The Self-Care Paradox: How to Look After Others by Putting Yourself First

by | Aug 7, 2023 | General health

In our quest to be good parents, partners, friends, and caregivers, we often prioritise the needs of others at the expense of our own wellbeing. We think we are being selfless and nurturing, yet often, we end up running on empty, unable to provide ourselves the care we so readily offer to others. This is where the self-care paradox comes into play: by prioritising self-care, we can better care for those around us. 


Putting on Your Oxygen Mask First 

Think about the safety instructions given on an airplane. In case of an emergency, passengers are told to secure their oxygen mask first before helping others, even their own children. The reason for this is simple: If you are not taking care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of anyone else. 

Applying this concept to our daily lives, self-care is not selfish; it is necessary. Hear me out – when we take care of ourselves first by ensuring our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing needs are being met, we are better equipped to support and care for others. This creates a healthier environment for everyone involved. 


Shifting Your Perspective 

To adopt this approach, the first step is to shift our perspective. Remember, caring for ourselves is not an act of selfishness. It is about ensuring that we are in the best possible position to provide help, support, and care to others. 


Practical Steps for Self-Care 

There are several ways we can put ourselves first and practice self-care: 


Regular Exercise: Engage in physical activities that you enjoy. Exercise is not just beneficial for your physical health; it provides a healthy way to manage stress and boosts your mood. 

Healthy Eating: A balanced diet supports both physical health and mental wellbeing. Do not forget to hydrate as well. 

Quality Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is essential for physical health and cognitive function. If you are well-rested, you will be better equipped to handle daily challenges and care for others. 

Relaxation Techniques: Techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, and hypnotherapy can help manage stress and promote mental wellbeing. 

Setting Loving Boundaries: It is okay not to be available to others all the time. Understand your limits and communicate them to those around you. 

Hobbies and Interests: Allocate time for activities you enjoy. This can be a creative outlet, learning something new, or reading a book. 

Positive Self-Talk: Examine the language you use when talking about yourself and to yourself. Noticing negative talk and making a conscious effort to be more complimentary of yourself and your new habit of self-care will go a long way to reinforce positive and lasting results. 


By implementing these strategies, you will be taking proactive steps towards self-care and, in turn, better care for those around you. 



Remember, self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity. By putting yourself first, you are not neglecting your loved ones. Instead, you are ensuring that you can provide them with the best care and support possible, as well as displaying healthy adaptive behaviours. So, start today, put on your oxygen mask, and see how this mind shift improves not only your life but also the lives of those around you. 



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