In this Wisdom Note, come along with me in your mind as we head out for another trek. Let’s continue enjoying the beautiful summer weather. It is a great day to continue on our trek. As we enjoy our time in nature feeling the warm breeze, watching the rustling of the trees and grass, and hearing the birds sing their melodies, we stare up into the cloudless blue sky and stand in awe of God’s creation. As we continue looking into the sky, we notice the faint lines left by the jets as they pass through the air 35,000 feet above us going nearly 600 miles per hour. Some of the modern inventions, such as the jets that pass overhead, are truly miracles.
I enjoy flying and travel as I make my way to Arizona each month to assist with our construction company projects there. During a three year time period when I worked with a national consulting firm, I traveled every week, so I spent a lot of time on planes. I really do enjoy flying, both commercially and privately, and understand the importance of safety and the checklist as part of that process.
One of the seemingly unusual instructions that we are given before taking off is “If cabin pressure should change, panels above your seat will open revealing oxygen masks; reach up and pull a mask toward you. Place it over your nose and mouth and secure it with the elastic band that can be adjusted to ensure a snug fit. The plastic bag will not fully inflate although oxygen is flowing. Secure your own mask first before helping others.”
From an emotional standpoint, especially as a parent, your initial reaction would be to assist your children with putting their masks on first before you would put your own on. Is it not selfish of us to think of ourselves first?
Growing up in church, we were taught the children’s song “Jesus and Others and You. What a wonderful way to spell JOY!” And, while I understand that this was supposed to teach us to think of others first and not to be selfish, the song does lack some fundamental logic.
The logical conclusion in the flying scenario is if you do not take care of yourself first by making sure your mask is on and that you can breathe, you may be unable to assist anyone else to stay alive.
I remember 30 years ago before this became a popular analogy with public speakers, Paula mentioned how this statement is what we should practice in our lives. If we do not take care of ourselves in all areas of life, we will not be able to assist others properly.
Both Paula and I have the heart to help people, but there have been times when we have given more time, resources, and money than was probably wise of logical. And, it has impacted us in a negative manner.
In today’s busy world, the first thing that we seem to neglect is ourselves. There’s only so much time in the day and most times, taking care of exterior responsibilities are more important than taking care of our inner selves. We need to take advantage of the biggest untapped opportunities in life just waiting for us to pause, connect, and listen.
It has been said that Mother Teresa took 4 hours each morning to reconnect before she took a step into the world, and Pope John Paul took 3 1/2 hours of quiet time each morning. Yet most people bounce out of bed, hop in the shower, and think they are ready to tackle the world unarmed, disconnected, and ill-equipped.
The secret is to put your own oxygen mask on first before you try to help someone else. Just as in flying, you can’t help someone else if you’re not ready yourself. If you don’t take care of YOU first, you’ll have less to share with the world. Taking time for you isn’t selfish. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and for others. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can experience burnout, stress, fatigue, reduced mental effectiveness, health problems, anxiety, frustration, inability to sleep, and even death. Are you experiencing any of these symptoms?
Whether it’s meditation, prayer, reading something inspirational, or going for a walk in nature, go put your own oxygen mask on first and then step forward to help others. You will find things lining up for you with such grace and ease in a way that you couldn’t have planned if you’d tried. It seems backward that by spending time on ourselves, we actually have more time later, but that’s just how it works. Both Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul did it for a reason, and it certainly wasn’t because they were selfish or lazy.
If you don’t feel you cannot afford time for yourself, understand that even Jesus, after pouring himself into others, took many opportunities to unplug and get away in solitude and pray. I think it would do us well to follow His example more often.
Luke 5:16 tells us, “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” In Mark 1:35, we read, “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” Jesus understood where real strength lies.
One practice that I have implemented throughout my adult life is to get up before others in the house to exercise, pray, and read/listen to devotional materials and inspiring stories. This helps to set the tone for my entire day.
Here are some practical tips for this week’s Trek. It’s time to let go of the guilt and the excuses and put your oxygen mask on first by:
- Getting enough rest
- Exercising regularly
- Going for long walks outdoors
- Eating right – fresh, whole foods that you prepare at home, stay away from processed food and sugars
- Having regular physicals
- Going to the doctor when you need treatment
- Spending time every day on a renewal activity
- Praying and meditating
- Sitting quietly at least 10 minutes
- Listening to uplifting music
- Reading an inspiring book
- Writing in your journal
- Writing a list of what you are grateful for
- Cutting down your stress with laughter
- Reading comics and joke books
- Buying a joke of the day calendar
- Watching a funny T.V. show or movie and allowing yourself a good belly laugh without feeling guilty for taking some time to chill out
Now that you understand why you must put your own oxygen mask on first and then step forward to help others, you will be better prepared for each day’s trek.