How I Learned to Take Care of Myself First, Before Taking Care of Others (And Why You should too!)

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Yes, I get it. But, please don’t call me selfish, insensitive or self-centered just yet. Just wait until I tell you why I think it’s important that you take very good care of yourself first, before taking care of others.

This year, in the United States, the flu season has been horrible, to say the least. According to the CDC, the annual flu vaccine which health officials recommend should be taken to prevent one from coming down with an influenza infection has been grossly ineffective, and actually reported to only be about 36% effective.

I know many parents including myself, all want the best for our children, even if it sometimes comes at our own expense. Therefore, we take so many things for granted, forgetting that if we are not healthy enough or incapacitated for several other reasons, then we may not be able to give the best to the people that matter the most to us, and who definitely deserve our best.

Therefore, when I started having symptoms of (maybe the flu) coughing, cold, headaches and low-grade fevers, rather than seek medical help immediately, I assumed it had to be one of “those colds” and decided to tough it out.

Maybe my Medical background played a role in my lackadaisical approach to my health. But, I really made no attempts to go check out myself with my doctor, instead, I resorted to taking Tylenol (which of course is handy and felt like an easier option), in hopes that I would just get better. But, I never did.

However, it was not until after about a week, with no signs of improvement, and me becoming increasingly weak and fatigued, with some sick days taken from work, that I knew something was not right. At this point, I could barely do anything for the kids, because I was too tired to, and so my husband had to bear the pain of doing ‘everything’ himself.

The doctor confirmed that I might have had the flu, but because I hadn’t presented on time, I was already in the post-flu stage, which had become complicated by sinusitis. Bottom line is that it took me an additional almost a week to fully get back to my former state, and resume my previous duties as a wife, mother, and career woman. And that was when reality struck me.

I had been too ‘busy’ taking care of everything else that I hadn’t taken the time to take care of myself. If I had paid more attention to my wellbeing, I probably wouldn’t have taken so many sick days off work, and also wouldn’t have over-burdened my husband, during the period when I couldn’t do much at home.

Thankfully, I did not get any other member of my family infected, but the experience taught me a valuable life lesson. You cannot take care of others if you are not in the best form or shape. Therefore, in order to ensure that we are always there for the people who matter the most to us, we must take the time and effort to also look out for ourselves. We must learn to take care of ourselves first before we take care of others.

Through my experience, I have identified 3 key Relationships where we often place ourselves at the backseat, because we are either too busy or like me, take things for granted, without paying attention to our wellbeing.

  1. As Parents /Caregivers. As parents and caregivers, we are often carried away with ensuring that everyone around us is ok, that we sometimes forget to look out for ourselves. We ensure that our children get immunized, get their annual physicals done, go to great schools, do their homework and even participate in extracurricular activities. But as parents and caregivers, do we take the time and discipline to also ensure that we are also in good health and shape? I have seen people skip annual physicals because they claim they are too busy. Please, remember that only a fit and healthy person can take care of another person. That is why when you board an airplane, they always tell you to put on your life jacket or oxygen mask first, before helping out another person, including your own children. And this is the primary reason why. You cannot effectively help or take care of someone else if you do not first take care of yourself.
  2. Spouses or Partners. Why do people suffer in silence in abusive relationships? Why do people endure the pain and shame that accompanies being verbally, physically and emotionally degraded in abusive relationships? It is because they have not learned to take care of themselves first, emotionally. In a relationship, your primary responsibility is to first take care of yourself, and that includes your mental and physical health, before taking care of the other person. You must value yourself and your self-worth. You must love yourself and see yourself as a good thing before you can see that in the other person. You cannot give what you do not have. Some people (not all though) remain in abusive relationships because they are looking out for the other person when in reality they should be looking out for themselves. Some people have sold out their liberty to others and given them the power to tell them who they are, and how they should be defined. Don’t do that. If you must thrive in a healthy relationship, you must first learn to love, appreciate, nurture and pamper yourself first, because only in doing that would you be able to give that in return to the other person.
  3. In the Workplace. In order to give your best to your job, you must first be at your best. Some people spend all their time working, and never taking the time to relax or take breaks. Some people think that they are inevitable at their jobs, and so hold on to false beliefs that without them being around, their jobs would not go on. That is not true. Please know that if anything happens to you today, which renders you incapacitated to fulfill your job requirements, you may be replaced in seconds or minutes. So, why kill yourself because of a paycheck? Some people even take office work home (please don’t do that), working long hours, when they are supposed to be spending that time with their families. And then return to work the next day feeling all cranky, and getting on other people’s nerves. If you are doing that, then please you need to stop. You need to make sure you take your scheduled breaks and go on your vacations. Don’t lose out on the 8hours sleep per night, because you can only give your best to that job if you are at your best. So, do not jeopardize your self-care in exchange for longer work hours.

In wrapping this up,

You can only give your best to others when you are at your best. If you must take care of others, make sure you take care of yourself first, because only healthy people, can indeed be helpful people. You deserve the best for yourself, and that includes you being the number 1 priority. Before you rescue a drowning man, please always make sure you have your life-jacket on first, because only then would you be better positioned to become a helper!

To your continued success. Cheers!!!

Evi Abada


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Great post. Taking care of yourself is something most neglect. You only have one body….


    1. Evi Abada says:

      Yes, sometimes we get so busy taking care of others, and in the process forget to take care of ourselves in the process. We have to always remind ourselves that we can never give what we do not have. Thank you so much Coach Mimi for your thoughtful response as always!


      1. You are so very welcome! I always enjoy your posts.


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