"In the event of a change in cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. If you are travelling with someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person," the flight attendant gestures to the area above our head and smiles sweetly. She catches my eye and I nod dutifully. Right. Paying attention. I’ll put my mask on first, then attend to the other person. After all, you can’t really be of help to anyone unless you’re breathing oxygen yourself.
On a plane, in a life or death situation, this protocol makes sense. So why is it so hard in daily life?
Despite the good advice to “put on your own mask first,” many of us continually make self-care the last item on our to-do list. We skip yoga class to meet a work deadline, only to find that we are unfocused and unproductive. We jump through hoops to manage our kids’ schedules, only to find ourselves impatient and snappish. When we neglect our self-care, our “oxygen” runs out.
While there are circumstances where we need to put someone else first, many of us have confused chronic self-sacrifice for wholesome compromise. We are so busy taking care of others that we forget to take care of ourselves. Putting on our own oxygen mask means taking responsibility for our well-being so that we can show up fully and vibrantly in our life — both for ourselves, as well as for others.
Here are ten tips for prioritizing self-care, even when the pressure is on.
1. Take twenty
Self-care doesn’t have to mean that you spend a whole day at the spa. Take twenty minutes to nap, walk around the block, do a meditation, or read the next chunk of that juicy novel. You may recharge a lot faster than you think.
2. Practice saying no
Often times, we are afraid that a “no” will disappoint someone else. Remember that saying no is a way of saying yes to a more important priority: you.
3. Evaluate the consequences
When you have disappointed someone who wanted to make plans or enlist you in a project, were the consequences really all that terrible? Others are usually more self-sufficient than we expect.
4. Play the long game
Our culture rewards burn out and “fast track” ambition. Rather than buy into the rat race, be a marathoner. Nourish yourself for the long run rather than the quick sprint.
5. Lead by example
Inspire your loved ones and colleagues. By making time for yourself, you are giving others permission to take care of themselves as well.
6. Relish the little stuff
Self-care comes in all different forms: a home-cooked meal, a journal entry, a phone call to a friend. Appreciate each small thing that you can do to lavish yourself with self-love.
7. Be honest
If your plate is full, then say so. Clarity now is far better than stress and disappointment later. When you are clear about your bandwidth, then others can respect the boundaries of your time and energy.
8. Schedule “you” time directly into your calendar
Schedule “you” time in every day, even if it’s just for ten minutes. If you need to make an adjustment, then make sure that you reschedule (rather than delete) your self-care appointment.
9. Enlist the aid and support of others
When your loved ones understand that the hot yoga class makes you a happier parent, partner or friend, they may become your cheerleading squad.
10. Trust yourself
A happier and healthier you is better for the world.
Nerd. Artist. Educator. Director of YYoga Teachers’ Development & College. Manages existential astonishment and life adventures through relentless inquiry and a devilish sense of humour.