“Please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.”
Why? Because if you don’t put yours on first, you run the risk of running out of oxygen and passing out before you can help anyone else - and what good is that?
I am the kind of person, as many of us are, that sets my own care aside in favour of work and family and pretty much anything else that comes my way. Recently though, I quit my 9-5 job and my marriage ended, so all of a sudden, 2 of the big things I had been focused on were gone. And then this analogy kept popping up for me and I realized now is a perfect opportunity to consider putting self-care first. I realized that lots had been wrong in my old life. I was a slave to my work which made it unsatisfying and I wasn’t showing up as the best version of me in my relationship because I didn’t put the right kind of effort into looking after myself... If I don’t help me, I can’t help others...
In my old life, I had a list of things I wanted to do for myself; meditation, affirmation, visualization, journaling, reading, exercise, 8 glasses of water per day, better sleep habits… but I never followed through with any of them. Everything else that would fly my way in a day would always take priority, and I would get to the end of each day, disappointed, but certain I was being selfless by not taking the time for this frivolous list.
Then, I woke up with no job and no husband, and a ton of extra time on my hands. I seized this as an opportunity to make the changes I’d been longing to make. (I am hoping others will read this, and make their own changes sooner, without waiting for disaster to ensue!) What were my priorities and how could I make sure I actually prioritized them?? What had to change in my mind, to make the change in my life?
With the extra time, I put a lot of thought into it, watching my patterns day in and day out. My days were full but my calendar and my to-do list weren’t… where was the time going? How was I wasting it? And how was I STILL not able to fit in my list of self-care rituals? Boom! It came to me.
I had a deeply ingrained belief that I didn’t have time. When I was working I had no time for family and myself. When I was with the kids, I felt like I didn’t have enough time for work or myself, So of course I would NEVER have time in my head to do the things on the aforementioned self-care list! I had created a sensation of constant frenzy and was filling every second with ‘busy-work’ because I believed there wasn’t enough time to get everything done if I didn’t stuff my days full.
Aha! So - I remind myself again: “I have to look after me, in order to best serve the world”. I am starting to believe this wisdom. It’s important to me. So this week, I wrote out my self-care list and attributed time blocks to each of the things I wanted to be a part of my day, including solid chunks of time for my new career - and guess what? There is time! There is time plus free-time! I even ADDED blocks of time for social media (the ultimate time sucker) and I still have time!! I realized that I held this false belief because I wasn’t putting my own air bag on first. I was not controlling my day, so it had long been controlling me! By going through this process, I was able to see how much of my day was low priority, unimportant tasks. Things take the amount of time that you give them, and I was giving all my time to things I can’t even account for, that in the end were not important!
With the shift in my mind-set that I DO have time, I can easily and confidently fit my self-care routine into my day. Having seen how much of my day was going to low priority tasks, I find it easier to follow through with what I have clearly defined as more important now.
In conclusion: I think it is a widely held belief that we are short on time, and something’s got to give from the list of things we want in our schedule (usually our own oxygen masks). When faced with the meltdown of my world as I knew it, I saw that I had not put on my oxygen mask, and that this in part, led to not serving the rest of my life. The truth is, I actually needed to take a hard look at my beliefs, prioritize the oxygen, and then move forward in my life, better able to help others put on their own masks in the future.