Self Care: Fitting Your Own Mask First

mental health self care Dec 21, 2022
woman skier sitting on mountain top

Today, is my last day in the office this year. 

As I sit here finishing off my last few tasks, I’ve been reflecting on the last two days, having completed the Scottish Mental Health First Aid course. It made me think back to aSurviving Leadership Fatiguewebinar I hosted earlier in the year, for some very tired leaders where I was emphatic in my message:self-care isn’t selfish. To thrive in your career and life, and to be able to give fully to others, you must look after yourself first.  

Before the pandemic, I used to fly back and forth to work. A lot. Like most of my fellow frequent flyers, I rarely listen that carefully to the safety demonstration; it’s more like white noise interjecting my latest Audible book…emergency exits, blah, smoke detectors, blah blah, oxygen masks, more blah…  

 But whether passengers are listening or not,without fail, the cabin crew always tell you tofit your own mask first before helping others.  

 I’ve lost count of the number of clients and friends who have told me over the last few years that they feel as though their lives are “out of control” busy. I heard myself saying exactly the same thing to my friend, just this morning.  

 It’s easy to trivialize it; we wear busyness as a badge of honour and yet with so many of us managing our competing priorities of family, career, friends, fitness (me, not so!) and goodness knows what else, it’s clear that proper, re-focusing, self-reflecting “down-time” has become unjustifiable indulgence in many people’s lives.  

Self-care is a vital part of your well-being and it’s importance cannot be underestimated.  

Be the difference you want to make in others life. Look after yourself before you go out looking after a world full of need.– Bader 

Lifestyle is a choice.  

 Every day we make choices.  

 “I’ll start back at the gym when this project is finished.” “As soon as Christmas is over, I’ll get back to a healthy diet.” “I’ll stop [insert relevant vice here], after [insert relevant event here].” You get the picture.  

 Balancing our work and lifestyle can be challenging, however, it is our lifestyle which is usually put on hold for us to be able to focus on getting our workload completed, whether you own your own business, are a CEO or an employee, we all have responsibilities to fulfil. We spend the majority of ourwaking life at work and this is undoubtedly the cause of the majority of our stress, relationship and health problems.  

 It’s up to you to make the choices that will nurture and sustain you. Yourphysical, spiritual, emotional, psychological, personal and professional health are all interconnected, and supporting one supports the others.  

So why do so many of us procrastinate and use every excuse in the book to prioritise others – people and things – over our health and wellbeing – be that physical or mental?  

Sometimes we give so much that we end up losing ourselves.– Unknown 

 It’s time to write a new rule book.  

I often use this mental health self-care wheel with our clients; it’s a simple but effective tool to talk through the six wellbeing areas and to get some clarity on the small slippages that have occurred over the weeks, months and years.  

 Recently I’d noticed some things about myself…the number of hours I sleep has diminished…the number of meals I eat a day has diminished (the weight, unfortunately has not diminished in equal measure!)…the time I spend taking care of myself has diminished. I’m not complaining, it’s justhow things have been.  And I thought I’d been fine with it but the past two days have made me realise that it’s taking a toll.  

 I’ve forgotten to put on my oxygen mask…and now I’m paying the price.  

 If, like me, you recognise any of these slippages, now could be the ideal time to put yourself at the top of the pile from now on. To write the rules that will help you thrive in whatever you do and realise that personal sacrifice for pure professional gain is NOT a sustainable solution.  

 We all wear a lot of hats….partners, siblings, parents, friends, colleagues, managers, coaches… There are so many people who rely on us, so many needs to be met, it’s easy to forget that we need to put fuel in our own tanks if we want to keep going.  

What I’m saying here is not new, it’s certainly not rocket science, and it’s probably something you read, heard or even told yourself before (many times over, I’d guess).  

 But now it’s time to DO something, to take action. Without a healthy body and mind, nothing you are striving for today will mean anything in the future. 

 Get yourself back on track, be the person you need to be for everyone else in your life, but more importantly, re-connect with who you really are.  

 And with that, I’m off to enjoy an extended leave, caring for myself and spending time with my family and friends on the slopes of La Plagne…à votre santé!  

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