What is a Wellbeing-First Mindset?

Think for a moment about the number of times you have sacrificed your wellbeing for others.

How did that work out?

Initially, it probably seemed like a good idea, and there were short-term gains, but the long-term picture was less positive. Sound familiar?

The notion of 'wellbeing' means different things to different people, but in general terms, it can be thought of as mental and physical health, including things like sleep and other forms of relaxation. The cumulative effect of constantly neglecting your wellbeing to serve others is usually burnout. Being burnt out leaves you unable to help anyone.

That's where adopting a wellbeing-first mindset comes in - if you prioritise your wellbeing, you will be more productive and better able to look after and support others.

What Might a Wellbeing-First Mindset Look Like?

A wellbeing-first mindset is a way of thinking linked with action. Some actions you might take to practice a wellbeing-first mindset are:

  • Saying 'no' to a weeknight work social event and having an early night because you are going away at the weekend, and you want to prioritise that.
  • Not volunteering for every 'extra-curricular' project at work as you are already working at capacity.
  • Monitoring your energy levels throughout the day and adjusting your eating and breaks to feel well and be productive.

How Can I Develop a Wellbeing-First Mindset?

Interestingly, many approaches to prioritising wellbeing involve saying 'no' when you'd usually say 'yes'; you need to learn to say no.

Understanding the type of activities that deplete and restore your energy is helpful. Think about these activities as credits and debits on your energy bank account, known as energy accounting. The aim is to try to achieve balance.

Similarly, think about what the concept of self-care means to you. Is it going for a walk with the dog? Is it taking a bath and listening to music? Is it knitting or embroidery, or going for a run? If you cannot label these activities, self-care becomes difficult. Find your version of self-care and schedule it. Often.

The essence of a wellbeing-first mindset is a shift in your way of thinking - that doesn't happen overnight. You have to practise. Find ways to remind yourself to put your wellbeing needs first. For example, leave sticky notes around the house, schedule a weekly check-in with an energy-restoring friend, or use a habit tracker app.

Final Thoughts

Putting your needs first feels selfish, but we need to reframe that - it is ultimately an act of selflessness. Self-care is not selfish. You have to look after yourself.

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