Prioritizing Self-Care

prioritizing self-care

I recall an earlier time in my life when I was putting in at least 14 hours per day not only taking care of my own responsibilities but overseeing the growth and development of around 8 colleagues. Frankly, I was stressed and anxious that I couldn’t get everything done and I pushed myself to the brink. And then a leader the organization called me into his office and told me I needed to prioritize self-care. Even though so much of the pressure I was feeling was coming from him, he insisted I take breaks for recreation daily for my mental and physical health or I wasn’t going to last in my role. Frankly, he was right. My life was out of balance. I was working too hard and worrying too much and needed to show more compassion for myself by taking time for myself, to do some things that I enjoyed. As I did, things improved including the quality of my work.

Definition of Self-Care

I define self-care as engaging in any activity that:

  1. Soothes you,
  2. Meets your deeper needs, or
  3. Lifts your mood.

Prioritizing self-care is essential for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. And yet, like me, lots of us aren’t very good at it. For one thing, we don’t think about it because our schedules are already overflowing. Second, we don’t think deeply about our needs and what it means to prioritize them. And third, it sounds selfish. So many of us have been taught to put the needs of others first and so caring for ourselves takes a back seat.

But I’m going to say that caring for ourselves is critical to enjoying life, managing stress and even being more productive. Research shows that those who work 40 hours per week are more productive than those who work 60 hours a week. Finding balance between exertion and relaxation, work and play, is good for your health. And the good news is that there are lots of ways to bring balance and more self-care into your life if you make it a priority. I’m going to share some ideas with you and then encourage you to come up with your own list of activities and build them into your schedule.

Take Time to Savor

One way to prioritize self-care is to take time to savor. Savoring may not be on your list of self-care activities but it’s a powerful way to increase your well-being. A form of mindfulness, I define savoring as generating, intensifying, and prolonging an enjoyable experience. It’s slowing down enough to pay attention to an experience in a way that allows you to take pleasure in it. Savoring may include taking time to enjoy a flower, a sunset, or cup of tea. But it can also include taking pleasure in such routine actions as taking a shower, preparing and eating a meal, even doing daily chores. Although little things, we can find pleasure in them if we bring our full attention as we do them.

Take Breaks

Another idea is to take breaks to lift your mood frequently. This can be as simple as stepping outside in the middle of the day, taking a short walk during lunch, listening to your favorite music as you clean up a project, stopping in to say “Hi” to a friend, pausing to focus on your breath, etc. I’m not talking about time-consuming activities but rather interspersing your day with small activities that lift your mood.

Engage in a Hobby

Do you have at least one hobby? Do you do it on a regular basis? A hobby is a great way of prioritizing your self-care and developing well-being. One reason is that it’s an escape from the normal routine and even pressures and stresses of life. Plus, a good hobby engages your body and mind so fully that many people can get into a state of flow and forget not only the passage of time but the cares and worries of the world. So make sure you have a good hobby and carve out time to do it on a regular basis.

Care for Your Physical Health

Prioritizing self-care includes taking care of your body and meeting your physical needs. This means making sure that you’re getting good nutrition, sleep, and exercise. However, it’s easy to ignore these needs because they take time and effort and also because the consequences for not doing them are not immediate. You have to abuse your body for a long time before it catches up to you. So ask yourself how well you’re taking care of yourself and how you could make this a higher priority.

Identify Self-Nurturing Activities

These are activities that you bring you pleasure, that make you happy. They are things like taking a warm bath, getting a massage, playing with an animal, going on a walk outdoors, taking a day off from work, reading a good book, calling an old friend, buying something new, working on a puzzle, sitting outside and enjoying the evening, seeing a good movie, listening to a beautiful piece of music. I could go on but you get the idea. What makes you happy? What would you need to do to bring more of this into your life each day? By the way, that’s the key—everyday. You can’t do these activities once in a while but need to do at least one thing daily that lifts your mood.

Let me say that good self-care is different for everyone and you’ll need to customize a plan to meet your needs as well as what is currently going on in your life. Self-care isn’t a one size fits all strategy. But if you prioritize it, it is a great way to honor your deeper feelings and needs, manage stress and build a greater sense of wellbeing.

So let me invite you to leave a thought. What is your experience? Are you good at self-care? How could you better prioritize your self-care?



  1. Mashudu

    Currently at the moment I am not good at self care, I normally spend most of my day on studying and stressing about academics. But from the above message I realised that life is not only about work and work, we need to prioritize ourselves although it may seem like selfishness, but it’s a necessity in the long run. For you to be able to help others, you must have a balanced and fulfilling life.first to yourself and then spread the love to others.

    • Roger Allen

      Yes. Thanks for sharing your insight Mashudu.

  2. Rachelle

    Thank you for helping me to not feel guilty about prioritizing exercise! I didn’t realize that things like savoring are self care too. This article actually helps me to realize that I do make self care a habit, and it puts into words what I’ve just felt in my heart about the good that comes from doing these things, and the reason for doing them. I can be quite productive, and there’s always more to do, but taking care of myself helps me to be able to handle life and relationships from a place of fullness.

    • rogerkallen

      Thanks for your comment, Rachelle. I’m glad to hear that you now realize you can make self care a habit. There is so much more than just being productive and we often forget about listening to our hearts and loving ourselves in our busy lives. Roger


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