Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First


Do you ever notice that when you are flying and the flight attendants go over the safety precautions, they say that in the case of cabin pressure loss, to put your oxygen mask on before you help others with theirs? Makes perfect sense doesn’t it. If you can’t get yours on and lose consciousness, you can’t very well help others with theirs. The same principle applies in every day life. If you are not taking care of yourself, it becomes very difficult to take good care of others.

Some of us have come to believe that self-sacrifice is the ultimate act of service and we have learned to put everyone else’s needs before our own. Ultimately, however, this kind of behavior can lead to stress, burn out, unhappiness and in its worst cases even illness and death.   The people for whom we are providing care do not benefit nearly as much from our care when we are not happy, balanced and taken care of ourselves. And they may even suffer if we are feeling resentful towards them as a result of sacrificing ourselves to meet their needs.


Knowing exactly what it is that you need on a regular basis and learning how to meet those needs for yourself is priceless. Putting yourself first is the best way to be genuinely present with others and help care for their needs in a way that is truly beneficial to them.

Figuring out what helps keep you balanced and happy is step one. I’m not just talking about the basic needs on the hierarchy such as food, clothing and shelter. I’m talking about your unique individual needs that help you feel happy, centered and at peace.


For me that list includes: good sleep (I go for 8 hours every night), spiritual practices such as meditation and gratitude and exercise, preferably in the form of dance. These practices keep me grounded, happy and effective in other areas of my life.

Making sure you meet your needs, especially in times of caretaking is the next step.   Prioritizing yourself by carving out the required time to include those things that are important to you is essential. Sometimes you have to get really creative in order to make this a reality, especially if you are the primary caretaker for elderly/ sick loved ones, or small children. Asking for help can be huge here. Making sure that you get much needed breaks to care for yourself is ultimately what is best for everyone.


Learn how to say no. This one is really big and really difficult. For many of us, saying no feels like rejecting another person, and it can be especially difficult if that person is a dear loved one. Still, knowing when to say no is one of the best things you can do to preserve your sanity. When we say yes to everything and everyone, we end up totally over committing ourselves, leaving ourselves with very little time to take care of ourselves.   Saying no can feel really uncomfortable at first, however with time and practice it gets easier and easier. Prioritizing yourself is empowering and when you are empowered, you are in the best possible space to help others.   For more info on how best to say no, check out this article.


© Copyright 2015 Vanessa Naja/Holistic Moving

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2 Responses to Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First

  1. Laura says:

    Lots of wisdom here – in order to take care of anyone else, we have to be able to take care of ourselves! One of the best things I learned to do for myself was to go to bed at the same time each night (well, almost each night). 😉 It truly was a balance of making time for myself by saying no to other things. Sounds like you had the same experience. 🙂

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