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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

Why It Matters to Take Care of Yourself First (And How to Do It)

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Why It Matters to Take Care of Yourself First (And How to Do It)

Do you ever get that feeling that you’re being pulled into a million directions until you feel like you’ve lost your center, your essence, and your being? Everybody wants you to do something for them, and, of course, you want to help, and you want to be there for them, be their rock, a shoulder to cry on. You know you need to take care of yourself, but that takes a back seat.

The feeling of satisfaction you receive when you help someone is undeniable; when you are there for them, you feel needed. There’s a price to pay, of course.

This emotion or feeling of acknowledgment comes with that price. It’s like a double-edged sword. You keep giving and giving until you feel drained, emptied, and you can’t recognize yourself anymore.

You ask yourself, “How does doing so much good leave you feeling so empty?”

You beg your soul to feed on all the good it’s doing, but it continues to feel starved You can’t escape the cycle because you’re stuck on repeat, and no one seems to want to click on the next button anytime soon.

Here, we are going to help you learn how to take care of yourself and become the best possible version of you, so that you really can be there for those that need you when the time comes.

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What It Means to Take Care of Yourself

This is the million-dollar question, right? The answer to this question can either make or break you because the difference between self-care and being self-centered is thin. Taking the wrong step onto the wrong side could mean absolute self-destruction. So how do you find this balance? Does this mean making irrational decisions at work where you give up everything? No. Does this mean being so self-absorbed in your own needs that you begin to develop a blind spot to others? Definitely not.

Taking care of yourself is simply realizing that you’re also important. It means not to unnecessarily and constantly ignore your needs and the things that make you feel good. It can be best described as helping others by helping yourself first. It means prioritizing your happiness and fulfillment without infringing on others.

Let’s face it, we’ll always be needed by people around us—friends, families, and even coworkers—but most importantly, you’re also needed by you. Which would be your priority? Shouldn’t you extend the same kindness and consideration to yourself as you do to those around you? If you’re looking to live your best life, the answer should be a resounding yes.

Common Misconceptions Around Self-Care

Over the years, the idea of learning how to take care of yourself has moved through various misconceptions and myths. Fortunately, these are beginning to change as people realize just how important self-care really is. Here are some of the most common misconceptions that need to be busted.

Making Self-Care a Priority Is Selfish

This serves as one of the significant reasons for feeling guilty when we decide to put ourselves first. A kinder, more realistic way of looking at it would be to realize that taking care of yourself replenishes you and helps you take care of your loved ones better. You’ll practically be of no use if you’re constantly being depleted. Ask yourself if you’re really willing to sacrifice your joy and mental health.

People Always Need Your Help

There is a vast difference between being there when you’re needed and constantly hovering and waiting to magically fix everyone’s problem. As hard as it is to hear, you’re not the hero of the world. It is not your duty to save everyone. Not to mention that doing this would only rob the people around you of the ability to learn from their experiences. This inadvertently leads to a toxic relationship with constant dependence.

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Boundaries Will Push People Away

There is a law that states you attract what you display. If you present yourself as always available or a rescuer, you’ll attract people that need rescuing. If you don’t set boundaries on how you should be treated, you’ll be continuously probed and pushed until you’re practically living for others, and your life doesn’t seem to be yours anymore. People will always test your limits and sometimes take advantage of your seemingly good nature. For this reason, boundaries are necessary and, yes, healthy.

It’s Bad to Expect Something in Return

While you would like to believe your actions are totally selfless and you expect nothing in return, we often feel resentful when our actions aren’t reciprocated. It would seem easy to blame others, but you have to realize that to take care of yourself is your responsibility, and although some people might take advantage, you need to understand when to set the limit and keep some of that love for yourself.

Your Worth Is Based on Others’ Opinions

Primarily, it all boils down to placing your value on other people’s opinions or desires for you. It all centers on our self-esteem and the confidence to sometimes say no when the situation calls for it. Realize that if you’re loved, you will always be loved for who you are, not what you can provide or offer.

