Put Your Oxygen Mask On First

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Self Care

“Put your oxygen mask on before helping those around you”. We hear this on planes as very practical advice. You can’t help someone else if you can’t take care of yourself. On a plane when pressure is dropping and everyone is panicking you can’t help anyone if you’re unconscious. It’s a great metaphor and one found frequently online and off.

If you’re a caretaker of any kind you’ve likely been reminded that you need to take care of yourself before taking care of someone else. Good advice, but how practical is it? More importantly, why does it take an emergency to warrant self care?

The reality is we live in a very fast paced world that is always on the move. As I write this I have several deadlines looming, emails pouring in and my phone keeps vibrating. Just those things stress me out. Now add to that caring for a child, and aging or sick parent, getting the dog to the vet and scheduling that colonoscopy we’ve all been putting off for way too long. That’s stress! And that doesn’t even take into account the day to day stresses of paying the bills, going to work every day, relationships etc, etc, etc…

The truth is, we all need to make ourselves priorities because if we don’t our own health suffers.

I get it, it’s difficult to set boundaries, especially if this has been a way of life for a long time. However, if boundaries aren’t set you will never find the time to do what you need to do to care for yourself.

With the holidays coming up fast, it’s more important than ever to set boundaries and carve out some time to do the things that recharge your batteries. If you’re like most caretakers, this is a foreign concept and can be stressful and difficult to implement because it feels uncomfortable. Here are a few tips for setting boundaries so you can do a little self care – so you can continue caring for those you love for as long as necessary.

Put Your Oxygen Mask On First

Learn to Say No

It’s hard to say No, if you’ve been saying Yes for a long time. You might also worry that if you say No, the people you care for won’t like you as much. The truth is it might sting at first, but most people understand that they can’t everything they want when they want it – and adjust accordingly. Practice saying No to the small things at first and work up to the bigger things. Saying No not only helps those you care for to do for themselves as much as possible (at least with regard to growing children) but it also helps to foster patience.

Step Out

When you start to feel overwhelmed or stressed out step back and step out. You can take a break, the problem, issue, task or person will be there when you return fresh and ready to work.


Meditation is so important to reducing stress. If you aren’t already practicing meditation on a regular basis now is a good time to incorporate some form of it into your daily life. Sounds like one more task, but it will be something you look forward to and it will become a habit soon enough. Just five minutes a day can do wonders for your state of mind. There are many apps available online that can help you with meditation.


Like meditation, exercise is great for the body and mind. Blow off some steam with a vigorous walk and you’ll feel the stress leaving your body.


Not everyone has the luxury to delegate tasks or care taking responsibilities, but if you can do so. Even for a little while.

The bottom line is that we all need to take care of ourselves so that we have the strength, wellbeing and fortitude necessary to care for those who need care. We don’t need to be in crises to finally start taking care of ourselves. In fact, if we practice self care on a regular basis, an emergency may never happen.



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