Anyone who has flown on an airplane is familiar with the pre-take-off flight attendant instructions:
“If there is a sudden change in cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from the space above you. Please note that oxygen may be flowing even if the bag does not inflate. Please place your mask on first before helping an elderly or younger person next to you.”
Why do they say this? What would be so wrong with helping the person next to you before putting your own mask on? Well the problem is that if you haven’t put on your mask, you may pass out in your attempt to help someone else put on theirs. Now the odds are both of you are passed out. The lesson here is simple and clear: put your mask on first both for your own safety and SO THAT you will remain capable of helping others put it on too. I love this example as a metaphor for prioritizing self-care. It applies to basically anyone.
Why Do We Forget About Self-Care?
Some people forget to focus on taking care of themselves because they are goal-oriented people. Who has time for sleep, exercise, or proper diet when you have to work 80+ hours a week to get your next promotion? Some people forget to focus on self-care because they spend a lot of their time thinking about others. Who has time for sleep, exercise, or proper diet when you are taking care of your elderly parents? Some people forget to focus on self-care because they just weren’t raised to prioritize themselves. Who has time for sleep, exercise, or proper diet when focusing on yourself isn’t something you were raised to believe was important?
Why Is Self-Care Important?
Whatever your situation or whoever you are, self-care is an important part of leading a successful, functional life. Without focusing on yourself, at some point you will become unable to do whatever it is that you are prioritizing instead. That promotion you’ve been vying for? You’ll be taken out of the running if you collapse from exhaustion at work. Those parents you are caring for? You’ll regret not sleeping a full night when your cat-nap lasts 2 hours and they don’t get their meds on time.
The message here is clear: Take care of yourself SO THAT you can continue to do whatever is getting in the way of your self-care in the first place. Put your mask on first.