By Tatum Wheeler • November 18, 2017•Issues, Balancing Private and Professional Life
“If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your oxygen mask on first, and then assist the other person.”
In putting your own oxygen mask on first, you ensure that you can retain enough oxygen to help put masks on those around you. If instead, you attempt to help others put their masks on first without putting on your own, you risk losing oxygen and ultimately being unsuccessful in helping that other person and yourself.
This statement, part of the airline safety demonstration, is often disregarded by passengers who are busy sending off one final email or have already tried to fall asleep. It is much more than a safety tip in case of cabin pressure change but is rather a practical piece of career advice.
Applied to the career realm, I think this ideal epitomizes good self-care. While many of us were taught to put others before ourselves, this example indicates that you cannot do so without taking care of yourself first. If for instance, you stay up all hours to finish a memo for your boss or skip lunch to fire off some volunteer placement emails, you put yourself at risk and in turn, put others at risk in the process. That late-night memo may be riddled with grammatical errors, causing a less than favorable settlement, and those emails may include the wrong dates, creating havoc at the volunteer center.
All of this is far easier said than done of course. In today’s corporate culture, we are always on with smartphones nearby and still have difficulty owning up to prioritizing our mental health. All of us want to be productive and support the causes and the people we love, but to do so, we need to put our own self-care first. If that means taking a five-minute walk around the block before returning a phone call or eating breakfast before you even look at your email, then do so.
I implore you to put your oxygen mask on first this week and see what happens.
Like the encouraging flight attendant in this photo, I’m available if you want further information on self-care advice or if you want to share some of your best tips.
Tatum Wheeler is a fellow law aspirant based in the San Francisco Bay Area. When she’s not working, she spends her free time exploring new trails with her dogs, reading narratives, and cheering on her favorite sports teams, the Cal Bears, Oakland Athletics, and Pittsburgh Steelers. Please feel free to contact her with any questions, comments, or further advice.