“Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.”
If you have ever flown on a plane, you probably have heard these very instructions. So why is it so important to take care of yourself before helping someone else?
The basis of these instructions and why they carry so much weight comes from the idea that if you try and help others first, and you fail, both people will suffer. But if you take the time to help yourself, then you will be in a better position to help those around you who need assistance. When we only focus on taking care of others, quite often we leave little room for ourselves. When we leave ourselves out of the equation, we can end up feeling exhausted, frustrated, and even angry. And we might not understand why.
Those feelings can then lead to feeling ineffective, helpless or hopeless or what is known as “burnout.” At that point, we aren’t able to help anyone effectively, so it is important to maintain a level of self-care. According to the American Psychological Association, “Taking care of yourself, helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.” One of the key elements in building resiliency is being able to focus on self-care.
The good news is that there are a lot of ways to practice self-care. And there are things you can do today, right now.
Make time for relationships. Looking to your family, friends, community groups, and, yes, even co-workers, can provide you that social and emotional support you might be needing when life throws a curveball your way.
But how do you do that when there is a countrywide rule enacting 6 feet of social distancing? Luckily we’re in the 21st century! Texting and good ol’ phone calls are good, but how about branching out with some video chats? Try getting some friends together for a virtual happy hour, or quick FaceTime to a friend while you are winding down for the day. Better yet, reach out to someone while you are out for your daily dose of fresh air. Consider a virtual coffee date with your co-worker.
Get creative with your neighbors and invite them to do something that you can do from a safe distance. Yard Zumba directed from a megaphone, anyone? It is not about the proximity to someone that is important – it is about the connection through conversation and social interaction.
Time alone, especially when unexpected changes show up, can be essential to strong wellbeing. Doing an activity or seeking out a moment of solitude can be rejuvenating and can offer a space to reflect on current situations. It can boost creativity and even help build a greater capacity for empathy for those around you. Adding some quiet moments to your life can be as simple as going for a walk or a hike. Spending time in nature has shown to have numerous psychological benefits from restoring attention and enhancing focus to being a stress reliever. Even a 10-minute walk around the block can leave you feeling refreshed.
Whether it is swimming, walking, riding a bike or chasing your kids around the yard – exercising that gets your heart pumping is especially important when taking care of yourself. Make exercise and moving your body a priority – you owe it to yourself! Find something you like to do and that’s easily accessible to you. Commit to a regular schedule, even if just 10 minutes a day.
We’ve all been there: We have too much on our plate and are feeling overwhelmed or concerned about the unknown. When this happens, one of the first things to go is sleep. We find ways to justify it and push its importance under the rug. However, sleep is often the very key to ensuring that we are not only taking care of our own self but ensuring that we are energized, clearly thinking, and patient with those around us. Be sure to practice a good sleep routine and try to stick with it.
Need some help to dreamland? Try slowing down with some soft music, drinking a cup of herbal tea (non-caffeinated!), or relaxing with a warm bath. Just make sure that you put your electronic devices away an hour before you go to bed. Screen time before the sandman is a recipe for a restless night.
Take care of yourself and build strong wellbeing by folding in small moments for yourself to meet your own needs. It’s the most powerful way to help others while building your own resiliency. Yourself and others will thank you.
Brisa Ayub is the Senior Global Director of Marketing at Wonder Workshop where she creates educational programs directed at bringing coding, robotics, and creative problem-solving to educators and students. She has a history of creating educational content and award-winning programs and games that have been implemented in schools across the United States and globally as the former Director of Educational Programs at Common Sense Media. Brisa earned her graduate degree in psychology and has worked with adolescents and young adults around addictive behaviors prior to the edtech space.