Why It’s Important to Take Care of Yourself

Are you still doubting that it’s important to take care of yourself? It’s time to put that guilt away, because the effects are magical, and the results are practically life-changing.

Improved Productivity

Self-care helps to bring into sharp focus the things that actually matter to you. Placing priorities enables you to focus and direct your energy toward what’s important to you.

Do you ever have those dreams of trips you always wanted to take, but you never seemed to find the time for it? Well, putting yourself first helps you cut down unnecessary laybacks that waylay any and all desires and goals.

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Improved Physical Health

In biology, there are two main types of reflex actions: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic reflex action. The sympathetic reflex action is our response to emergencies, also known as the fight or flight response. Research has shown that continually stressing over issues prompts the body to respond with sympathetic actions[1]. This reaction comes about by releasing certain hormones in the body like adrenalin, also known as epinephrine. These hormones in our bloodstream prepare the body by dilating blood vessels, increasing blood pressure, and overall stressing your body and weakening the immune system.

On the other hand, taking a chill pill and relaxing prompts the opposite reaction, which is the parasympathetic reaction that leaves you relaxed, refreshed, and strong enough to resist diseases, improving the health of your immune systems[2].

Once you learn how to let go of other people’s problems, you’ll find you use your sympathetic actions a lot less often, which is great for both your physical and mental health.

Higher Self-Esteem

When you regularly carve out time to do what you want for yourself, it sends a positive message to your brain and releases endorphins that improve feelings of self-worth and confidence. Besides, it allows you to discover your values and realize your passion. It’s time to recollect your thoughts and discover yourself.

How to Take Care of Yourself

There are different methods of practicing self-care, and the trick is to find which you connect with and which seems to work best with your schedule. It also depends on the area of your life they need to be applied to.

1. Emotional Self-Care

This involves accurately projecting your emotions. When it comes to your emotional health, the best idea would be to lay out your feelings as they are and prevent unnecessary suppressing of emotions. You might feel tempted to bottle up the feelings, but the healthy option would involve accepting and dealing with these emotions. Remember that although you can’t control your emotions, you control how they affect you.

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Tips for Emotional Care
  • See a therapist. Although this is optional, it can be a great way to talk through your feelings and get clear on what you want and need.
  • Reminisce constantly on good memories, as this keeps you positive.
  • Keep a thought journal or diary.
  • Never be afraid to let it out and cry, and ask for help if you need it.
  • Music is famed to be the food of the soul, and research[3] has proven that singing along to your favorite song is bound to improve your mood drastically.

2. Physical Self-Care

The benefits of self-care aren’t just limited to our minds, but it extends to show results in our physical bodies. Self-care is definitely known to improve your physical health. Even the simple act of worrying less exponentially boosts your immune system.

Tips for Physical Care
  • Practice yoga to improve your mental state and enhance muscle tone and flexibility.
  • Learn a new sport to activate the release of endorphins.
  • Take a walk and connect with the scenery and atmosphere.
  • Eat healthy to balance your hormones and offer your body everything it needs to keep you energized.
  • Ensure you get at least 7-9 hours of sleep, as this improves brain function and productivity.

3. Miscellaneous Self-Care Techniques

Take time to connect with your friends occasionally, deeply. This promotes more satisfying and meaningful relationships, which improves your overall mood[4].

Never be scared to say no to an invitation you’re too exhausted to enjoy. If you need it, take some time for yourself and put in some solid “me” time.

Meditation always helps. It also highlights a list of things you’re grateful for as it helps keep things in perspective while helping you appreciate the good things your life has to offer.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to take care of yourself first might be the hardest decision you’ll ever make. However, in the long run, it will also be the best decision as it will allow you to finally become the best version of yourself and achieve all those goals you’ve been waiting to tackle. Get started on self-care today.

More Self-Care Tips

Featured photo credit: Jakob Owens via unsplash.com

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Reference

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Jacqueline T. Hill

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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