We work hard every day to love our spouses, kids, friends, and family. But this Valentine’s Day, be sure to pause and love yourself. Really! Take time to appreciate your talents and respect the remarkable person that you are.

Too often you may feel “selfish” or “self-centered” when you take time to take care of your own needs. But in order to care for others, it is necessary to first make sure your own needs are met. For example, on an airplane flight attendants say, “In the event of a change in cabin pressure, panels above your head will open revealing oxygen masks. . . remember to secure your own mask before assisting others.” If you can’t breathe, those depending on you to help them breathe can’t get the help they need.

This month, pause to focus on caring for yourself spiritually, physically, and emotionally. What does it look like to love yourself first? Here are some ideas:

Spiritual Health
Try to block out 10-20 min a day for time alone to meditate, listen, pray, journal, read, or just be alone in silence. If you can’t wake up any earlier, be creative. Precious time alone can be found in the bathroom, driving in the car, and even while exercising.

Physical Health
The cornerstones of physical health are exercise, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep.

Exercise is good for both your physical and mental health. Try to work to get 20-30 minutes of vigorous exercise (so that you are huffing and puffing) at least three to four times a week. If you don’t have 20-30 minutes to commit all at once, break it down as you can. Can you take a five-minute break at work? That is plenty of time to get in a mini strength workout with some tricep dips at your desk and a few lunges around the office. Take a brisk walk at lunch (if you are stuck inside, find some stairs to climb).

Eating healthy food does not need to be difficult. Make small changes that will last a lifetime. Aim to eat 6-9 servings of fruits and vegetables (see my blog for a reminder of serving sizes). These healthy foods will help cut down on cravings for salty, sugary, processed snacks. Aim to include protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates as well. One easy way to cut out empty calories is to drink water instead of juice and soda.

Adequate sleep is critical to staying healthy. Most people need at least 7 hours of sleep per night. For the best chance at a good night rest, limit the use of electronic devices for an hour before going to bed (the light can interfere with natural brain signals that help us know when to fall asleep). Make sure your bed is a space for sleeping, not working.

Emotional Health
Positive spiritual and physical health can help your emotional health. If you have emotional wounds, care for yourself and talk with a counselor or therapist. It is a sign of strength, not weakness, to fully love and care for your emotional needs.

So go ahead, love yourself! Be the example of how to take care of yourself, so that you can love other.

Love Yourself