I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the concept of taking care of ourselves, refueling so to speak, over the last month or so. I’ve been busier than usual, spent a ton of time in the car lately, and my nights have gotten shorter (late to bed, early to rise!)
And I keep reminding myself of one of the things I tell my coaching clients and workshop attendees frequently. Don’t forget the Oxygen Mask Theory. You must put your oxygen mask on first before you can help others with theirs. Why? Because if you don’t put your mask on first, you might pass out, and if you pass out, you won’t be able to help anyone else. AND then someone now has to help you!
It’s that last part that makes the concept of taking care of YOU FIRST so important to those of us who prefer taking care of others. And it’s high time I take my own advice.
If we don’t take care of ourselves, someone else will have to.
In a workshop a few months ago, one of the attendees made the comment that she would take care of herself when everyone else stopped needing her. At first, I thought she was talking about a future time when her kids were grown and living on their own when her nest became empty. Not an ideal situation, but at least she had a future plan.
But a little bit later in the conversation, she revealed that her nest was already empty but now she’s taking care of grandkids and people at her church and other family members. Good grief, I thought, this poor woman will never be able to take care of herself if she waits for others to stop needing her.
Turns out, she was ‘joking’ about taking care of herself when others stopped needing her. She didn’t want that to happen and was going to do everything in her power to see to it that it never did. She said that by taking care of others, she was taking care of herself because that’s what she loved to do. Makes sense. In a way. But not really.
I asked her a few more questions. When was the last time you slept late or took an afternoon nap? Have you had any alone time lately? How about a bubble bath or mani-pedi? By now, she was looking at me like I had 3 heads. ‘Are you kidding?’ she said. ‘I barely have time to brush my teeth; when would I ever have time to do that kind of stuff? Besides, I’m not really into that sort of self-indulgent stuff.’
And then it hit me!
THAT’S exactly why so many of us, especially women, have fallen into the pattern of taking care of everyone else before we take care of ourselves.
We’ve become conditioned to think that taking care of ourselves as being self-indulgent, luxurious, and decadent.
And by labeling self-care as such, we steer clear. Add to that, the deep-rooted need many of us have for being needed, a sincere desire to add value and carry our own weight, and the drive to not give in, we will likely continue putting others needs before our own, even if it is that oxygen mask on the plane.
Well, at least until………
Read Camille’s story.
She was a nurturer, a caregiver. All her life, she had been taking care of her husband, her children, their children, her parents, her sisters, and brothers, and later in life, even some aunts and uncles who didn’t have anyone else to care for them.
Camille rarely did anything for herself. She ran from one place to the next, helping anyone she could. Friends and family kept telling Camille to take a break; relax; get some rest. ‘Do something for yourself, Camille,’ they’d say. ‘Don’t forget to take care of Camille, too,’ she’d be told.
But she didn’t listen. It was right about the time her husband, Arnold, had begun needing more care than before. Arnold had broken his hip a few months ago, and the healing was slow. His mobility was impaired, he had to have help with lots of things still, and it was taking its toll on Camille.
Unfortunately, before Camille could put on her own oxygen mask, she collapsed. She had literally run herself ragged and needed fluids, and lots of bed rest. Camille’s family and friends all jumped in to help and while appreciative, Camille was also very aware that she had caused others to have to take care of her.
Camille felt bad for inconveniencing others, but she now understood the oxygen mask theory.
I don’t want to be Camille. I don’t want someone else to have to take care of me (although it’s nice for a minute). I’m betting you don’t want to be Camille, either. If someone is having to take care of me because I didn’t take care of myself, who else is not getting the attention they need because of me? I don’t want to have to think about it.
Take care of yourself. Take a break. Grab a nap. Hideout for a little bit. Take a bubble bath. Whatever helps you refuel. But remember you MUST refuel before you can continue taking care of someone else.
You can’t help others if you pass out because you didn’t put your oxygen mask on first. You can’t fill someone else’s glass if your pitcher is empty. None of us can. Take care of YOU. FIRST.
I’m on a quest. Want you join me?