If you've ever been on an airplane, or if you've at least seen a comedy involving one, you're likely familiar with the expression that flight attendants regularly use:
"Put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others with theirs."
Whether you're with a whining kid, a grumpy great-uncle, an overly-excited puppy, a cherished loved one, a no-named stranger, or just anyone who cannot take care of themselves in an emergency situation, you'll be out of commission by going out of your way to help them first.
You can't help put someone else's mask on if you pass out from a lack of oxygen in the process by neglecting to first put on your own.
Okay, airplane crises aside, this extends beyond emergency situations and the literal use of masks.
This is a very prevalent practice that we tend to neglect in our daily lives. Whenever we don't take the time to check in with ourselves and ensure that we're functioning to the best of our abilities in that moment, we compromise our ability to show up as our best selves and be there effectively for others.
This involves great self-awareness and a desire for proactive self-care.
You've likely only heard of reactive self-care, which is when we've kinda already spread ourselves too thin past the point of no return and are heading into burnout territory, if we're not already there, that is. Treating this usually comes with the well-known depicted rom-com dream scene of guzzling a glass of wine in a bubble bath wearing a face mask and singing along off-key to Mr. Brightside.
I mean, it works. It's nice. But you still feel terrible after if you then continue to trudge along with your day and life without any real systemic changes in how you approach important things like self-care.
Reactive self-care is a short-term solution.
It's a temporary fix for your problems and involves a quick escape from your life. We all do this, but it becomes a problem when that's then your only go-to.
Real, juicy proactive self-care involves building a life you don't have to regularly escape from.
Reactive vs. Proactive Self Care
Reactive self-care is being forced to make time for yourself as well as potentially for treating your illness, and any affliction of the mind can be categorized as such.
Proactive self-care is actively choosing to make time for your wellness in the ways that work best for you. This lets you avoid being constantly overwhelmed with the drudgery of daily existence in a time when negative news is unavoidable and seemingly everywhere all of the time.
Like, seriously. The world is a mess right now.
How does Proactive Self Care Work?
It's just like exercise or healthy eating. You can continue to eat fast food every day until a problem inevitably occurs and you develop heartburn along with a whole mess of health complications, or you can take action before any such problem happens in the first place and try to eat a more balanced diet.
A reactive mindset involves waiting and hoping that the inevitable doesn't happen.
A proactive approach means taking action to ensure that it doesn't.
Misery loves company. Stress is contagious. Rage is transferred. All of our negativity spills off of us and washes over others, dragging ourselves down and anyone in our way along with us. How you talk to and treat yourself is what you project onto others and may influence your interactions and opinions of them.
Fortunately, surrounding yourself with optimism and focusing on the bright side, not Mr. Brightside, can help to rewire your thought patterns over time. That way, it'll become easier to focus on the good and grow that attention until soon your whole life brightens up.
When you're feeling good, you can help others catch that feeling, too.
To start, you can take a look at the Self Care Bucket List, which is filled with lots of ideas and activities.
Be kind and patient with yourself. Putting yourself first takes time and effort. But, self-care is not selfish. It's selfish not to indulge in self-care.
It'll become a whole lot easier helping others if you help yourself first, and they'll notice it and appreciate you for it.