1. Why put yourself first at all? Is this something you would recommend to a client, and if so, why and in what types of situations? (For example, it seems like a lot of moms tend to neglect their own needs in favor of their family members’. But even though this typically comes from a caring place, it can potentially cause stress, burnout, feelings of resentment, etc.)

Our culture has made us believe that you are selfish when you put yourself first. But that is a huge lie. I believe that prioritizing the needs of those around us makes them happy and loved. But it does not suggest that we cannot do the same to show ourselves love too. Taking care of ourselves first is even better because it gives the energy to peacefully give others more. For instance, if a mom is fully dedicated to ensuring the husband and kids have their needs and desires met all the time, making her sleep late and wake up earlier, it is possible that the trend will overwhelm her. She may become worn out and exhausted, which reduces her energy to serve better. It is worse when she does not get appreciated for her deeds, probably because they all think it is her duty in the family. She may curse herself and end up acting with resentment and disappointment, which may hurt the people she loves. I usually tell my clients they have to come first if their goal is to give the best to others. It comes with genuine care for your loved ones because you already feel taken care of from inside. Furthermore, if you fail to care for yourself, who will?

2. What advice would you give someone who struggles to prioritize their own well-being?

I would like them to learn that taking care of themselves is fully their responsibility. They should know that their needs or desires can only be gotten if they seek them because nobody will do that on their behalf.

3. How would you recommend addressing feelings of guilt or shame when it comes to self-care or putting yourself first? (i.e., exercises in self-compassion and non-judgment)

The best way to release shame or guilt is;

  • Not judging yourself.
  • Forgive yourself.
  • Be kind to yourself.

4. Any tips for how to start prioritizing yourself more? (i.e. setting boundaries, understanding your needs, etc.)

I recommend the tips below;

Speak up

When situation are too tight to bear, especially for people who feel guilty for prioritizing themselves, I recommend speaking up. Tell out your emotions; let them know what you want. It helps avoid settling for less because you are worth of more. It more about giving limits, which takes us to the next point.

Setting boundaries

If you want to stop people from crossing your path or testing your patience, then set boundaries. I know you may feel guilty of what they will think about you, but be sure it is for your good. Lack of boundaries may make you burst in anger or breakdown just because you did not know how to deal with the situation.

Practice self-care techniques

Create a plan of your day’s tasks, including everything that makes you grow. Think about practices for self-betterment, including enough sleep, exercising, eating healthy, and looking good. Such things will makes you feel whole with increased inner peace that will help serve other better, but after you come first.

5. As a culture, we tend to glorify selflessness and self-sacrifice. How do we strike a balance between caring for others and caring for ourselves? What role might our value systems play in doing this? Thank you!

I recommend doing activities that balance work and responsibilities, including joining clubs and voluntary groups. You can also engage in more fun activities such as, playing recreational sports with friends or children and walking your dog to the park. Moreover, meditating can help ease anger or hurt feeling, more so, after facing disappointment. I also tell people to act with love and forgiveness. This mainly works when they forgive themselves first to help motivate and inspire others. It will be difficult to encourage others if you are not kind enough to forgive yourself.

Anastasia Filipenko is a health and wellness psychologist, dermatolist and a freelance writer. She frequently covers beauty and skincare, food trends and nutrition, health and fitness and relationships. When she's not trying out new skincare products, you'll find her taking a cycling class, doing yoga, reading in the park, or trying a new recipe.

MS, University of Tartu
Sleep specialist

Using the acquired academic and professional experience, I advise patients with various complaints about mental health - depressed mood, nervousness, lack of energy and interest, sleep disorders, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts and anxieties, difficulty concentrating, and stress. In my free time, I love to paint and go on long walks on the beach. One of my latest obsessions is sudoku – a wonderful activity to calm an unease mind.

Mental health expert
MS, University of Latvia

I am deeply convinced that each patient needs a unique, individual approach. Therefore, I use different psychotherapy methods in my work. During my studies, I discovered an in-depth interest in people as a whole and the belief in the inseparability of mind and body, and the importance of emotional health in physical health. In my spare time, I enjoy reading (a big fan of thrillers) and going on hikes.

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