Put on your own mask first

“Please remember to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.”

I’ve heard that when flying (back in THOSE days) more times than I can count.

It makes good sense.

No point trying to save others (particularly those smaller or younger than you, or who might be in trouble in some way) if you’re struggling yourself.

Of course, it does feel a little backwards – selfish, even. Surely you need to think of others first. Be selfless, sacrificial. Surely in the midst of a crisis or a disaster or a dangerous situation, it’s better to race around helping as many people as you can before you collapse…

…and then you think it through and realise if you do that, you’ll collapse sooner yourself, and will be able to help no one. Not only that, you’ll need extra help from others to get you back on your feet.

You can – I can – be more of a help if we’ve got our own mask on first.

I can help many, many more people (or simply help one person faster) when I’ve got my own mask on first.

In a time of crisis and danger and masks, this phrase has cropped up when I’ve been talking about helping others.

I love helping others. It’s one of the things that actually gives me energy. Particularly connecting people with the help they need in some way – whether it’s me or my company, or someone I trust, or a product they need or a place they want to find. I can be having a really rough day, and then someone says “Hey do you know anyone who…” and I share what I know, and they get all enthusiastic. Or I recommend a book they need to read on a particular topic because it really changed my life or perspective, and they go and read it, and come back and say “That book changed my life, too!”

It gives me energy. Refreshes me. Gives me a little hope when things are rough.

So when there’s trouble – or a worldwide global pandemic – and everyone in the whole world needs help…

..I want to help everyone.

I know that’s not even physically possible. But I want to help as many people I know who are struggling, and…everyone I talk to is struggling. Everyone. There’s not a single person who has this all together. Who has it all sorted and doesn’t need help. (And if they appear that way, they’re either not giving you the whole story, or you just don’t know them well enough to be invited in to how they’re really doing.)

And I know – technically, clinically, in my head – that it makes sense to put on my own oxygen mask before assisting others.

But how in the wide world do I do that?

What does that look like?

Some people call it ‘self care’, which (unfortunately) has sort of been bastardised to mean “take a hot bubble bath” or “sit and read a book”.

That’s not really what true care of yourself means, and we know it.

But the longer we’re in the situation we are in, the more I have realised I have absolutely no idea how to put on my own mask first, and what that truly looks like day after day.

Because it’s not just a one time disaster. Not an accident or a one time hospital visit or a hard day. It’s day after day after day. Talking to people who are struggling. Hearing of deaths, and seeing graph lines rise, knowing people personally who have died or lost businesses or are wrestling with mental health. Staying inside. Not able to travel.

And I’m realising all the things I used to rely on to look after myself – quiet time at home, reading, travelling up into the highlands, long walks – have either been taken away or have been repurposed to feel like work.

Quiet time at home is my life now, and still feels like work. Or any spare moment I have I end up doing some work, just so I don’t have to think too much.

My daily walk, as much as I do appreciate it, feels like a need rather than a want. I’m allowed to go out once a day for exercise, so I have to pick the best time of day to do it, and that’s it. Done for the day.

Typically I’d jump in the car and zoom up into the Scottish highlands if I needed some wide open spaces, and the beautiful quiet which restores the soul. Or I’d take the weekend on the Isle of Mull. But that, of course, isn’t happening.

Often reading a good book helps me look after myself, be refreshed. Maybe a business book, something fun, or spiritually refreshing. But my brain is far, far too swirly to be able to read much.

So how do I actually look after myself?

How do I put on my own oxygen mask?

How do I ensure this ‘care’ means I’m ready and able to serve others, not just giving up and pulling in and hiding out?

I don’t really know.

(Haha, you thought I was going to come to The Answer and you would know, too.)

But I believe I will know.

I believe all of this is pushing me to figure this out. To know what it looks like to take care of me, even in this. Even when all of what I was sort of relying on without realising it, has been stripped away or stripped back.

I was talking to a friend who is a psychotherapist and has been helping a lot of people work through their mental health struggles right now. And we agreed that all the things which brought us joy, or gave us rest, or helped us take care of ourselves, are being questioned – and that’s a good thing.

What is it that truly gives you rest, helps you cope? Because it can’t be holidays, or time with extended family, or travel, or going out with friends. Those are beautiful things and worth celebrating. Worth striving for. But they’ve been taken away for a time, and shown to be rather temporary.

