Why I Decided to Make Myself a Bigger Priority


Feeling like you have to save the world can put a lot of weight on your shoulders. These days, people are keenly aware of the problems our world faces, and many of us feel the need to dedicate much of our time and energy on finding solutions to these problems. Of course, this is no easy task. It requires a lot of intense thought and hard work which can be overwhelming. Whether you fall into this “save-the-world” category, feel generally overwhelmed in your life or work, or place a lot of pressure on yourself to “succeed,” taking time to step back and see how you can find a better balance in your life is an important practice that can help bring you closer to reaching your goals.

When is the last time you heard someone, or yourself, say that they’ve been up all night studying or working or that they haven’t had time to relax all week? Especially in the months before the end of my senior year, I heard my friends saying things like this on a daily basis. At times, I even found myself trying to one-up my friends when we spoke about how stressed or over-worked we were.

When is the last time you heard someone boast about how balanced their life is? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone brag about the great balance they’ve found between their work, social, and personal lives. It’s definitely more likely that I would hear someone let out a big breath and say just how busy they are. When we hear this, I think our automatic response is to say something positive that applauds their hard work and dedication. Of course commitment and hard work are not a bad thing; however, exerting yourself to the point where you sacrifice your health should never be encouraged. 

Have you ever heard the saying that you need to love yourself first? I think this is true in all aspects of life. We are able to function at our best when we make time to take care of ourselves, mentally and physically. This applies to our work or school as well as relationships.

It’s not selfish. It can be easy to feel like putting yourself first means pushing aside those you care about. However, if you are unhappy or stressed out, your friends and family will likely notice. I’ve definitely seen my relationships improve when I make my mental and physical health a priority. When I feel happier, I not only find more joy in life in general, but I also enjoy my friends more.

There will always be stressful situations in our lives. I find that I force myself to push through work just to realize an hour later that I barely got anything done because I couldn’t focus. I’ve heard a million times that I should take periodic breaks from work; however, when the end of whatever I’m doing is in sight, it’s hard for me to actually stop what I’m doing and take a quick breather. This strategy of mine is counterproductive and ends up costing me in the long run because I would’ve been more alert and focused if I’d taken a break. An energized and calm brain is more able to produce creative ideas and have better focus than a tired, stressed one.

Here are some tips for finding a balance that works for you and your life.

  • Get to know yourself: Figure out how YOU work best. I’ve found myself time and time again looking for not just advice but even solutions to problems I encounter. I’ve come to realize that I’m the person who gives myself the best advice. Do you feel better throughout the day if you wake up and do a little yoga or exercise in the morning? Can you get work done efficiently at home or are you more productive at a coffee shop? There’s a lot to think about when analyzing how you function best, but it’s worth it if it allows you to live a happier, more peaceful life.
  • Make your health and happiness a priority: Many of us have extremely busy lives filled with commitments which make it difficult to find time for ourselves. Set aside time each week, preferably each day, to do something you love. Whether it is reading ten pages of a good book each night or trying out a new hiking trail on the weekend, you’re allowed to make activities you love a priority, too!
  • Everybody is different. It seems easiest to seek advice on how to be less stressed or more efficient from outside sources like articles online or in books. However, everyone is different which means everyone works best under different circumstances. Use these sources as inspiration to create your own routines or habits, but don’t take them as law.

There is such a high pressure to succeed and live a productive life these days. The problem with this is that those goals can be defined in an infinite number of ways. Allow yourself to clearly define your own goals so that you feel less of a need to compare your life with those around you. Seek to live a life that you love. When you first create a life for yourself that you love, then you are better able to change the world around you for the better.

About Author

Caroline has found inspiration and peace in the outdoors for as long as she can remember. Growing up in places like Boston MA, St. Petersburg FL, Toronto, and Singapore, she developed a desire to protect all of the beautiful places on Earth. She is now working on projects as a student at the University of San Diego studying environmental studies. Along with fighting for the environment, you can find Caroline taking photos of the stars in Joshua Tree National Park, meditating in her dorm room, playing in the waves at the beach, and cooking up some healthy food (or her famous vanilla berry cake). Caroline is thrilled for her third year as a part of the NYLC which is made up of some the most inspirational people she has ever met.