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Fit Your Own Mask: Self-care

“Fit Your Own Mask First”

By Leigh Matthews Psychologist Therapy in Barcelona

Fit your own mask first

You know the emergency landing spiel given on all flights. There is one piece of advice there that can be applied to all our lives: Fit your own mask first. The reasoning behind this on flights is sound; if you lose consciousness while fitting someone else’s oxygen mask then it goes without saying that the two of you are in trouble. So, how does this apply to everyday life?

Day to day it can be difficult, especially for women who are Partners, Mothers and, oftentimes, Career Women too, to self-care. This is the result of a culture which encourages women to care for others at all costs. However, and here’s the heart of the matter, if we don’t care for ourselves or, fit our own masks first, we are in danger of causing more suffering to ourselves and therefore others. How so? Without self-care, time out or whatever you want to call it, we can be irritable, impatient, unfocussed, forgetful, exhausted and less present than others need us to be.

With a little mask fitting everyday, we become happier, more focused, healthier, more flexible and more energised. Then we are able to cope more with the challenges of caring for kids without yelling or little conflicts with our spouse without losing it. We have the mental space to respond the way we would wish to, rather than from a place of chronic tiredness, resentment or burnout.

Mask fitting could be a visit to the gym, a brisk walk, listening to a piece of music, eating three good healthy meals, drinking water, chatting with friends or whatever you find pleasure in; but it needs to be almost everyday. Mask fitting can also entail saying “No” to extra commitments or tasks that others can, and should, do themselves and that, by us doing them, we are topping up our stress levels.

Making a list of small, pleasurable and doable activities and pinning it on the fridge is a good first step to undertaking to fit your own mask first. Many people don’t engage in these self-care rituals, especially saying “No”, because they think it is selfish but, if we turn that thought around, we get it: what could be less selfish than doing something for yourself to enable you to care for others better?

Somedays our metaphorical plane does go down; the kids are screaming, the bills are in, the phone is ringing, you have a headache and you were supposed to be there, like, now. If you’ve been taking your hit of oxygen from your own mask first, everyday, you are more likely to maintain the ability to act rather than react to your circumstances. Then you are less likely to suffer over your suffering.

On a physiological level, engaging in relaxing or pleasurable activities, reduces our levels of the stress hormone cortisol and that’s important for the present, and for reducing the chances of cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease or a myriad of other health problems. I don’t need to emphasise how, without our health we are absolutely useless to others and probably won’t be around for our families as long as we could be.

On a personal level, when we care for ourselves, we model this as being a normal and healthy practice for our kids and others around us. Teaching our kids to engage in necessary, and guilt-free, daily self-care rituals is a wonderful gift and a step toward generating a better world full of people with more energy and patience.

Next time you think about how you wish you could just have a cup of tea in peace, or opt out of an extracurricular activity that someone else could take on, instead of framing this action as being selfish, turn it around and tell yourself: today I am fitting my own mask first. And do it!

If you are having problems implementing these strategies or are struggling with burnout, anxiety or depression, it might be worthwhile considering seeking support from a professional service like Therapy in Barcelona

Living out of your home environment can present a myriad of special challenges that can mean self-care is more challenging. If so, seek some support!