Do you regularly fail to prioritize your needs? Does work supersede your health practices? Does caring for others whittle away your spare time? Do you feel too tired to hit the gym or the track? Would you love to eat well but find yourself short on will?

In the hustle and bustle of hectic life, these challenges are common. If you often place yourself last, you’re in good company. This can lead to exhaustion and a downward spiral; one that’s hard to wiggle free from. But like a rechargeable battery, the charge — our charge — will falter when we fail to plug in for a refresh.

So, how can you turn this around?

How can you regain your health and vitality, transform your physiology and psychology, and look and feel great?

In short, by prioritizing self-care!

With this in mind, let’s look at our top 4 self-care steps…

Prioritizing self-care: Our top 4 steps for a well life

Before we share our four steps — and before guilt takes a hold — remember: “You can’t drink from an empty well”. If you aren’t running at 100%, your capacity to help others is limited.

With that said…

Start where you can (and build over time)

Many experts claim you “should” complete X,Y, and Z. No excuses, no failures. But if you’re beginning from a place of depletion, feel free to ignore this advice. Why? When you find yourself unable, you’ll be racked with guilt.

Instead, set yourself up for success: start where you can.

Decide on the time you’re able to cultivate. Consider the energy you have. Make a plan.

Can you walk 15 minutes during four days each week? Great! During the third week, can you increase your time spent to 25 minutes? Can you bump your strolls up to five days per week? Perfect! As time passes and your fitness increases, what is your next achievable step? Do that!

Want to work out? Are you able to hit the gym on a Tuesday and a Friday for 30-minutes at a time? Plan and implement it. At week four, reassess. Are you able to increase your workout time to 40-minutes per sesh? You’re on your way!

Would you love to improve your eating habits? Look at where you falter. Use this information to decide on the easiest way to avoid temptation. Make a plan to circumvent unhealthy urges or cravings…

For example, insatiable hunger at around 3 pm can be caused by a blood sugar drop. Rather than blaming yourself, eat a boiled egg or a tin of tuna at 2:30 pm. Yes, we’ve seen this simple step boost people’s energy and cull cravings. Putting them back in control.

Sometimes this approach might feel a little lackluster. Whenever you feel like you’re progressing too slowly, remind yourself that life is not a race. Building long-term sustainable habits is where future success lies. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up for what rehabilitation nurses call “boom and bust”…

Drive forward at maximum force, then crash. Take time to recover, drive forward again, then crash. Repeat ad infinitum. This is not self-care. Nor is it – at least, for most people – an effective, sensible way to live!

Embrace your tribe

Do you spend enough time with your loved ones?

As soon as you read that question there’s a good chance the right answer popped into your head. Trust it.

If you do, keep it up!

If not, it’s time to make a change.

Presence — physical, mental, and emotional presence — is required to build closeness and a sense of belonging; two elements that are crucial for the health of us, humans. In fact, loneliness increases the risk of a premature death from all causes.

Spend quality time with loved ones to cultivate peace and resilience, to provide and receive support, to soothe stress, and to enhance your wellbeing.

Note: your loved ones may or may not include the peeps society tells us it should. You know who your tribe are. Embrace them.

To inspire your tribal mojo, consider:

— A weekly night of cards or board games

— Enjoying physical activity together (sport, a walk along the beach, gardening, cycling)

— Savor a regular picnic. Try different locations each time

— Scheduling a movie night once a week

— Cooking healthy meals or baking as a team

— Switching off the tech and talk, laugh, play

— Heading out for a night on the town

— Taking a trip

Spend quality time alone

There is a lot to be said for quality time with loved ones. But for most of us, time alone is important too.

Start to listen to your mind and mood. Over time, you’ll better understand what you need. Ask yourself questions like:

— When do I need time out?

— Are there triggers that let me know I need space?

— How often?

— What is the most rejuvenating way for me to be by myself?

— Does time out mean time away from my responsibilities (for example, during a massage) or time away from everyone (including the masseuse)?

Once you gain insight into what you need, find a way to schedule time out. Again, think back to step one: Start where you can and build over time.

Make better choices

Rome wasn’t built in a day. A well body isn’t either. By making better choices, the road ahead will lead to a healthier you. One step at a time. Speed doesn’t matter so much as perpetual forward motion. Then one day you’ll look back and marvel at your life-changing progress.

Better choices might include:

— Gently reducing your stress

— Taking steps to soothe a ravenous appetite

— Prioritizing quality sleep

— Forming an exercise habit (but not pushing yourself to – or past – exhaustion)

— Bringing your weight to within its healthy range

— Improving your gut function

— Building muscle tone

— Speaking to yourself with a kind, loving voice (the way you’d speak to your child or best friend)

— Having fun!

The self-care takeaway

You deserve to be well. To flourish! But unless you decide that you matter — unless you regularly place yourself first — your life’s energy and wellbeing will hemorrhage.

So, start where you can and build. Embrace both your tribe and solitude. Make better choices. As time passes, the continual practice of self-care will enable you to create your best health, naturally.

And remember: it is not selfish to embrace self-care. It is sensible and required.