Do you al­ways put you last?

Plac­ing your­self at the top of your to- do list isn’t self­ish, say psy­chol­o­gists—it’s the key to greater hap­pi­ness, health and har­mony!

First For Women - - Insight -

You pride your­self on be­ing the one ev­ery­one turns to for love, sup­port and as­sis­tance, drop­ping ev­ery­thing to buoy, bol­ster and back peo­ple up. But the ugly side of be­ing a hero—ex­haus­tion, frus­tra­tion, a chronic sense of fail­ure—leaves lit­tle en­ergy for tak­ing care of you.

“You learn from cul­ture that self-care is self­ish and that car­ing for oth­ers is the high­est ideal,” says psy­chother­a­pist Tracey Clean­tis, au­thor of An In­vi­ta­tion to Self-Care. “You learn that to be a great mother, daugh­ter, sis­ter, wife and friend is to be tired, worn-down, busy, breath­less, sleep­less and self-deny­ing.” You feel the toll it’s tak­ing, but there’s al­ways a fire to put out or a cri­sis to see some­one through. “We tend to say to our­selves: Once I achieve this, once I ac­com­plish that, then I will take care of me,” ob­serves Clean­tis. “How­ever, if you don’t start with self-care, you won’t have the fuel to reach the moun­tain­tops that you are ca­pa­ble of reach­ing.”

The key to pri­or­i­tiz­ing your own needs along­side ev­ery­one else’s? Bound­aries. “Bound­aries are lis­ten­ing to your ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ and un­der­stand­ing what your lim­its are,” ex­plains Clean­tis. For ex­am­ple, you might cap the num­ber of hours you in­vest in some­one else’s prob­lem or scale back com­mit­ments that sap your en­ergy. “Set­ting bound­aries is truly the great­est self-care you can ever do.”

To get started, iden­tify the emo­tional red flag you no­tice most in your own life, then read on for ex­pert ad­vice on how to honor your needs while still be­ing a re­source for ev­ery­one you love.

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