Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First

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If you are on an airplane in an emergency situation, you may not save yourself or help anyone else if you don’t put your own oxygen mask on first. And the flight attendants remind us of this on every flight. But are we really listening? Do we know we have to take care of ourselves first or risk perishing?

This is true for us as teachers, healthcare professionals, therapists, and caregivers, even though most of us don’t learn this in our training and educational programs. We are too often focused on having answers and solutions and on giving to and serving others. Just yesterday I was reminded by a friend the we can neglect self-care because of our work or involvement in almost any activity.

What I notice in myself is that it is all too easy to give and not to take the time I need to replenish myself. I find myself exploring how to choose the right amount of effort to expend and committing and then re-committing to make the time for self-care.

My colleague Jim Gordon, MD, the Founder and Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, always starts his lectures with the fact that the heart of good health starts with self-care. Contrary to popular opinions, self-care is not selfish. If we are depleted, we will eventually have nothing to offer anyone else. We are like the gas tank that is running on empty or the battery that is dead.

We must save the only life we can save*, our own! I write this blog first as a reminder to myself. Secondly I hope that those of you who know me will stop me if you see me charging ahead, full speed, heedless of my self-care. Please remind me to slow down, to take care of myself, and, perhaps, to do less. And, of course, to breathe!


Thank you to Ellen Fein who has given us permission to repost this article, originally published on www.breathe2change.comS​he is a senior faculty member of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine and faculty at American Viniyoga Institute, a published author, cherished mentor and beloved teacher. 


  1. Evelyn Ferreira says:

    Thank You!!! Not only do I need this reminder as a person working at a Junior High School, but also as a person who is on their bout of cancer. Self seems to be the 1st thing that “falls of the plate”, yet is super important to keep everything else moving! I will be sharing this with my staff at school (3 of whom are also dealing with cancer), by best friends and family too.

    Thank you again 🙂

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