Ranjit instinctively grabbed for his five-year-old son as the plane dropped 10 feet.
“Weeee!” squealed little Vijay in delight. After another 10 feet, passengers began screaming and crying. A storm pummeled the plane, tossing the jetliner about like a sparrow.
The captain’s voice beamed through the intercom sounding reassuring. “We are experiencing significant turbulence and loss of cabin pressure. Oxygen masks above your seat will deploy. Please place the mask on first and then assist other passengers.”
Ranjit looked at his son, gleeful child turned wailing boy mirroring the terror of the fellow passengers. Vijay began hyperventilating and wheezing, his asthma kicking in. Ignoring his own mask and the dizziness on the edges of his consciousness, Ranjit reached for his son. He didn’t appreciate how fast the air was changing in the cabin and that he only had seconds to get his mask on to feed oxygen to his brain. Just as he pulled down his son’s mask, hypoxia overcame him, and everything faded to black.
Ranjit’s mistake is understandable. He loved his son and would always want to put the child’s safety first. Parents can relate to this logic. Loyal employees feel this way about their employers and work long hours, sacrificing sleep and self-care. Many of us pour ourselves out for our jobs, spouses, children, family members, and even pets. We are so busy caring for others and giving ourselves away we leave nothing for ourselves.
Self-Care Matters Most Now
Like Ranjit’s flight, we are experiencing turbulence. Never in our lifetimes have we faced a global stressor that threatens our very lives on such a widespread level. No pandemic in recent history has closed down commerce and sent humanity scurrying for shelter like we are experiencing now. News of it has taken over the airwaves as if nothing else ever mattered. In the midst of the crazy news, you are trying to stay employed and productive, helping kids with education, and fighting to keep everything together. It’s easy to be overcome with anxiety and fear.
Now more than ever, taking time to care for yourself is one of the most important things you can do to arm yourself for the marathon that is our new normal.
Why Put Self-Care First
If you are not good to yourself, you can be no good to others. As Ranjit learned the hard way, you can only share what you have. If your reservoir is empty, there will be nothing in you to give.
Accept that this is a stressful time. Chronic stress can cause irritability, headaches, insomnia, and lead to depression, among many other negative health complications. Taking time to manage your stress levels and overall wellbeing is not a vanity but a necessity.
The challenge of multiple people being home together around the clock and finding new ways to work, learn, and live, breeds fertile ground for short tempers and lashing out. Taking time to check your own temper and modulate your behavior can make the difference between a pleasant day and a nightmare.
5 Steps to Guilt-Free Self-Care
Taking time for yourself is not selfish nor should you feel guilty about it. It is especially important in your darkest seasons, when you need to be most centered in order to weather the storms that seek to destabilize you. Ensuring your own wellness is also the best assurance that you will be able to help and serve others. Consider adopting the following 5 steps:
1. Get enough sleep. It’s easy to lose that discipline when you’re home all the time. Authorities on sleep suggest that adults need 8-10 hours of sleep daily. Yes – that much! If you are not sleeping enough, begin by carving out space on your calendar for adequate rest.
2. Eat healthy. Similar to abandoning good sleep habits, it is easy to abandon good eating habits because you are home all the time. Mindless snacking while parked on the couch binging on TV shows is an easy habit to slide into. Resist! If this proves difficult, create hurdles between you and your temptations. For example, don’t buy junk food and bring it home.
3. Create a consistent daily schedule. By default, you had a consistent daily routine when you had to leave home to work. You woke up at a certain hour, hopefully took time for prayer or meditation, perhaps you worked out, consumed the news or some other information, got dressed, left home, and began your workday. Working from home appears to make those routines unnecessary, but many of them are more necessary than ever to prime you for a productive workday, even if your new “job” is looking for a new one and staying positive during the search.
4. Carve out time for yourself. This is time when you are just focused on you. Spending time in meditation or in being mindfully focused on yourself can positively impact your day. While you can do this at any time and should ideally take mindful breaks throughout the day, starting the day with a period of meditation can center you and equip you to face the day from a place of greater peace and calm.
5. Treat time as your luxury. More than ever we are reminded daily that even though we all receive an equal daily portion, tomorrow is not promised for any of us. Give yourself permission to enjoy the luxury of time. Even if you just sit still alone for five minutes each morning and breathe, get started.
When times are tough, it is counter-intuitive to be still. The temptation is to kick everything into overdrive – your pace, your thoughts, your emotions. And yet this is when taking time for stillness and introspection is most critical.
As for Ranjit, a fellow passenger roused him while a flight attendant tended to his son. All ended well and Ranjit learned from his mistake.
Don’t make the same mistake. Take time every day to don your mask first.