For those of you who’ve traveled by airplane (and can remember that far back), I’m sure you’ve all paid close attention (wink wink) to the following safety instruction given by the attendant: “In the event of the loss of cabin pressure, please put on your oxygen mask first before you help the person sitting beside you.” Of the 20 plus times I’ve flown, I don’t think that I’ve ever had to heed that advice. However, I am discovering that the “putting on your own oxygen mask first” is just as relevant advice on the ground as it is in the air.
Many of you reading this article have probably had to take on more responsibility during the pandemic – whether it’s at home helping your kids with their schoolwork or at work taking on a bigger workload. I’m guessing that, in taking on this added responsibility, you’ve had to stop doing certain things, or let certain things go by the wayside, simply because you don’t feel that you have the time to do them. Based on conversations I’ve had over the past month, the most common things that people have really stopped doing, or let go by the wayside, is any kind of self-care – even the basics like sleep, diet, exercise, and recharging are seemingly being neglected these days. Inevitably, when I’ve asked the people that I have spoken to how they are doing, I get the same answer – they are feeling generally run down and tired. In fact, many have said that they’re at their wit’s end.
In response, the question I liked to ask them is this: Think back to the last time you were eating properly, were consistently getting a good night’s sleep, were exercising regularly, and were taking moments for yourself – to do something just for the enjoyment of it or to just relax, and not to serve any other purpose. How did you feel? How does that compare to now? How much better were you able to perform at work when you engaged in self-care? How much better were you able to take care of your loved ones when you were also regularly taking care of yourself? When they truly thought about their answers, they all concluded that they were better able to deal with life’s pressures when self-care was a part of their regular routine.
It’s funny, or maybe not so funny, that the first thing that seems to drop off during hard times is anything that we perceive as a personal indulgence, like self-care. We tell ourselves something like, “that’s just for fun, it serves no other purpose – I just don’t have time for that these days!” We spend more time looking after the needs of others than our own. If we truly think about it though, self-care is really the last thing that should drop off. All of the self-care activities, like sleep, diet, exercise, meditation, and any activity (small or large) that makes us feel recharged, help us to maintain our energy levels, which ultimately makes us more productive and helps us feel better about the challenges surrounding us. Quite simply, when our bodies and our minds are healthy, we are better equipped to “tough-out” the hard times.
So, I encourage you to take stock now – what self-care activities have you let go of? Which ones can you incorporate back into your day, even if it’s just for a few minutes? Remember, quality is better than quantity. Take that oxygen mask and put it on yourself and then go help your family, your friends, and your co-workers. You will be in a much better position to help them when you are also taken care of.
Struggling with developing your resilience? I’ve been there. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can help you on your path to improving your resilience.