Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Take Time To Breathe

"Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting children... or other adults acting like children."

That is an actual announcement that we heard once on a flight to Mexico. Certainly meant with humor to ease the anxiety of travellers, but also true.

We have all heard the instructions of an airline attendant reminding us to put on our own oxygen mask before we help anyone else with theirs. This advice is often cited as a metaphor for self-care because it so accurately expresses why it is important. It seems to say, ironically, that if we can't take care of our self for our self, we can't do it for others.

Few situations in our daily lives mimic the wake-up call of an airplane emergency, so it's easy to keep putting self-care off easily; that is, until we become sick, overwhelmed, or exhausted, and we suddenly don't have the energy to care for the people who count on us. That's when we realize we haven't been getting the oxygen we need to sustain ourselves. We begin to understand that taking care of ourselves is neither selfish nor indulgent; it's just plain practical.

Putting our self first means that it may be necessary to say no to someone else in order to say yes to ourselves. For many of us, there is always something we feel we could be doing for someone else, and it helps to remember the oxygen metaphor. We can even encourage yourself by saying "I am caring for myself so that I am better able to care for others" or some other mantra that will encourage us. It also helps to remember that self-care doesn't have to be composed of massively time consuming acts. In fact, the best prescription for taking care of ourselves is probably small, daily rituals. For example, taking one half-hour for yourself at the beginning and end of the day to meditate, pray, reflect, or just be. We might also transform one evening to do invest an hour or more taking our daily shower or bath and turning it into a self-pampering session.

Whatever we decide, making some small gesture where we put our self first every day will immensely for us and the ones we love and provide care for.

The oxygen we need is all around us. Sometimes we just need to be reminded to breathe.

So, as a friend always tells me ... be good to you.

With love & light,