Why You Have to Care for Yourself First

Your First Stewardship is Your Self

by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)
Taking care of yourself first means you have the capacity to take care of everything else.
by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)
Taking care of yourself first means you have the capacity to take care of everything else.

It’s in every preflight safety training, even the epic ones:

“Put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else with theirs.”

On his Smarter Every Day YouTube channel, Destin Sandlin induced hypoxia in himself—under the close supervision of professionals, including a flight surgeon—to demonstrate the effects. By the end, he couldn’t figure out how to put his mask back on. He wasn’t even trying to.

Flying at 35,000 feet, you only have 15–30 seconds of useful oxygen before you lose your ability think coherently, or even act to save your own life.

You have seconds. That’s it.

The timeline may be a little different when you’re not losing cabin pressure at 35,000 feet, but the importance of self-care is universal. If you don’t take care of yourself, you soon won’t be able to care for anyone else.

In roles where we care for someone else, like a parent or a small business leader, we have been conditioned to place our stewardship before our selves no matter the cost. It’s true that others are depending on us, and we need to come through for them, but we need to do so sustainably.

Remember that your likes, preferences, and dreams are just as valid as anyone else’s.

Take Turns

As soon as kids realize they can listen to music in the car, that’s all they want to do. (The same goes for watching movies and playing Minecraft—be careful what you introduce.)

You want to listen to Frank Sinatra, they want to listen to the Frozen soundtrack. Guess who has the lower tolerance to listening to someone else’s music? That’s right. Now you’re listening to “Let it Go” for the twenty-seventh time today.

Pretty soon, you’re going to resent Idina Menzel, and she’s a fabulous singer. You’re going to regret ever letting your kids know the car plays music.

Kids understand taking turns. It’s part of their innate sense of fairness. They get to pick a song, you get to pick a song. “Let it Go”, “My Way”. “I am Moana”, “Come Fly With Me.” “Evermore”, “The Best is Yet to Come”.

Not only are you making music time enjoyable for you, too, you’re reinforcing sharing, patience, and taking turns. You’re exposing your kids to new music. Who knows? Maybe your kids will start asking for Old Blue Eyes.

Get Enough Sleep

You know how kids seem to have boundless energy? It’s because they’re getting twice as much sleep as mom and dad are. Kids need more sleep to support their rapid mental and physical growth. Adults need sleep to heal, regenerate, and process the day’s events.

Once no one’s telling us when to go to bed, it’s all too easy to dismiss our need for sleep as being lazy. We wear long hours and late nights as a badge of honor, a measure of the value we’re creating. All we’re doing is wearing ourselves out. Showing up tired is like showing up drunk. Possibly worse, because we don’t realize how impaired we are.

Build “Me Time” into Your Schedule

Getting enough sleep is perhaps the most basic way to build “me time” into your schedule. If you can do nothing else, strive for that.

Every day, try to schedule some time to focus on you. This could be planning your future or writing in your journal. It could be playing the guitar or working in the garden. It’s time where you can set aside all of the urgent demands of Quadrant 1 and simply be present in Quadrant 2.

Setting aside just a little time every day for self-care will do wonders for the time you spend on stage.

Invest in Your Own Growth and Development

We send our kids to school, to piano lessons, and to Little League. We send our direct reports to workshops, seminars, and continuing education classes.

When was the last time that you did something for your own continuing education (that wasn’t required by your employer)?

If developing the skills of your direct reports benefits the team, the same goes double for you. If you want to encourage your children to read, lead by example. Both groups will emulate you.

You’re never so busy driving around town that you can’t stop and get gas. Stopping to get gas is just part of the cost. We understand this principle when it comes to driving. We can’t ignore it when it comes to our productivity, growth, and well-being.

Don’t get me wrong: being a steward requires sacrifice. But you have to remember that we talk about two completley different concepts when we talk about “sacrifice”:

  1. Giving up something of value for something of no value.
  2. Giving up something good for something better.

The first one is just a bad idea. It shows very short-sighted thinking, even for those who benefit (in the very short term) from receiving the value.

But trading something good for something better? That’s sustainable. That benefits everyone. That’s how stewardship is supposed to work—the steward benefits as well.

Question: What have you done today to care for yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.