Self-Care: How to Fill Your Own Cup First

If you’re worn out all the time, it’s difficult to function at your best at work or home. That’s why taking care of yourself is so important.

Whether you already “fill your cup first” or need to learn to do so, may this article inspire you to explore new ways to make time for the self-care and joy you deserve. It’s time to feel well so you can then serve effectively!

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Full coffee cup

The airlines tell you to put on your own mask first so you are then able to help others. If you’re not breathing oxygen, you’ll be no good to anyone else.

Similarly, “filling your own cup” first is important so you are able to function as the best possible you. Only then will you be able to really BE THERE for other people in your life. Love yourself in order to effectively and cheerfully take care of others at home and work.

If you consistently allow the needs to others to be a priority over your own needs, your love will turn to bitterness and resentment. It’s cliché yet true, you need to fill your own cup first so you can give to others out of love.

Being worn out all the time is a sign of a depleted cup.

There have been seasons in my life where I was burned out and had a depleted cup. Some life situations  simply require more time than you seem to have in a day. Even if it seems there is no time to fill your own cup, read on to see how you might fit in even a little self-care time and prevent burnout.

What Does Fill Your Own Cup First Mean?

Look at your cup as your personal supply of energy. With a depleted cup, you risk not being able to help yourself, much less able to be there 100% for your family, friends, and job. How full is your cup? Are you happy? Do you feel well?

Cup to represent filling your own cup first

Your job is to fill your own cup, so it overflows. Then you can serve others, joyfully, from your saucer.


~Lisa Nichols (motivational speaker)

The ultimate focus is on enjoying life. Enjoying the people you’re with and the things you’re doing makes life a lot more fun. Getting the “must dos” done while still being able to take time for yourself will promote a mindset where you can enjoy whatever it is you’re doing.

Oh, you say taking time for yourself  is considered to be selfish? I completely disagree! We are conditioned to sacrifice our needs to others, but instead I think we should set boundaries for our time and energy,

Everyone is a better person when they take care of themselves emotionally and physically. When you take time to feel calm, content, and a little pampered, you’re going to get the emotional energy boost that you need to be the best parent, spouse, child, friend, employee, etc. that you can be. You will be better able to appreciate life.

To think about it in another way, would  you want your spouse, parent, or friend to wear themselves out taking care of everyone but themselves? Of course not.  We all need to fill our cup before it gets to the point where we are worn out and have nothing to give to anyone else.

Bottom line: Fill your cup first…. apply your oxygen mask first…  nurture yourself first… and do so without guilt.

Woman walking barefoot to recharge her energy

Be Intentional – Make Yourself a Priority

How many times have you heard someone say “there just isn’t enough time in the day”? We’re all busy and could sometimes use a few more minutes in our day.

Do you feel like you’re too busy to even consider taking a moment for yourself?  If YOU are not high enough on YOUR priority list to squeeze in a few  minutes for YOU, consider making some choices so you can fit in some important self-care time.

It doesn’t matter if you work full-time, are retired, are a young mom, or an empty nester… you deserve to take time for self-care.

Even if it’s just 10 minutes a day, carve out that time for yourself. It can help you avoid burnout or ending up in a place where you resent doing things that you should really be enjoying.

For example, making dinner for your spouse or family can be done with a cheerful heart where you’re happy to provide a meal even though you all have had a busy day. Or it can be done in a resentful manner where you’re angry that you’re the one responsible for cooking when you all have had a long day. Regularly taking time for yourself can help you get on that much more enjoyable path of having a cheerful heart.

Might you need to do a better job at intentionally making sure you take time to fill your cup? Although it might seem unnatural or silly at first, intentional self-care time is something worth doing. Personal growth happens when you’re intentional, and each of us is on our personal path to being our best, happy self.

Related reading.
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5 Daily Opportunities to Re-Energize Yourself

It’s hard to replenish yourself when you lead a busy life. Look for spare time in any nook and crannie to find time to re-energize yourself. Let’s look at some ways that you might find more time so you can take 10 blissful minutes for yourself.

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Lady drinking coffee looking out window feeling re-energized

1 – Commute Time

The average American’s daily total commute time to work is 50.8 minutes*. Working a typical 5-day work week, that’s an average of about 4 1/4 hours per week.

Instead of driving, one alternative is to take public transportation or carpool. Without the responsibility of driving, you can relax, read, or whatever you wish.

This is my favorite reclaim of time. I have a 45 minute commute to work, which means 1 1/2 hours per day. I work 4 days per week, so doing the math, that’s 6 hours per week. However, public transportation is not an option for me as I live in a rural area.

I’ve reclaimed that time by listening to podcasts that help me learn or be entertained (whatever fits my mood) while I drive. Read about how to listen to podcasts and my favorite podcasts.

Audio books are another good use of  time during a commute. Or, maybe simply listening to music or complete silence will help you better be able to rejuvenate yourself.

Yes, you’re still driving, but you get to decide what you listen to (or don’t listen to) and you don’t need to take care of anyone else while you have that time in your vehicle. It is a choice on how you look at that driving time; is it a blessing or a curse?

Whether your commute is 10 minutes or 1 hour, use that time in a manner that makes you feel like its your time to treat yourself.

