Monday, January 16, 2023

Oxygen Masks: Self-Care

  "You aren't doing 'nothing' when you choose to put your wellbeing first. In fact, this is the key to having everything."

 — Brittany Burgunder

I love analogies. 

It is a technique for giving over a message in a way that can be easily understood and easily accepted.

The trick, however, is finding the correct analogy. 

That means staying away from anything political and topics that can be considered controversial. 

Afterall, the goal is for the audience to accept the example and agree that it should be connected towards your topic.

I often choose analogies that involve sports, finding them to be safer. But there are many other non-controversial topics that can be used to make analogies.

Lately I have discovered a number of fascinating analogies involving airplanes, and I’d like to discuss one such analogy in this article.

When traveling on an airplane, the flight attendant will instruct you, that in the event of a loss of cabin pressure, to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you try and help others put their mask on. There is good reason for this. The fear is that if you try and help someone else get their mask on before you put yours on, there is a possibility that you could both pass out from lack of oxygen. You won’t be able to successfully place their mask on due to your lack of oxygen, and that will cause the two of you to faint. However, if you first put your mask on, you will be saved and you will also function better while helping the others put their masks on.

Our time, energy and resources are our own personal “oxygen mask”. As parents, we often feel the need to sacrifice ourselves for the betterment of our children. And we are rightful to do so. But when that continues on for too long a period of time, it hurts us. It can cause burnout, stress, fatigue, reduced mental effectiveness, health problems, anxiety, frustration, and the inability to sleep, just to name a few.

So parents need to remember about their own “oxygen mask”. 

Make sure that you can parent at 100% functioning, or even at 85% functioning (from time to time). Less than that, and we have an “low cabin pressure/oxygen mask situation”.

Meaning that the parent will need to step aside, and partake in some healthy self care. 

This should not be a source of guilt, just the opposite. It should be taken as a sign that you’re human and modeling correct behavior for your child.

Self-care is about taking care of yourself. It does not mean that you do not care about your children; quite the contrary. By making the effort to take care of yourself, you are ensuring that you can better care for your children.

We refuel cars before they run out of gas. Waiting for a car to run out of gas before refueling it is a recipe for disaster. This is because you don't know exactly when and where it will finally run out.

The same should apply to parents. Recharge your own personal batteries before they run out. 

By ignoring yourself and focusing exclusively on your child during a loss of cabin pressure at 33,000 ft, you might inadvertently harm both you and your child. 

The same holds true at sea level. 

Sacrificing yourself for what you believe is for the betterment of your child isn’t actually for the betterment of your child.

Let’s learn from the instructions of the flight crew and let’s not ignore this very important lesson.

Our oxygen masks go on first.

Even though I always start with a quote, for this article I would also like to conclude with one:

"Take care of myself doesn't mean 'me first.' It means 'me too.'" 

— L.R. Knost

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more.

To speak with Yisroel about presenting at a child safety event or to discuss a personal case, email him at

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