There’s something to be said about putting on your own mask first before helping others. If you’ve travelled on an airplane, you’ve been instructed on what to do in the event of an aircraft emergency. Not only do they talk about what to do but they physically demonstrate how to do it.
You’re instructed that if the cabin air pressure changes, your oxygen masks will likely fall directly in front of you. They tell you that you should first put your mask on before turning to help anyone else.
When I think about this, it makes me think of how many of us apply this same concept to our personal lives. How many of us are making sure that we put our mask on first? It’s just as important to take care of yourself as it is to tend to your partner’s needs and your relationship’s needs. Really anyone in your circle for that matter.
Here’s what I’ve learned about putting your mask on first.
Secure your mask: Know when to switch gears
There are times when you are giving a lot of your energy, time and focus to important matters in your life. Knowing when to switch gears and put some of that focus and energy into yourself is important. This requires frequent self-checkups. It’s common for people to operate with a low tank for so long that it becomes the norm and they really can’t tell the difference.
Questions like the following can be helpful in assessing when your tank is running low and you need to reach for your mask.
What have I done lately to nurture my own personal well-being?
Do I feel that my needs are being met? If not, what are those unmet needs and what do I need to do differently to meet them?
Do I have balance among work, family, relationships, play, and rest?
Adjust the mask if necessary: Set boundaries
Saying yes all the time can lead to burn out. Feelings of frustration and resentment can creep in, leaving you depleted of all that you need to be your best self. Know when to say no. Also consider that your response doesn’t necessarily have to be no all the time. Responses like “not right now”, “maybe later”, or “I’ll take that into consideration” are helpful in that they allow you time to prioritize your needs before making premature commitments to others.
You have a right to your boundaries and it’s important that you protect them so they’re not violated.
Breathe normally: Heal your own wounds
How you engage with your partner has much to do with your family of origin and early life experiences. History of trauma, betrayal, chaos and more all have an impact and an even bigger impact when not addressed. Take time to heal your own wounds. They’re never too old to re-visit and resolve. If they’re getting in the way of your happiness or stifling your relationship’s potential, they deserve your attention.
Don’t panic if there are old wounds that need to be cared for. Take your time, be gentle with yourself and practice self-compassion.
Pour into yourself so you can give your best to the people you love and care for the most. After all, what do you have to lose? If you need help learning how to put your own mask on first, feel free to contact me for a complementary consultation.