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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

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

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

Reference

More by this author

Jacqueline T. Hill

Writing, Blogging, and Educating To Guide Others Into Happiness

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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