Not too long ago, I found myself running ragged, trying to accomplish too much, without enough time to get everything done. I also found myself snapping at my husband and becoming irrationally angry at the foibles displayed by my son.
While we all have times when it’s difficult for us to cope with what’s happening around us, and it’s not uncommon to have bad days, you don’t want those bad days to become more numerous than the good. Surprisingly, putting yourself first, and learning to say no, can benefit others.
Feeling Better = Treating Others Better
One of the main reasons that putting yourself first can benefit others is that you feel better, and that means that you are more likely to treat others better. Studies indicate that you are more likely to feel angry when you are:
If you are always trying to put others first, and you don’t take care of yourself, it’s more likely that you will feel tired, hungry, or stressed on a regularly basis — or even feel all three at the same time. When that happens, you are less able to cope with inconvenience and you are more likely to snap at others.
My son acts like any other 11-year-old boy, but if I feel tired or stressed, the regular things that he does grate on me more, and I am more likely to become annoyed with him. It’s not his fault I’m frustrated and annoyed, but I’m more likely to take it out on him. The same applies to my husband, or anyone else.
When you put yourself first in some regards, making sure that you get enough sleep, and that you have time to unwind and relax (not to mention eat regular meals), you are more likely to be calm and collected when you run into the issues that arise in just about any relationship. Disagreements can be handled without losing control of your emotions, and you are more likely to understand other viewpoints.
After I started saying no to some things, and after I started making sure that I started working on projects that I find fulfilling, things started to change a bit around the house. Everyone was much more relaxed when I started feeling better about the situation. Everything improved dramatically, just because I started making sure I was taken care of.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you selfishly ignore others and their needs. Putting yourself first is about making sure that you take care of your health — physical and mental — and that you take some time to do the things you enjoy. It means you take the time to feel good about yourself and what you’re doing so that you can, in turn, help others feel good about themselves.
Sometimes, it does help to go and perform service. Volunteer work, and helping others can help you feel good and take your mind of your problems. But if you get to the point where you feel like you are over-committing and you start feeling stressed and you don’t have time to take care of yourself, you become less effective.