Put Your Oxygen Mask First
Why caring for yourself first may not be as selfish as you think.
If you have enjoyed the privilege of commercial flight, you have certainly heard the flight attendants delivering their safety spiel. This mandatory precautionary step is one that helps the passengers of the airplane understand certain safety procedures that would maximize their probability of surviving an in-flight emergency. One of the instructions given goes something like this: “In the extremely unlikely event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will deploy from the overhead compartment”. If you have heard the spiel before -or if you’ve read the title of this article- you already know what the next step is once these oxygen masks are deployed. “Put your oxygen mask on before assisting others”. Yes, this is a moment in which you are expected to be selfish and take care of yourself first. But wait, when you take some time to understand why you should give yourself priority, you will notice that it is not as selfish as some may think.
Let’s answer the obvious question first: Why would you even need an oxygen mask? If there is a sudden loss of cabin pressure while the airplane is at a cruising altitude (30,000 - 45,000 ft ), you would only have a few seconds before the lack of oxygen in the air would begin to impair your brain. You would have between 12-20 seconds before you begin to experience confusion, disorientation, euphoria, and even hallucinations. All this as a result of the lack of oxygen in the unpressurized cabin air. If you ventured into the 30-45 second mark without your oxygen mask, you would lose consciousness and would be rapidly approaching brain damage or even death.
"This is why it is so important that you spring into action, take care of yourself first, and then proceed to help those sitting around you."
It goes without saying that this uncomfortable and dramatic explanation of what to expect from the sudden loss of cabin pressure is intentionally left out of the safety spiel given to the nervous passengers of an airline. It is expected that you follow their instructions and trust that they have your best interest in mind. It now becomes clear why it is so important that you take care of yourself before you attempt to help others in this scenario. After all, of what help would you be to anyone if you were euphorically battling hallucinations? This is why it is so important that you spring into action, take care of yourself first, and then proceed to help those sitting around you.
"If we don’t treat our time as the precious resource it is and if we don’t prioritize ourselves in the allocation of that resource, we run the risk of suffocating."
I believe that the same rationale that would save your life in this scenario can be applied to the proper use of your time. Just like oxygen, our time is a valuable and finite resource. If we don’t treat our time as the precious resource it is and if we don’t prioritize ourselves in the allocation of that resource, we run the risk of suffocating. If we don’t live a balanced life, in which sufficient time is allocated to our health, wealth, and happiness, we stifle our potential of helping others to enjoy a good life. Take sleep for example. According to Dr. Timothy I. Morgenthaler, M.D., President of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the average adult requires 7-8 hours of sleep per night. When adults regularly deprive themselves of the necessary amount of shuteye, they can expect to experience symptoms like lapses in memory, decreased alertness, impaired judgment, and hallucinations. Sounds familiar? How effective can you be at your job if you are suffering from any of these symptoms throughout your day?
This is a clear example of how being a good steward of your time and giving yourself priority can help you maximize your productivity and effectiveness.
One of my favorite quotes is “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Benjamin Franklin was onto something when he uttered these famous words. I am a strong supporter of dedicating your mornings to yourself. After a good night sleep, you can wake up energized, focused and ready to establish a pattern of small victories. This pattern of small victories can take the shape of a carefully planned routine that focuses on nourishing your body and mind. Starting your day with a healthy breakfast, some quiet time for meditation, and some reading time before you face the day, can give you the advantage of clear and focused mind. The sort of mind that is able to really take advantage of every moment, one that is able to make good decisions in the midst of bad situations and can help others when they need you the most.Now that you know that it is not a selfish act to take care of yourself first before you attempt to be of assistance to others, go forward with a renewed sense of determination. Take the time to take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally before you intend to help others with their needs. After all, of what good could you be to others, while your mind and body are impaired by the insidious effects of neglect? Remember that taking care of yourself first is not selfish, it is the only way in which you can be there to help those whom you love when they need you the most. So, to make sure that you have a safe and enjoyable journey, do yourself and your loved ones a favor and put your oxygen mask first.
This article was originally published in The Good Men Project on January 15, 2016 (Read original) Photo Credits: Featured Image by Mikka H. Licensed under CC by 2.0 "Oxygen Mask" by Warren R.M. Stuart Licensed under CC by 2.0