Please Place the Oxygen Mask on Yourself First!

 By Joy Feldman, NC JD

“The body is a sacred garment. Its your first and last garment; it is what you enter life in and what you depart life with, and it should be treated with honor.” Martha Graham

We have all heard flight attendants make that familiar announcement prior to take off, yet we rarely pay attention. They remind us to place the oxygen mask on ourselves first before trying to help others. The airlines know that our immediate reaction in an emergency is to help our loved ones before ourselves. Under such circumstances we do not have the presence of mind to understand that unless we take care of ourselves first, we will be of little use to others. This is a valuable lesson.

In order to be truly helpful, whether as a parent, relative, or friend, we must recognize the importance of self-care.  To be most effective as a role model, it is crucial that we are rested, stress-free, physically and emotionally healthy, and able to focus our attention on family. Anytime we are responsible for caretaking of someone else, it behooves us to first take care of ourselves.

We need to begin to consider self-care. Sacrificing our own well-being serves nobody. If we are to be most effective in living our lives fully, including providing service to others either personally or through our work, then self-care must take a higher priority on our agenda.

One easy way to take this step toward self-care is to begin with a simple meditation called Loving Kindness. This technique is rooted in the Buddhist tradition. Bringing positive attitudinal shifts, loving-kindness systematically develops the quality of ‘loving acceptance.’  Wondering how to begin? It’s easy. Spend a few minutes relaxing any tight spots that you might feel in your body. Be kind to yourself so you can prepare the mind to relax and be more open.


And now, let’s begin.

  • Wish yourself happiness, good health, good success, harmony, and the ability to understand stress. You might think to yourself: “May I be happy, may I be free of illness and injury.”
  • Wish yourself freedom of stress, anger, greed, ill-will and envy. “May I practice to let go of stress, may I practice to let go of anger, may I practice to let go of greed, ill-will and envy.”
  • Wish yourself joy, equanimity, compassion and kindness, such as “May I appreciate what I have experienced. May I be kind to myself, may I let go of my regrets.”
  • Wish yourself good progress in your life journey such as: “May I grow wiser and gain more skills, may I be more kind to myself more often.”


Give this technique a try. It might just provide you with an innovative way to be gentle with yourself and allow you to place that oxygen mask on yourself first.


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