If you’ve ever ridden on an airplane you’re probably familiar with the safety demonstrations they give at the beginning of each flight. One of the main points they go over is if there is a situation where the oxygen masks drop, you’re told to always secure your own mask first, before helping others. Even if you’re seated next to someone who is not immediately available to help themselves, you’re still informed to make sure you’re okay first.
This is a great metaphor for the necessity of caring for yourself before you care for others. This is especially true for caregivers. Often caregivers of any kind prioritize those they care for above themselves in most situations.
The impact of being responsible for the health or happiness of another human can weigh heavy on you over time. Eventually, if you don’t address your own needs, you won’t be able to continue helping others. The question is, how do you know when it’s time to step back and care for yourself?
If you begin to experience symptoms such as guilt, chronic exhaustion or physical ailments, a feeling of numbness and disconnect from others, anger, hypervigilance or an overwhelming helplessness, then it’s time to take care of yourself!
The first step in this process is recognizing that we are not supporting ourselves enough. This can also be the most difficult, due to the guilt surrounding those feelings. Once we realize we need care, there are some concrete actions we can take.
Before you reach a point where these symptoms consume you, try these strategies to prioritize your self-care so you can better care for others:
Working Against Gravity coaches support their clients in total health, not just nutrition, and help clients make long-term changes. Just like a nutrition plan needs to be sustainable in order to continue to provide benefit, caregivers need to ensure their continued health in order to keep caring for others. Once your own mask is secure, you can make sure everyone else is safe too.
1. Lipsky, L. D., and Burk, C. (2009). Trauma Stewardship: An everyday guide to caring for self while caring for others. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler.