Apr 26, 2016

The Oxygen Mask Principle

What is it that makes it so difficult to make ourselves a priority?

While I wish I had the answer to this million-dollar question, I can say I’ve learned that to be good to others, I first need to be good to myself. So, let’s look at our lives as smart, educated women who are members of the health industry and figure out a plan to practice what we teach.

Since I travel frequently, I hear the message about placing the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others all the time. I’ve asked myself the following questions as the flight attendants are doing their safety presentation:

If the oxygen masks were to tumble down, are they automatic or do the pilot or flight attendants activate them? Where does the oxygen come from? How much is there? Could the plane ever run out of oxygen? 

Then what do we do?

As you can see, I’m a bit of a worrier! I tend to believe that if I can think of everything that could go possibly wrong, then maybe it won’t happen. It’s exhausting!

As health care providers, we feel the need to give to others before we give to ourselves. We don’t want to give up that quality of caring that we bring to the people in our lives, whether they’re family, friends, clients or patients. This “them first” inclination is what makes us such a unique group.

However, in talking with childbirth educators and medical professionals, they’re finding themselves stretched to the limit and feeling tired and exhausted, accomplishing only half of what they wanted or needed to in their day. We’re giving so much of our “oxygen” to others first that we’re rarely getting a whiff. But it’s vital to our health and wellbeing that we take a moment and remind ourselves that we must breathe the oxygen.

Our personal moments, the ones that are ours alone, the ones that reenergize our minds, bodies, and souls, have been sidelined by work, home responsibilities, and stress beyond our control. Whether it’s a walk with a friend, choosing a hobby that inspires you, or simply enjoying the sun rising in the morning, find your oxygen, or whatever it is that allows you moments of inner reflection and self-caring, which are essential to your health.

This may be a foreign idea to many of us and seems outrageously selfish. But how can we be good role models and health care providers if we keep ourselves out of the loop of what we preach? The opportunity to live a life of passion with our families, friends, and patients requires that we first set an example of self-care and self-worth.

When is the last time you took a breath?

Learn more about Dianne Moran.

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