Over the last few years, I have learned that the best way to do my job is to take better care of me. I grew up being taught not to ask for things, to wait and see if someone else believed I deserved them. I frequently got validation and recognition by being of service to others. This “being of service to others” is an important part of why I chose to become a physical therapist. I still believe being of service part of my life, but I have come to realize that I can only do this when I truly take care of myself. 

While I have been doing activities of self-care for many years, it has only been the last six months that I have been able to put myself first. In the past, I would make sure I self-treated with MFR, ate well and slept eight hours a day when things were going well but as soon as life got hectic, my self-care items were the first things off my to-do list to make room for whatever perceived emergency had landed in my lap.

The phrase “putting myself first” sounds uncomfortable at first and I sometimes get the urge to apologize when I have to say no to someone. I don’t mean cancelling all my patients so I can run off to a high-end spa for the day. Absolutely not! I am talking about not squeezing in one more appointment on an already hectic day. If I run out of steam, I won’t be any good to my patients, my family, or friends. Learning to say “no” is a skill I have had to develop with practice.  I urge you to practice this as well.

When someone approaches you with an ask, try PBS. That’s short for Pause, Breathe, Smile. Pause, take a deep breath, and smile before you say anything. That few seconds of space can allow you to check in with yourself. If the ask is something that immediately causes you to cringe or look for the nearest exit, by all means, say no. Stand firm and do not let anyone wheedle, cajole or blackmail you into changing your mind. 

If you’re unsure, tell the person that you really need to check your schedule before you can give them an answer and do not let them push you for an answer until you’ve had to evaluate the request and the impact it will have on your life. Take the time you need to decide if you can add one more thing to your list. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to find out the true scope of the task at hand. If your answer turns out to be “no” stand firm and defend your boundaries. 

If it sounds like the best idea in the world and you want in, it may still be a good idea to delay a positive answer. “This sounds great, please tell me more so I know what I am getting into.’ Never be afraid to gather more details so you can make an informed decision.

It may be uncomfortable to put yourself first after years of not even being on your own list, but it does get easier every time you do it. Practice Pause, Breathe, Smile anytime someone asks you for a favor. Practice saying “I need to check my schedule” as well. You’re not committing or saying no, you’re giving yourself the gift of time to decide if something is right for you. When you start to feel uncomfortable, just remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup. The best thing you can do for this world is be a happy, healthy you.

M’elle Pirri-Lee, is Physical Therapist and Expert JFB Myofascial Therapist. With over a decade in private practice, she has helped countless people dealing with chronic pain get back in the driver’s seat and get their lives back. Her goal is to empower women to find help for pelvic floor dysfunction other than buying poise pads or taking meds. Her office is at 62 Beekman Street, Saratoga Springs NY.  For more information, reach out to 518 225-1440, or melle@adirondackmyofascialrelease.com and on Facebook at AdirondackMFR.