Put Your Own Oxygen Mask On First….

Thursday, November 8, 2012

You know the drill: you’re on a plane taxiing to the runway and the flight attendants are demonstrating how to put on your oxygen mask, in the unlikely event of a loss of cabin pressure.  The next line is (say it with me) “remember to put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others.”  This makes perfect sense in this situation of an airplane emergency.  Clearly you can’t help anyone else if there is no air to breathe of your own, right?  Although we may not realize it or even think about it, this also makes perfect sense in our everyday lives.

For example, it was about 8 years ago and I was working some ridiculously long and stressful hours while in the middle of a company relocation.  I was operating on empty but didn’t realize it until I ended up passing out in my office at work, (hitting my head on my desk in the process of this happening) and then being rushed to the hospital.  While there, I underwent every test under the sun to determine that, thankfully, there was nothing wrong with me other than a minor infection accompanied by pure exhaustion.  I ended up being out of work for a little while to recover and during that time I was of little use to anyone.  This all happened because during this crazy busy time, I forgot to take care of myself.

A similar but more serious situation happened to one of my clients.  He too passed out at work and was rushed to the hospital only when he woke up, he couldn’t remember anything.  Yes, he had temporary amnesia – a very scary situation, which resulted from: pure exhaustion.  Thankfully after taking some time off, his memory returned but his life changed drastically.  No more working 100 hours a week during “busy season” because when he did that and forgot to take care of himself, he ended up being of no use to himself, his family or his company for several months.     Although these may be extreme examples, the fact is that when we don’t take care of ourselves, we don’t have anything left to give to anyone else.  You cannot do well at work and/or support you family if you are on empty.  It’s exactly like the airplane rule says:  Put your own oxygen mask on first so you have enough air to breathe and energy for yourself before you can assist others.

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