If I had to guess, I would say you are likely a people pleaser. Most of us are. We are do gooders––trying to make everyone else’s life easier, sometimes when they are not even asking us to.
Being of service is a beautiful act of love, at least until the point you stop turning tender loving care inward. When emphasis is put on others, without tending to your own wellbeing, illness can manifest. Depression and anxiety creep in. Digestion is compromised, as is sleep, energy levels, and sexual drive.
The healthy habits that keep you in shape, grounded, and feeling vital are first to go flying out the window when you are too busy organizing, cleaning up after, and constantly doing for someone else.
I know this well, because for most of my life I self-sacrificed for the sake of others. Ultimately, I sabotaged my health and happiness, AND that of others around me because I wasn’t at my best.
Here a few tell-tale signs that your selflessness might be leading to self-sabotage:
You plan to workout, but then think, “I need to get dinner on the table, and so I won’t be able to fit it in today.”
You say “yes” to requests for help, social engagements, or small projects, but then hope others will cancel dates, or retract their requests.
You feel guilty scheduling personal time for a massage, pedicure, lunch date, or an exercise class.
If you happen to get that massage, pedicure, or decompress in the yoga studio, you spend most of the time thinking about all you have to do for others.
You are not sleeping well.
You have “knots” in your stomach much of the time.
You race around doing nice things for others even when they haven’t asked you to, and at the expense of doing something nice for yourself.
You dread getting up because of all you have to do, none of it being what you WANT to be doing.
You are a pre-cleaner (you clean and organize BEFORE the housekeeper arrives).
Sexual intimacy does not interest you like it once did.
You indulge in food or alcohol, and then feel guilty about it.
You resent your spouse, family, or friends for going to the gym, getting a massage, taking time off, or choosing to rest.
You contract more illnesses than most people you know.
Does any of this resonate? If even one or two signs sound familiar, you might benefit from discovering how to show love and kindness to others while deepening a relationship with your self, and satisfying your needs.
Here are five tools to help you:
Schedule ‘Me’ time
There are enough hours in the day, you just aren’t scheduling enough of it for you. Make personal time a priority, and put it on your calendar. Even if you carve out only thirty minutes to go for a walk, an hour for a favorite hobby, or take yourself to coffee or lunch once a week, every little bit counts.
Every time you do something nice for yourself, you say yes to you being a priority. The more you do this, the more at ease you will feel throughout your day. You will become less resentful of others, and will have more energy for accomplishing tasks, and taking care of those you love.
Celebrate Incremental Victories
Maybe right now, your life is not setup to attend an hour long yoga class, or to sit in stillness for thirty minutes every morning. That is okay. Incremental victories of self-care are just as valuable. For example, high intensity interval training (HIIT) has profound positive benefits.
A 15-minute routine of push ups, jumping jacks, burpies, mountain climbers, jump squats, and plank––each for thirty seconds, with ten seconds of rest in between, does not only tone and strengthen your body, it increases circulation, releases good feeling endorphins, boosts metabolism and immunity, and detoxifies your cells. If a quarter of an hour is all you have, an intense sweaty session just might be what you need in order to give yourself a high-five.
If you are feeling fragmented and overwhelmed, fifteen minutes of meditation might be more fitting. There is no need to sit on a meditation cushion or in lotus pose either. You can meditate lying down, sitting in a chair, or even while walking in nature.
Regardless of how limited the time may be that you can give yourself, just be sure to always make it count.
Plan + Prep
One of the best ways you can be more self-loving is by eating mindfully, and this becomes more possible when you have planned for, and prepped meals in advance. On days you visit the market, build in prep time for when you return home. As you pull fruits, vegetables, greens, and herbs from their bags, wash, trim, and chop them. Transfer those that need to be chilled into glass containers, and place them front and center in your refrigerator for easy access. Do the same for your favorite proteins too.
Batch cooking is also a great tool for ensuring you have healthy meals and snacks on hand. Some of my favorites to prepare each week are Power Protein Balls and superfood salads like Hemp Seed Tabbouleh.
Be sure to always make time to eat without distraction. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. Avoid eating at your computer, while emailing, watching TV, instagramming, driving, or doing any other activity. Set a place setting (even if it’s just for you), and sit down. Bless your food. Focus on what you are eating, how it taste, and how it makes you feel. Chew slowly and thoroughly, and thank your body for processing your food optimally.
Think before you speak, and refrain from saying saying, “yes” unless you mean it. This is a tough, but necessary practice for people pleasers. By always saying yes, you will spread yourself too thin, and ultimately diminish the quality of your attention to others.
It is okay to say, “no”. Those you love and work will appreciate your honesty. They want you to be straight with them, and to not commit unless you can follow through and bring your best. It may not feel like it at first, but co-workers, friends, and family members will be okay. They will find a way to get their needs met, with or without you fraying your emotional threads.
Invest in Your Wellness
It is amazing how easily we will drop five dollars on a prepared coffee drink every single day ($150 per month), but then squawk at the idea of getting a $60-80 rejuvenating body treatment once or twice a month. If we would direct our dollars to the latter, doing so would be a game changer for our wellness.
Visiting with a health coach, working with a personal trainer, paying for a monthly yoga membership, or receiving a monthly or bi-monthly therapeutic treatment can significantly reduce stress and anxiety. A calmed nervous system, and healthy lifestyle habits result in weight loss, better sleep, more energy, strengthened immunity, reduced inflammation, and less disease. And, we all know, less disease means less doctors taking our money.
The call to you this week is to prioritize your wellbeing. Put you first. Schedule self-care, and know that doing so doesn’t mean you are any less a lover or caretaker. It actually means quite the opposite. By making sure your needs are met, you will be more engaged, and more effective in helping to satisfy the needs of those around you.