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  • Writer's pictureRachel Niemczyk

Health Is The First Wealth: 5 Ways to Care for Yourself So You Can Help Others

Electrocardiogram (EKG) with a heart as one of the EKG readings.
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Humans in general have an incredible tolerance to put up with pain and less than ideal circumstances - which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because that ability enables us to push past difficult circumstances and achieve our goals, but it’s also a curse because it enables us to put important things like our health and well-being on the back burner. And as I learned this month, you can only ignore your health for so long before it takes center stage and disrupts every other area of your life.

Without going into details, I’m just going to say that I had to make a complete lifestyle change for my health over the past 2 weeks (diet, exercise, stress management, sleep schedule - the whole 9 yards). It’s an ongoing process and I’m still adjusting and learning as I go, but one thing I learned from all of this is that I should have made my health a priority sooner.

As a freelance writer I work in many different fields, and at the moment tend to work mostly in the nonprofit sector. It’s an incredible place full of helpful, compassionate people who want to make a positive difference in the world. From program managers and volunteers on the ground floor to the grant writers and office staff who aid from a distance, everyone genuinely wants to help one another out. It’s amazing, and reminds you that there are good people (and good news) in a world where the media focuses on what’s most sensational.

But on the flip side of this, is that fact that the nonprofit field focuses on giving so much that you can forget to give to yourself. In this field every program and task seems more important than your own health because so many people are depending on you to succeed. If you fall behind, they may not have access to the services they need to live the quality of life they deserve. This mindset is prevalent in nonprofits - not just for grant writers but for nonprofit staff too! I’ve heard and seen this idea more times than I can count.

Which is why the title of today’s blog comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Contrary to how it may seem in the midst of working on a project - he's right. Health is the first wealth. If you don’t have your health, you won’t be able to function at your best, and may actually end up hurting yourself and the people you’re trying to help in the process. If you can’t think clearly, you won’t be able to come up with all the creative, resourceful solutions needed to succeed . . . or you may make a costly mistake that will take months/years to rectify.

Putting health first is something I’m still working on. I can’t claim to be an expert on it (and wouldn’t try), but as I’m going along this process I’ve found 5 things that help me put my health first that I’d like to share with you. I hope they can help you to make yourself and your health a priority despite all the seemingly important reasons to put it on the back-burner. Trust me when I say you won’t be able to help anybody if you don’t take care of yourself first.

1. Find the right diet for you. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that not all healthy diets are healthy for you. Even though I was eating well by all health standards, I still wasn’t getting the nutrients I needed because every body is different and responds to food in different ways. It’s really important to experiment with how foods make you feel after eating them - not just in the immediate hours after consuming them, but also in the days/weeks following. Some foods have an immediate affect on your system, and others gradually affect your system. Once you start paying attention you may be surprised to learn that some seemingly healthy foods are bad for you.

2. Schedule quiet moments into your day. It’s so easy to access people and knowledge at the tap of a button (or click of a mouse), that you can forget how “on” you are all of the time. There doesn’t seem to be a real time to rest when you always have something to watch or someone to contact. We can’t ignore technology because we need it for our jobs, social life, education, etc., but we can give ourselves time away from it every day for a breather. Whether at the beginning or end of the day, anywhere from 10-60 quiet minutes away from technology can do wonders for your inner calm and well-being.

3. Take regular breaks. Remember the saying “can’t see the forest for the trees”? It’s true. When you’re too close to a problem you can’t see the solutions - however simple or complex they may be - that would solve them. Schedule regular breaks into your work time when you can get a snack, get a glass of water, go on a walk, clean your desk, get info you need from someone else, etc. That quick switch in perspective will allow you to view the problem with fresh eyes when you return . . . and you’ll probably find the solution more easily because of it.

4. Develop a nighttime routine. After a long day when you had so many things to do and your brain is still racing over everything you have to do in the morning, it can be heard to fall asleep, let alone get a restful sleep. Creating a nighttime routine that helps you wind down is essential for getting enough quality sleep. What should you include in this routine? Hard limits on when you will eat dinner, stop working, stop watching YouTube/Netflix/Hulu/TV, and stop scrolling through your phone will help you avoid the stimuli that keeps you up at night.

5. Make as many self-care activities habits as you can. Ultimately, self-care should be a priority, not an afterthought. The best way to make it a priority is to make your self-care activities a habit. Because habits are so - well, habitual - they require little thought and are done almost subconsciously - just what self-care should be! Gretchen Rubin’s book Better than Before is a fantastic resource into the world of making/changing habits, and you can read my review of it here to see if it’s right for you. Make your self-care activities (Meditation! Journaling! Exercise! Meeting with friends!) a habit and it’ll guarantee you receive what you need when you need it instead of putting it off until a “later” that never comes.

Incorporating changes like these have helped me improve my life (and health) for the better. Do you have any self-care tips/tricks that you like to use in your life, or is this an area you want/need to improve on? Share your experiences in the comments below so we can all learn from each other.

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next week with another article!

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