“In the unlikely event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop down from the panel above your head… Secure your own mask before helping others…”
Sage airline advice, and heard so often, most of us could probably recite it. You mostly ignore this potentially life-saving in-flight information, busy fiddling with last minute txtmessages, sorting Toy Story on your child’s iPad before settling into your seat for the flight. You will invariably have headphones in by now too, and are oblivious to the words blaring over a scratchy intercom system. Words that are intended to help you.
Secure your own mask before helping others. What can we learn from this statement? Well, it highlights the importance of self-care when caring for others.
Too many of us try to be too many things for too many people, and sadly, this results in us having no time for ourselves. No time for reflection, no time for rest, no time for “me”! This will ultimately have a detrimental effect on your mental health, and will affect all around you.You absolutely cannot serve from an empty vessel.
Take a typical day. Wake up 6.45. Check phone. Msg friend who broke up with partner last night. See what’s happening on FB/Twiter/TicToc/News. OMG look at the time. Get up, shower, dress. Shout at children to get up/shower/dress/put that iPad down/eat your Weetabix/you can’t go out looking like that/brush your teeth/have you done your homework/remember your lunch/you’re going to be late for school/bye love you. Breathe – OMG look at the time, fire some toast remnants down you, gulp some coffee, swig listerinebcs you haven’t got time to brush teeth, leave for work. In the car, radio blaring, people driving round you like maniacs, you are late, so you speed a little, just a little, get to work on time (JUST) for the meeting. Work WORK work WORK work through lunch work workwork OMG look at the time, drive home, it’s dark and rainy. I should be running tonight but I can’t be bothered and don’t have time anyway. Cooking 5 meals because everyone wants something different AGAIN, and NOBODY clears the plates nor washes up, stuck in the kitchen most of the evening, while broken hearted friend is sending crying emojis and smallest is bawling because middle won’t share the Nintendo Switch and eldest can’t solve a quadratic equation and is having a meltdown at the dining table, and it’s all your fault. Eventually you sit down to watch I’m a Celebrity but your mother-in-law phones because your father-in-law has a problem with his iPhone and can you just talk them through how to figure out why he has apps he is adamant he didn’t download and can we just get rid of them please. 93 fraught minutes later, it’s all resolved and you, exhausted, haul yourself off to bed. MSG heartbroken friend to make sure she is ok, see what’s happening on FB/Twiter/TicToc/News/zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Repeat. Repeat…. REPEAT.
It’s not sustainable, and eventually, you start getting ratty at the kids, snappy with the in-laws, you want to slap your significant other for giving you kids and in-laws. You just want to put your feet up and have a cup of tea, or do a crossword, but you can’t seem to find the time, and so it begins. You are spending so much time on others, or putting off things for yourself that your own needs suffer, a vicious circle doing for everyone, feeling tired, no time to rest, until you can do no more, and your mental health suffers. You can do nothing. For anyone. You have helped everyone else with their oxygen mask, but your own remains dangling in the air, just…. out…. of…. re…….
It’s important to start to recognise patterns in your life where things take over. It happens to all of us, and with a little focus, it’s actually quite easy to fix.
Make time for yourself
The recommendation is that everyone should dedicate one hour a day to self-focus, but a lot of people find it difficult to find that time.
Make yourself the priority. Write a list of things that you love to do. Lying in the bath, playing the guitar, gardening, drawing, going for a walk (this list is not exhaustive), and then against each of them, write down or estimate when was the last time you did each. If there are things you put off, ask yourself why. Write it down, because only then will you be able to quantify and address it. It would shock you. Set some goals for when you next want to lie in the bath, set a regular guitar day, get beyond chapter one of that saucy novel you’ve been trying to read for 5 years.
Write out your schedule for the day/week/month, and make “you time” opportunities in therebefore others fill it with their needs. Mark the YOU time in bigger letters, in red maybe. Here’s a hint. If you fill the box in your calendar with big words, those around you will be less likely to put something in that box.
Next – You need to shake up your routine or look for help in achieving YOUR Goals.
Who the heck irons pants and socks? Master the art of getting things out the machine/dryer and fold and put away without the need to break out the Morphy Richards. It’s nice to look smart, but do you need to be absolutely immaculate? Nobody died of crumpled pants.
On that note, what is this word – Perfect? Is my idea of perfect the same as yours? You can save 20 minutes with a good or an excellent, mainly because perfect comes in many guises!
Bribe the kids to do chores and earn their pocket money. Have that looong relaxing bath while they are washing the car.
If you are routinely taking work home, you perhaps need to ask your LM for assistance, or if you are an LM, delegate down, but be mindful of their workloads too. Discuss and share it out.
Get away from your desk at lunchtime. Take your lunch to a quiet area and read the saucy novel. Or get it on audiobook so you can listen while out on a walk.
DITCH THE CAR! Let someone else take the stress of driving you from A-B. Get the bus or the train. More opportunity for that audiobook!!
Don’t be scared to say no. It’s not a weakness to not have time to do something.
Don’t moan about nobody doing things for you if you don’t ask for help or give others the opportunity to do so.
Finally – it’s just one hour in 24. Even if it’s just 5, 10 or 15 minutes at a time, promise yourself that by the end of the day, you will have secured that hour.
You owe it to yourself.