2 – Breaks at Work

My experience is that both a morning and afternoon break are incredibly important for my mind and body. A 15-minute walk does wonders for clearing my head and giving me a good boost of energy.

Sometimes when I get back to my desk, the solution to something I was working on pops right out at me. My refreshed view gives me a new perspective and makes me more productive.

Instead of working through your lunch, take time to step away from your desk.

Maybe you can eat outside or go for a walk. Again, getting away from the office will make you more productive when you get back to your desk. Maximize Productivity & Reduce Burnout is a quick read that includes a video in which expert Marie Forleo  discusses intentional smart breaks.

3 – After the Kids Go to Bed

This is a time to get a few things done, so you might tend to feel guilty or selfish about taking your 10 minutes of “me time.” I know life is crazy with young children (been there), but you are worth 10 minutes. Set the timer and enJOY the heck out of those 10 minutes of bliss!

Consider 10 minutes of yoga – it’ll help you relax and calm your mind before bed. Learn more about yoga and how you can get started now, in your home, for free.

4 – Skip TV (Or make this alteration!)

Hey! Don’t skip this section! At least entertain the idea of cutting down on your tv time. TV can be a big time waster.

According to a Nielsen report, United States adults are watching over five hours of tv per day on average. That adds up to more than 77 days per year! Imagine how your life would change if you replaced even half your tv time with self-care activities.

I have all but given up tv after intentionally reducing my tube time. There was so much negativity on shows and I decided to put my time to better use. No regrets – was an awesome decision for me. At the end of the day, what I accomplished during that time is much more memorable compared to watching who won American Idol or getting hooked on Breaking Bad.

If you can’t do without tv, record a show. By watching it later, you’ll save about 20 minutes by fast forwarding through commercials of an hour show. Or, record a show but start watching it 15 minutes into the live show. You’ll finish watching the show at the same time the live show ends, but by fast forwarding through the commercials you’ll still save 15 minutes.

5 – Rise 30 Minutes Early

This is not an option for me, I’m just not  an early bird. Is it right for you? If it is, go for it because it can make a big impact on your life!

If you use it wisely, these 30 minutes can have a huge impact on your life. Improve your health by exercising. Claim 30 minutes of “me-time” and choose to read, sit in quiet with coffee, or whatever self-care activity suits you. Meditate – do this daily for 20 of those 30 minutes and you’ll still have time to pick up the house.

Related reading. Click the image to view/purchase on Amazon:

What Fills Your Cup?

Action Step: Whether it’s reading, gardening, writing, walking, meditating, or whatever your passion might be, using the above tips take a few moments each day to do what makes your boat float. Take responsibility for bringing a bit of “me time” into  your life. Figure out what you can you do to relax and have fun.

Quote: Take time to do what makes your soul happy.

When I was a young mom, I would have used my 10 minutes to sit in silence and maybe even close my eyes. Now that my husband I are empty nesters, I like to sneak in as much time to work on this blog,  take a quick walk with my adorable dogs, or just sit quietly and enjoy the nature outside of our door.

I put together a list of 31 Simple & Free Self-Care Activities. Each of those items only require a mere 10 minutes. You are worth 10 minutes, so browse that list and pick a few that you can start making time for you today. Oh joy for the bonus days when you can sneak in 30 or even 60 minutes!

Cheryl Richardson is a New York Times best-selling author, a certified coach, and motivational speaker about the benefits of mastering the art of extreme self-care. To learn more about filling your own cup first, watch this short video where Cheryl shares her 3 favorite self-care activities.

You’re always welcome to stop back at If It Brings You Joy for a regular dose of inspiration.

Enjoy, laugh, have fun, and always remember to fill your own cup first! This is how you can re-energize yourself. Please leave a comment with your thoughts. If you found this article helpful, I’d appreciate you sharing it with your friends on Pinterest or Facebook!

Spa-like products for self-care. Click the image to view/purchase on Amazon:


Lady by beach looking tired

 * Average American commute time according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

12 Replies to “Self-Care: How to Fill Your Own Cup First”

    1. Hi Rachael,There’s so many good podcasts. I just can’t consume them fast enough!

  1. I have yet to get into pod casts, but so many people are recommending them.
    I love my time walking through the woods with Jack the dog. That is my recharge time.

  2. Love all these, especially getting up a little earlier and skipping TV (although presently hooked on “Handmaid’s Tale). I try and start watching TV at 9:00 p.m. and feel so much more relaxed. All great ideas.

    1. We all need a good binge every once in a while! I think the last pre-election tv just wore me down and I had to turn it off to save my mindset.

    1. If I could tell my younger self one thing, I think it would be to take better care of myself when I was a young mom. I was so exhausted! Although I do remember having one night per week to myself, a little daily breather would have made me a better mom. Thank you for your comment, Monica!

  3. Haha, you are so right about intentional TV! Our TVs are so old, they’re big non-digital boxes that have to have the digital converters on them. We don’t have cable or Dish, and those boxes are only used for when the girls want to watch something from their DVD or (gasp!) VHS collection. Otherwise, my hubby and I snuggle up to streaming something on his laptop after the girls are in bed. No commercials! (er, we skip them 🙂 )

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