There’s a great Bible verse I love which says, about really difficult challenges, “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.”

When gold goes through the fire, the impurities rise to the surface and can be removed. After removing, and removing, and removing, you’re left with the purest, most valuable gold there is.

We’re all being tested right now. And some of our “impurities” – our impatience, our anger, our fears, what we relied on for hope – are rising to the surface.

That’s okay. They’re supposed to do that. As they’re skimmed off, you’ll be left with the most valuable version of yourself.

And that version of yourself is the one who can truly help others.

How do I put on my own mask first? I’m not entirely sure yet, but I do know it goes far deeper than simply doing something that feels nice for a day or a few hours. It has to. It means the sort of thing which helps me face any of those “impurities”, so they can be skimmed off, so I can be the best version of myself.

Mask on.

Able to help others.

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Popped into a fave local coffee shop in York this week and this was the mug they gave me. ❤️✨

Wasn’t feeling so superwomanny when I got it - this week was very full, plus period cramps and multiple migraines and my ankle being wonky and more travel than I’ve done in a while. I had intended to get coffee but the cramps were so bad I had to go for mint tea and just sit until they faded enough for me to walk again. 

At the same time, I also had an amazing time during this week with the @weare_pf Board meeting in person for the first time. Getting to know each other better as humans and sharing ideas and making plans and most of all appreciating that the weight of all the business decisions doesn’t rest solely on my shoulders. 

This is just one of your reminders that being a superwoman looks different at different times, and whether you’re striding along strongly or sitting weakly with mint tea, your superwoman status still applies. 

#justkeepgoing #superwoman #muglife #wegotthis #onedayatatime
Every single time I go sailing past this lighthouse on the mull-to-Oban ferry I think “this time I’ll just watch it and not take any pictures” 

And then something wild happens like A SAILBOAT GOES BY and of course I have to capture that, surely I haven’t taken that photo before (spoiler: I have), and then I have about seventeen lighthouse photos to add to my collection of seven thousand lighthouse photos from the last twenty years. 

But, I figure, what’s the harm anyway. It’s my photos and my memories and it brings me joy. I love the lighthouse as a visual of my journey from the mainland to the island (or a reminder I’ll be back soon). 

So, see you soon lighthouse. Thanks for standing there. 

#lismorelighthouse #eileanmusdile #lighthouse #lighthousesofinstagram #oban #ferry #calmac #isleofmull #sailaway #sailboat #scotland #travelscotland
I read. A lot. My list of “books to read” has over 100 titles listed, and every time I mention a book I’ve appreciated, I get another recommendation of a new one and the list gets longer. 

One of the books recommended to me years ago was “The Buddha in Me the Buddha in You”. She mentioned it had some helpful principles about how we navigate life - and whether you’re a buddhist or not, there are principles you can learn from and apply in life.

I wrote it down, forgot about it, and moved on with life. Read lots of other books.

And then when I broke my ankle, and was sitting and resting a LOT, with loads of time for reading, I went back to my list and started reconsidering some of the titles on it.

When I looked up “The Buddha in Me the Buddha in You”, the subtitle was “A Handbook for Happiness”, and that struck me.

Dealing with an injury is difficult. Sad. Wearying. It can be hard to find happiness and every day feels about the same. (Very Groundhog Day.)

So I bought the book, and put it by my bed. I started getting into a pattern of reading a chapter every morning with my coffee.

I thought I’d share some of the principles I appreciated and which are already helping me as I continue to navigate my life right now: 

[the full post on these is too long for an Insta post so click the link in bio or story if u want to read more!]

Thank the spoon - a spoon stirs up the mud in what had appeared to be clear water. Same with life: hard things stir up what you haven’t dealt with yet. So you thank them. “Thank you, spoon”

The Fundamental darkness (FD) - the “Survival Obsessed Self” who responds in a way based on survival but not growth

There’s a gift in the struggle - He describes it visually as “the lotus flower in the muddy pond”. You can focus on the mud, or on the flower, but they’re both there.

Nam - myo - ho - renge - kyo : The happiness soundtrack - I pulled out the core concepts of each of these words as they applied to me, and they are: 

Bloom in the struggle
Flow of life

#karensnotes #buddhainmebuddhainyou #books #reading #happysaturday 

[full note link in bio!]
The snow is swirling the wind is howling IT’S FROZEN OUT THERE 
#snowing #happyspringeveryone #inlikealion