One of the biggest obstacles I hear my health coaching clients mention is that it is hard to find time to take care of themselves. We all want to accomplish everything that makes us a good spouse, parent, friend, coworker, caregiver, etc. but it’s easy to let these roles overshadow our own needs. When we lose that balance, many of us end up feeling burnt out. If we aren’t taking the time to replenish our own energy we actually become less able to help others.
I got the idea for a self-care hierarchy from the book “No Sweat” by Dr. Michelle Segar and it has really seemed to resonate with the people I’ve tried it with. It’s a great way to think about and prioritize what you need every day in order to be able to fulfill those roles and responsibilities and show up as your best self. I find that many people have an idea of what this should look like for them, but there’s something about actually taking the time to think about it and write it out that helps them apply it.
Use the example below and create your own hierarchy. Here are some questions to help you think through the process:
• When I’m having a really great day, what behaviors contributed to that? Was it a good night’s sleep? Eating a healthy/well-balanced breakfast? Getting some form of physical activity?
• What behaviors help boost my energy levels?
• If I’m feeling worn down, what do I feel like my body needs?
How do you use this hierarchy to help you prioritize certain things over others and negotiate with yourself? I’ll use the one above as an example. Let’s say I have an especially busy week where I have to be at work early some days and stay late on other days. It’s really important for me to show up to work energized so that I’m able to connect with people and support my health coaching clients. First, and most importantly, I make sure I get 8 hours of sleep by looking at my schedule for each day and planning what time I need to go to bed the night before. I may say no to plans if they’ll prevent me from getting enough sleep. Second, I’ll plan out my meals for the week in advance and cooking most of them on Sunday. I also pack healthy snacks just in case I need them during a long day. If I do have a day where I need to eat out, I try to think of healthy options in advance. Ideally, I’d like some sort of physical activity each day; however, I know I won’t have time for an hour long workout. Instead, I schedule in times to go for a walk even if it’s just for 10 minutes at a time. Finally, I try to plan in some relaxing time alone to read a book or journal at least one time a week. It doesn’t need to happen every day, but I know I’ll feel more settled if I can do it once or twice.
I like to start with the most important part of the hierarchy first and make sure to schedule that. The other behaviors are important, but I can move them around or be flexible in how they’re accomplished. Figuring this process out can take time and some effort. However, most people tell me they notice a difference when they’re able to prioritize at least one thing for themselves each day, even if it’s just that one non-negotiable.