You can find golden nuggets of wisdom in the oddest places. For example, take the precautionary procedures uttered by airline staff before takeoff.  If you’ve ever traveled by airplane (and paid attention), you’re probably familiar with the oxygen mask instructions.

Flight attendants caution bleary-eyed travelers to don their oxygen masks first then tend to others (even children) if the flight takes a turn for the worse. It’s such a knee-jerk discourse; most folks might miss the profound lesson the oxygen mask speech implies for life. The act of saving ourselves before even thinking of coming to someone else’s rescue is as true on an airplane as it is in daily life.

While some may be dealing with life-or-death situations, most of us are just trying to contribute our best to society. So whichever case you find yourself in, this analogy of securing your oxygen first holds significant potential for healthy attitude adjustments.

For some of us, this is a hard ask. We want to be unstoppable. We want to make a positive impact on our community or even the world.  Or maybe we just want to take care of an elderly parent or nurse a loved one back to health.  That’s admirable, but it’s tough if you’re running on empty or forsaking your self-care.

No matter the circumstances, we often strive to help everybody else while neglecting ourselves.  When this happens, we deplete our energy and may become emotionally exhausted, rendering us useless to the people we so desperately want to help. Therefore, we must take care of ourselves and manage our own lives before even attempting to pursue noble causes. Here are some tips to avoid burnout by taking care of yourself so you can be in your prime for others.

Tips to Self-Care Before Taking Care of Others

Some of these tips might seem obvious, but it never hurts to get a reminder. As you read through these suggestions for self-care, bear in mind your wellbeing is essential to the betterment of the world. Be honest with yourself as you take inventory of your needs. And remember, sacrificing yourself for others may seem meritorious, but in reality, it can lead to depletion, which robs you and others of the joy of giving your best.

Take Time for You: No matter how tangled up in work you may be or how under the gun you might feel, take time for yourself. Commit to taking mental and physical breaks a few times every day. Just a 10-minute break to meditate, breathe deeply or stretch your body can make a huge difference in your outlook and perspective. You may be pleasantly surprised at how unplugging during the day can tremendously boost and refresh your energy.

Maintain Your Physical Health: If you’re often tired, rundown, or just feeling crummy in general, there may be a physical issue underlying these symptoms. To be your best for others, do yourself a favor by getting a medical checkup. For example, if you suffer from migraines, check-in with the doctor to get treatment so you can be in top-notch condition. Maybe you know you’re prone to high blood pressure; get it checked. If you struggle with allergies every year, get an allergy test and start gaining control over seasonal discomfort. Furthermore, make efforts to eat well, stay hydrated and move your body. Finally, acknowledge that your health is a gift, and without it, you’re in no position to help others.   

Practice Self-Acceptance: Whether you have an intense desire to be an epic environmentalist, a superior humanitarian, or a pillar in the community, there comes a time when you’ve got to concede to being human. Of course, you can be all these things. You’re designed for brilliance, and you’re capable of making remarkable improvements in this world. Just remember, you can’t be a savior to everyone or everything all the time. Everybody has bad days, and everyone falls. Perfection is unattainable because none of us is perfect. However, accepting and embracing shortcomings is a big step in self-care and self-love.

Ask for Support: It’s been said no man (or woman) is an island, and that really is true.  While your efforts to make a positive impact on the world are laudable, you can’t do it all by yourself. Sometimes you’ve got to reach out for help, even if it’s just calling a trusted friend to vent about a frustrating week. Have a support system in place, especially if you provide healthcare to an ailing friend or family member. We all need a shoulder to cry on, and a burden shared is a burden halved.  Getting help and support when you need it is a practical step towards achieving your altruistic missions.

Your dedication to improving the world and being a light in the lives of others is truly admirable. However, you can’t always go full-speed without taking time out for yourself.  Seriously consider administering self-care and self-nurturing, so you’re in premium condition to make a difference.  Lastly, remember the oxygen mask can save lives, but it’s useless if you’re not around to help others receive it.