7 Ways To Put Your Oxygen Mask On First


You know how on a plane, you are told to put your own oxygen mask on first?  Why do you think that is?  The reason for this is hypoxia, i.e. if you don’t, you will pass out before you can save a child or anyone else for that matter. 

The analogy is that if you want to make your own rules and have an impact on the world, you have to take care of yourself first.  You can’t help anyone else unless you help yourself first.

Why should it take an emergency situation to make us realise this?

The Everyday Emergency

If you are like most people, your day is probably way too full and your probably spend a lot of your time fire-fighting.  So, your body thinks you are in a constant emergency situation.

To carry on the analogy, if at some point you don't put your oxygen mask on first, you are going to crash. That isn’t good for anyone!

Selfish and Indulgent?

We have been conditioned by society to think that putting ourselves first is selfish and indulgent.

Let’s kill that myth right now.  It isn’t. 

You not taking care of yourself might help people in the short term.  But in the long run, if you fall over, everyone loses out.  

If anything, it is selfish and indulgent NOT to look after yourself first.  You are ALWAYS gaining something from not looking after yourself:

  • Always being busy can make you feel important, relevant and useful (even indispensable), i.e. it's a bit of an ego trip ;-)
  • Being busy is also often a way of avoiding something we don’t want to face

Keep On Going

"If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit" - Banksy

A little self care is what is going to keep you going towards your big goals as well.  Any elite sports person will tell you about the absolute necessity and importance of quality recovery time.

Too often in the mêlée of competing priorities, when we are tired, our stretch goals that take us towards the life we really want take a nose dive and we quit.  Breathing in oxygen will make sure that you breath oxygen into your stretch goals and keep you going.

How to Put Your Oxygen Mask On

Putting yourself first isn’t about going on a 10-day yoga retreat or meditating on top of a mountain. It is about finding sustainable ways to ‘put oxygen' into your system every day. 

Here are five ways that Mavericks we know have put their oxygen mask on first:

  1. Make Time work for you don’t let “I haven’t got enough time” be your constant excuse.  We all have the same amount of time…what is different is how we DECIDE to use our time and what we CHOOSE to prioritise.  If you know you are going to have to work into the evening, take an hour or two to yourself during the day to do something other than work.  This may involve some tough conversations with people who have expectations of you…but remember; their short-term pain is most definitely their long-term gain.
  2. Spend time at ‘home’ - by this, I don't necessarily mean where you live (though it might be!) …but rather the feeling of ‘home'. What is that feeling of home for you and how can you evoke that?  For one Maverick, ‘home' is that cosy, safe feeling of spending quality time with her partner, so carving out time for a weekly date night was the thing that did it. 
  3. Spend time in nature - Being in nature has a way of reminding us what life was life before smartphones, tablets and the always-on lifestyle.  For another Maverick, walking in the Sussex Downs brings him the spacious, slow and easy feelings that reset the mental fog and overstimulation of everyday life.
  4. MOVE – try to move your body for at least 30 minutes four times a week.  You can hit the gym if you want, but it could easily be doing some yoga or stretching, playing tennis with friends, throwing a frisbee with the kids or going for a walk at lunchtime.  Moving will not only get your blood pumping and oxygen flowing but will shift any stuck energy or thoughts…so you will come back with a clearer and more creative mind.
  5. DON’T move – just as moving always helps, sometimes you have to STOP!  Stillness is the ultimate antidote for busy-ness.  So, this might mean sitting and reading a favourite book but equally could mean meditation and mindfulness.  Again, this doesn't have to be for hours; just a few minutes can help. Headspace's 10 in 10 (10 mins/day for ten days) is just about the most accessible introduction around. 
  6. Put the phone/iPad/laptop away after 7 pm – distraction often feels like self-care, but it is often just numbing out…and is addictive (every Facebook like gives us a little dopamine hit…a bit like cocaine!).  Whether you are numbing out to Netflix or continually checking your IM's/email/Instagram, you are also disconnecting from those closest to you. So, choose to prioritise your loved ones and friends in the real world and nurture those relationships…because those are the ones that will nurture you in the long run.  Just. Step. Away. From. The. Phone.
  7. Sleep. The ULTIMATE oxygen mask - put all of these things together and they will set you up for a marvelous night's sleep, and that is the best self-care you can give yourself.  If Arianna Huffington believes in sleep as a way of getting to the top, there has got to be something to it.

So, there you have it…so tactical ways for you to re-energise, refresh and re-focus that you can fit into your day so that you don't crash.  

Give yourself a bit of priority every day, and you will be in a much better position to unleash your superpowers and be of real valueto others.  And that is a good thing for everyone!

YOUR TURN: What is one thing you are going to do to put your own self-care first?