Put your own mask on first: Helping yourself before others

This summer I got to fly to Utah and spend some time with my family. Although I had many great experiences, the most impactful moment came on the plane before I even left Houston. As we prepared to fly, the flight attendants began their display of what to do in the case of an emergency. Being the anxiety-ridden individual I am, I paid very close attention, so that in the small chance that we made a hard-crash landing, I would be more than prepared. However, one part of their presentation really struck me. When they were explaining how to put on oxygen masks, they made a point to tell everyone to first put on their mask before helping others.

This made me begin to think how often I, theoretically, put on others’ masks before putting on my own. How many times have I helped someone out with a homework assignment before completing my own? How often do I give someone else relationship advice while I ignore my issues? Do I frequently give people insight before implementing it in my own life, before trying to ensure I am also my best self? How much time do I spend helping others before helping myself?

I can be incredibly selfish sometimes, I do not mean this to sound as if I spend all of my time helping others. However, as I have gone through my first few years of college, I have learned that self-love is a necessary part of my life. It has become essential that I learn to put myself first at times, ensuring that I am in a good place before attempting to help others.

While on the plane, I began thinking about why they would ask that we fix our masks before helping others and I thought of one very valid reason in particular. If you help others first, you put yourself at risk of danger, and then you will not be able to help yourself, let alone anyone else. This is also true outside of the metaphor. If you attempt to help others before working on your own problems or responsibilities, you run the risk of leading others astray, while still not helping yourself. This is also vital when it comes to self-care. If you are not getting enough sleep, eating right, taking mental time for yourself and just doing things for yourself, you cannot run efficiently and to the best of your ability, which affects everyone. You will perform worse at work, struggle more in school and affect your relationships and social life. Just as you would pass out from lack of oxygen, hurting your own chances of survival, burnout can happen quickly in real life if we prioritize others over ourselves.

Now, at the risk of putting on others’ masks before my own (as these are all things I should be working on myself), here are some ideas you can implement in your own life to ensure that you are taking care of yourself. Sleep is essential to your productivity. Figure out a sleep schedule that works for you; just make sure that you are as well rested as possible to be your best self. Eating habits also make a huge difference. If you find yourself short on time during the week, resorting to frequent fast food runs, you might consider meal prepping. You can cook enough food for the whole week, grab it, and go. This allows you to optimize your free time, and make sure you are eating well. It will quickly boost your energy and mood. I feel particularly hypocritical typing this one, but do not procrastinate. Planning time for assignments and studying allows you to have less stress and more time in the long run. Your grades and overall performance will improve. Finally, do not give up your social life. While these things are all important, you are still in college, and you can never get this time back. Go out with your friends sometimes; missing out on some sleep every once in a while will not kill you. Have cheat days. Take time to live for yourself and nobody else.

So just remember to breathe, take your time and remember it is completely okay to take time for yourself.


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