Imagine for a moment, if you will, that you are on an airplane that has suddenly lost control and is spiraling to the ground. Almost instantly, the oxygen masks drop from above and you are instructed to put them on. As you do so, you are reminded that before you even think about helping your loved ones or the people around you, you must be sure to secure your own oxygen mask.
If you have ever ridden an airplane, you will know that you are instructed to put on your own oxygen mask before you attempt to help anyone else, yet we are never told why this is. Why is it that we are told to focus on ourselves before tending to those that we care about? The answer is fairly obvious: We must put on our own oxygen masks first so that we are well equipped to tend to others. And that makes sense, doesn’t it? For if we do not take care of ourselves, we will soon be depleted and rendered useless to everyone, including ourselves. This oxygen mask analogy highlights the importance of adequate self-care. It emphasizes how crucial it is to tend to ourselves so that we are able to lead full lives and care for others at the same time.
Think for just a moment about what happens when we do not engage in self-care. We lose sight of our wants and needs. Our passions and interests fall to the wayside. Our sense of identity becomes diluted. And our position in life becomes unclear. And not surprisingly, the longer we put ourselves off, the easier it becomes to ignore our own needs in favor of others.
If you are thinking to yourself that this is a difficult habit to break, you are absolutely right. So often, we struggle to put ourselves first. We may worry that we are selfish or inconsiderate should we honor our own requests. We ignore our own yearnings and instead focus on those that we care about. And so often, we are expected to maintain this status quo, despite our exhaustion, our depletion, and our own craving to be cared for and worry about what may happen should we break free of this cycle. Or, perhaps we are not even aware that it is going on at all.
Yet, even while we may resist it at times, we know deep down that we must take care of ourselves just as well as we take care of others. We know that we must put on our own oxygen masks first so that we may help others do the same. We know that we must do this so that we may have the energy and good health it takes to nurture rewarding relationships, be present with others, and find contentment in our solitude.
Set the intention to tend to yourself today. Take time to address your wants and needs. Take a moment to maintain your sense of self, practice a bit of self-care, so that you may do the same for those you love and care for.