits and one way we can do so is through being more receptive to support from other people. 

Here are some easy strategies I suggest to get started:

  • Shift Your Mindset.  In order to be able to receive you have to change the way you think of yourself.  We often put loved ones, friends, or work first leaving little room for ourselves.  Start to see yourself as number one.  If you begin to think of yourself as your first priority you will start to act that way.  Our thoughts become our actions.  So check in with yourself.   Think about where you rank on your priority list.  Do you come first?  Or do you always put yourself last? 
  • Practice with Little Things First.  Observe this scenario:  “Sally, I really like your hair!”  “Oh gee, it’s a mess Sue!  I was running late and didn’t get to blow dry it today!!”  Sue: “Well, it really looks good today; I like it that way.”  Sally: “Well, you must need glasses!”  Are you like Sally in this vignette; finding it hard to take compliments?  This is where you can start with a major change.  Accept the compliments people offer.  Just say “Thank you” and feel good about yourself.  Start by receiving the nice things people say.  Believe me, once you start with something small, like taking a compliment that is offered, you will be more readily able to accept a helping hand when it is extended.
  • Check Your Pride at The Door.  We are not superwomen or supermen!  We are not on this planet alone.  No one told us we must do it all by ourselves.  If this was the case, why are there over 6.8 Billion people on this earth?  We are all individual beings with unique qualities.  We are all here to help each other.  Yes, you can help others.  Yes, it is great to be a giving and caring person.  But this is not to be done at the expense of your own health and well-being.  Accept the help offered to you and realize you are not a Cartoon Character Hero like Mighty Duck!
  • Practice Being Realistic.  Many times when I was working on the inpatient unit I felt that I had to do it all.  I could not leave the shift until every “T” was crossed and every “I” was dotted.  Let me share something simple with you: nursing is a 24/7 job.  There will always be the next shift.  Realize you cannot get it all done EVERY single time.  Allow others to help you out and receive the teamwork’s hand.  You share your help and giving nature all of the time; why not allow others to share theirs with you?
  • Engage In A Healing Practice.  You may come across blocks within your own psyche relating to receiving.  If you need support there are available resources everywhere.  Treat yourself to a massage.  Take a Spa day.  Attend a sound healing concert.  Get a Reiki treatment.  Find a way to heal and welcome support from others.  Slow down and create space for receptivity.


About the Author: Liz Scala writes about Health and Wellness monthly for AMSDaily. You can visit her  blog at Living Sublime Wellness to read more on these topics. 



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