Designing Your Best You by (gasp!) Putting Yourself First

Adopt a “me first” self-care mantra.

Need a new self-care mantra? Try “put your own oxygen mask on first.”This means purposely putting yourself first on your mile-long “to do” list — even if you’re busy and especially if you’ve got kids. Whether you’re in your 20s, 40s or beyond, you can feel healthy, look great, and live your best life right now. But it all starts with making intentional choices that bolster your physical, social, and emotional well-being. In other words, take better care of yourself.

“I define self-care as a value that says, ‘I’m worthy of caring for myself so I can have the health, energy, and stamina to give and care for those I love,’” explains Julie Burton, a mother of four and author of The Self-Care Solution: A Modern Mother’s Must-Have Guide to Health and Well-Being.

But make no mistake — self-care is not just for moms. It’s for everyone: young and old, parents and non-parents alike.

Jumpstart the self-care process with these ideas:

  • Pamper yourself. No need to hope someone gives you a spa gift card for your birthday. Pamper yourself all year long. Buy some new nail color. Indulge in a DIY facial. Schedule an appointment for a hot stone massage. Sprinkle essential oils into a warm bath for a mood-booster. Treat yourself to some sexy lingerie. Take time for hobbies, such as reading, painting, or gardening.
  • Don’t skimp on sleep. In our get-more-done way of life, sleep sometimes falls by the wayside as we try to squeeze more productivity into every day. But we’re hurting ourselves in the process, as chronically sleep-deprived people face serious health problems such as greater risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to Alon Y. Avidan MD, MPH the Director of UCLA’s Sleep Disorders Center. Most adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
Pro Tip: “Associate your bed with sleep,” says Dr. Avidan. “It’s never a good idea to use your bed to watch TV or read on your mobile device. If you want to read before bedtime, make sure it’s an actual book and not an e-reader, and leave the bedroom to read by dim light. Also, never bring your work to the bedroom or start emailing while in bed.”
  • Refresh your exercise routine. You might already exercise sporadically, but you need to do it more consistently. Or maybe you’ve got a regular routine, but you need to shake it up a bit because you’re in an exercise rut. The solution? Sign up for a Color Run or fundraising walk-a-thon. Swap fitness DVDs with a friend and try something different like Pilates. If you normally exercise inside, take it outside by trying a fitness boot camp or morning Tai Chi class at your local park. Find an exercise buddy to keep you accountable.
  • Nourish your body with high-quality food. Skip the processed, prepackaged convenience foods and feed your body with healthier choices, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans. Stay hydrated with lots of water instead of sugary juices and soda. Try making (from scratch!) meatless meals a few times a week. Splurge and hire a nutritionist to fine-tune your eating habits. Hit local farmer’s markets for fresh, local fruits and veggies. Ditch the white starches and eat whole grain bread, rice, and pasta.
Pro Tip: “Plan what you’re going to keep in your fridge that week and plan what meals you’re going to make with that food,” advises Sara Haas RDN, LDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It doesn’t take long to plan, maybe 5–10 minutes. Keep the process simple. And, take yourself off the hook by planning easy meals. This doesn’t have to be fine dining — just healthy.”
  • Connect with family and friends. If you’re too busy to spend time with family and friends, that’s a sign your life is out of balance. Make time to meet friends for drinks. Invite neighbors over for a potluck dinner or a wine and cheese party. Skip the texts and call a long-distance friend. If it helps, schedule social engagements on your calendar just like regular appointments. Make every Friday “date night” for you and your spouse, schedule coffee dates with your mom, or put a weekly game night on your family calendar.
  • Freshen your look. You can look and feel good at every age by tapping into your personal style, knowing what flatters you best and adapting to current trends. Get style-inspired by flipping through current fashion magazines. Try a trendy new lip color. Hire a stylist or image consultant for expert advice. Watch a make-up tutorial on YouTube to master a new technique. Test out a different hairstyle or new color for a fresh look.
Pro Tip: “Not sure what’s current in fashion right now? Check out Pinterest and search for fashion in the current or upcoming season,” suggests stylist Ryan Boles of RCG Image Consulting in Dallas. “Plus, a great show to watch to see what’s coming back is Fashion Runway.”

Feeling good at any age starts with the right mindset. By making positive, intentional choices that nourish body, mind and soul, you can design a life that brings out your best you. And, most importantly, you need to make yourself a priority.