Something I have learnt recently is how low I had myself and my own wellbeing on my list of priorities. I often put everyone else’s needs and wants before my own, which resulted in me not caring about myself in a way that I should.
One thing I’ve realised lately is how important it is to have time for myself. Don’t get me wrong it can be difficult, and I have to prioritise what is important not only at that time but in the long run. Obviously this is easier said than done. Make sure you do something for yourself. I can’t stress this enough. Even if it’s just one hour a day. We get 24 hours a day, taking just one hour for yourself is taking less than 5% of your day. Instead of saying “I don’t have time” say “I don’t prioritise that”. Would you say that to someone you love? If not, why say it to yourself?
I think the main issue is that as nurses we are used to putting others before ourselves in our work, which I think can spill over into our private lives. We end up wanting to please everyone, and this ends up with us putting ourselves low on our list of priorities. We work so hard caring for others and putting their needs before our own. We go hours upon hours without food, using the loo or even a drink. We stay over our shift finishing times, we come in early before our shift officially starts to help others.
This has become such a normalised thing that I think that even if we thought for one second of making ourselves a priority then we end up feeling guilty. We must learn how to say no. Saying no to overtime, saying no to those extra tasks that will be put on our already unmanageable plate. We could ask for help, but then we’re scared that our ‘resilience’ is questioned. “Other people manage it so why can’t I?” is the question that we all tend to ask ourselves.
Now I’m not saying to disregard peoples needs and feelings to put your first. Obviously you can care for people and still care for yourself. I was saying to a friend of mine the other day who said that they felt they “cared too much” for people and thought this was a bad thing. It’s not. You can care greatly for people, you can go out of your way for others to treat them with kindness, respect and dignity. But the minute this has a negative impact on your physical or mental health, you need to ask yourself if it is really worth it. How can you genuinely care for others if you can’t care for yourself? We are human, sometimes we just need a rest and recharge.
So ultimately my advice is to look out for yourself, which you can do whilst also looking out for others. Do not put others before your own mental or physical wellbeing, it is not selfish. Once you are aware of your own needs, you can help others with theirs. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup!