Put On Your Oxygen Mask First

I used to travel a lot when I had my old book editing job in the corporate world.

One year I flew on a plane 14 separate times. Seriously!

But I never got burned out from travel, and I still love the thrill of takeoff.

While I’m familiar with the lack of leg room and mini bags of peanuts, there’s another part of air travel that I’ve come to expect: the warning about the oxygen masks.

You know what I’m talking about. The safety tip that states that if the plane loses air pressure and the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling, you should put the mask on yourself first before assisting your children or anyone else flying with you.

When I was a kid, I thought that was a horrible idea! Sure, save the adults while the kids pass out or worse. “Sorry, Timmy, if this plane’s going down, I’m only lookin’ out for me!”

Later, it was explained to me that because the adults are in control and are better able to help others, they need to help themselves first so they don’t pass out…and then can’t help anyone.

See where I’m going with this?

Many of us go through life “oxygen deprived.”

We give our time, money, and energy helping everyone else long before we take care of our person needs (if we ever do).

Consider the mom who drives her kids everywhere, makes dinner, and cleans up the house without ever taking time to read a book or watch a favorite TV show.

Or how about the young employee who gets coffee for the senior staff, takes every assignment that’s thrown at her, and regularly stays late to catch up…without being paid overtime. (Wait—that was me!)

Eventually, you’re going to burn out or make yourself sick from stress. And then you’d be in no shape to help anyone.

It’s time for us to hit “pause” on our lives and put the oxygen masks on ourselves first!

Not because we don’t care or we’re selfish. It’s because we DO care.

Easy Ways to Focus on Your White Space (Self-Care)

  • Get up earlier before your family is awake and enjoy some quiet time sipping your coffee and catching up on your reading. I highly suggest checking out the routine from the book Miracle Morning.
  • Finish your work projects first before volunteering to help your coworkers. If they ask you for help, tell them you need to check your schedule and you’ll get back to them. Don’t accept extra work in the moment.
  • Choose your business hours and time slots when you’ll take client calls, and then stick to your plan! You’re the leader, and you have permission to not be super flexible with your precious time.
  • If you must attend a family or company function that you’re not happy about, do something before the event that makes you feel good (eat at your favorite restaurant, call your best friend, etc.). You’ll put yourself in a positive mood before you have to entertain other people.
  • If you feel yourself heading toward a burnout, say “no” to as many obligations as you can until you can feel yourself relaxing. Of course, some people may be mad that you’re backing out, but you’d be of no help to them if you did whatever it is while feeling like you’re going to explode with anxiety.
  • Turn off your phone’s email and text alert sounds and go to sleep an hour earlier tonight. You deserve it!

When your needs are taken care of first, then there’s nothing you can’t do. The sky’s the limit!

This post focuses on Step 5 of the Life Editing Process, Make White Space for Personal Self-Care. For more about life editing and what it can do for you, click here.

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  1. Kirsten Rosetti on March 30, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    I love this article, Sage! Self-care really makes all the difference. One self-care practice I can’t do without is taking time every so often to just “chill out” by myself in a quiet place. I feel so relaxed and rejuvenated afterwards. It really is like an oxygen mask for me. :).

    My one thing this week will be setting office hours for myself. Working from home and having flexibility is awesome, but I’m craving a bit of structure.

  2. Cathy Colangelo on March 24, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    Thanks for the reminder Sage! Even though I tell use this very same analogy with my clients, I often forget to implement it myself.

    My “one thing” for this week will be to make 1/2 hour tomorrow morning about ME – unplugging from social media and technology – go to a quiet place and sit with myself for praying and meditation. For me, it’s a holiday weekend and starting at around 12:30 p.m. tomorrow, I will be on family overload until Sunday night. Definitely time for some “white space” (and probably wine).

    Thanks again Sage!