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How Do I Prioritize Myself?

Zoe Mittman, LSW

The question, how do I prioritize myself, may have popped into your mind before. If so, you have to come to the right place. Putting yourself first is difficult. You might be struggling to take the first step, or the fear of being perceived as selfish may be consuming you. However, you are not alone and you are in control of prioritizing yourself. You have the potential to take the first step towards improving your overall well-being.

We live in a fast-paced, constantly changing world. Society has set standards and norms for us to live by. However, self-care is way too often forgotten about. It is challenging to say “no”. The fear of not being invited to future plans, and the angst of spending time alone may prevent you from recognizing your own needs. Those are all valid and understandable thoughts. If you are reading or listening to this blog, you are probably interested in prioritizing yourself and you might be wondering how to start. 

Start by taking small steps daily. Maybe you start with five minutes a day, or fifteen. Dedicate that time to focus on you. That may look like meditating, reading, stretching, coloring, and way more. Increase that time gradually. It takes our bodies about 66 days to develop a habit. If you start small, you are more likely to succeed. Change takes time and patience. If you notice yourself missing a day, remind yourself why you started. Ask yourself, what do I hope to get out of self-care? Getting back on track is not easy – starting with smaller goals goes a long way.

Engaging in self-care includes setting boundaries. Boundaries are imaginary lines that you create, separating yourself from others. There are so many different kinds of boundaries – physical, mental, emotional, etc. When you don’t know when and how to put your own needs first, boundaries get blurred. Boundaries are essential in all realms of life – work, home, relationships, personal. When boundaries are crossed, feelings of uneasiness and distress may arise. Everyone has unique boundaries. You must be respectful of your own, as well as the boundaries that other people have set for themselves. 

Once you have formed boundaries, you can understand and acknowledge when something is not in your best interest. You are in control of your decisions and if you do not feel up to attending a plan you can say “no”. Practice saying “no” in a nice way. For example, “I am not feeling up to dinner tonight. Can we please reschedule?” If you say “no” in a nice way and are honest with both yourself and others, then you are taking care of yourself and making sure that you are in the right mental space in order to spend time with others.

Pause for a moment. Think about a time when you crossed your own boundaries. What happened? Who were you with? Why didn’t you say no? How could you tell that your boundaries were crossed? When did this happen? Where were you?  What were you thinking at this moment? How were you feeling? These are all questions that can help you determine what your healthy boundaries look like.

To dispel the fear that you will stop being invited if you say “no”, ask yourself if you would not ask a friend or colleague to do something just because they say no once. While getting in a habit of declining or canceling plans is not beneficial, saying no once in a while to prioritize you is necessary. You do not need to give anyone a rationale – you do not need to explain yourself. A true friend will be understanding and respectful of the boundaries you have set in order to take care of yourself.  

For others, prioritizing yourself may look like seeking therapy from a licensed professional. If that is something you are interested in, feel free to call Symmetry Counseling at (312) 578-9990 or go to our website to learn more about the benefits of therapy and find the right therapist for you! 

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