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Self-care: put your own oxygen mask on first

4 October 2015

Continuing in the same vein as my last post, I thought I would share with you an excellent concept I discovered on the Explore and Walk course I recently attended: ‘put your own oxygen mask on first’. We all know this comes from cabin crew instructing us on aircraft crash protocol, but I do feel this is a really useful way of thinking about self-care – if we don’t take care of ourselves before we try to give to others, we risk jeopardising our health and wellbeing. I’ve re-posted a blog I found that I think captures the essence of this message. Have a read and see if you can relate to what’s being said; are you putting others first to your own detriment?

Tina Abbott, Staff Counselling Manager

Put Your Mask on First

Most of us have been on an airplane and heard a stewardess instruct us to put our mask on first:

The cabin pressure is controlled for your comfort. However, should it change radically inflight, oxygen compartments will automatically open in the panel above your seat. Reach up and pull the mask to your face. This action will start the flow of oxygen. Place the mask over both your mouth and nose and secure with the elastic band as your Flight Attendant is demonstrating. Tighten by pulling on the ends of the elastic bands. Even though oxygen is flowing, the plastic bag may not inflate. If you are traveling with children, or are seated next to someone who needs assistance, place the mask on yourself first, then offer assistance.*

oxygen_mask_Taking care of myself first has always seemed so selfish to me. It doesn’t seem right that someone is telling me to put myself first in a such a scary moment. The fear would call me to take care of my children first.  (But, living in fear is not the way to get things done, is it?)

In life, I struggle to take care of myself first. I get up and start caring for people immediately. My little ones often wake up demanding care and food. I just do it.

After a period of time that is filled with doing, I get angry and mad. I start to resent the pushing and pulling for me to do. I become frustrated and lose my focus. I am losing oxygen and my mind is cloudy!

This past weekend I went away for 48 hours. I found a place to just be. I put on the oxygen mask and cleared my mind.

Returning home I was shocked at how differently I saw things and people. My children’s complaining and whining (though still not approved) was more of a teachable moment, rather than a battle. Making a time-consuming dinner was a pleasure and joy. I laughed and giggled with my children. I found myself less concerned about the messes.

My “oxygen mask” had made me into more of the person that I want to be!

So, though it seems selfish and unrealistic at times, I am going to start initiating more “oxygen mask” times for myself! I’m going to take more moments to just breathe in and receive the clarity I need to lead my children and manage my household.

I may have to leave the house and the children for short periods of time (with an adequate caregiver of course). I may have to find a way to take a shower each morning even if that puts little ones in front of a TV for a short time. I may have to get up earlier to make sure I have a quiet moment to be and to breathe. I may need to get coffee with a friend and just laugh.

It’s OK. It’s not selfish. It’s not being rude.

It is remembering who you really are. It is remembering how to laugh and giggle. It is recognizing that I need to get to my source of strength first in order to be strong.