Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask: The Importance of Self-Care

Self-Care and Connection Improve Emotional Wellness, Even in Difficult Times
Illustration of woman with headphones meditating on couch next to cat

Anyone who's flown has heard the saying. “In the event of a sudden drop in pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from above. Secure your own mask first before assisting others.” This idea of ensuring our own well-being is at the center of self-care. 

Self-care is doing something that benefits you – and only you – spiritually, physically, or mentally. Self-care looks different for different people. It could be practicing yoga, reading a book, sharing coffee with a friend, praying, or some other activity. Regardless the form it takes, self-care replenishes us, and gives us the capacity to give of ourselves to others. That can be an especially important message during challenging times, when we may be tempted to skip self-care activities in favor of something we deem more “productive” or a “better use of time.”

But just like in the airplane example, in order to assist others, we need to take care of ourselves first. We need to make sure we have enough oxygen – emotional wellness – to keep going.

What is emotional wellness?

Think of emotional wellness like the maintenance a vehicle needs to run smoothly. You probably rely on your vehicle almost every day. Imagine if you never got an oil change or ignored the check engine light when it came on. What would happen if you never changed your vehicle’s tires or never filled the tank when the low fuel light comes on? It probably would not function for very long.

Emotional wellness is the filling of the gas, the changing of the tires and oil, and the proper maintenance that we need in order to continue being productive and effective in all our different roles in life. 

When we are emotionally well, we are attuned to our thoughts and feelings and expressing them in a meaningful way. Instead of bottling up our emotions and thoughts, it is important and healthy to share your ideas and emotional experiences with others. Emotional wellness also includes being connected with others. As humans, we have a fundamental need for connection and belonging. When we share our thoughts and feelings with others in a respectful manner, and others do so in return to us, we begin to foster emotional connections. You can find connection in your spouse or partner, family, friends, coworkers, community, church, clubs, or organizations – just about anywhere you look. It does, however, require being brave and allowing yourself to be vulnerable to share your experiences with others in meaningful ways.

Emotional wellness also includes self-care – taking time for yourself to do the things you enjoy. Reading, physical exercise, self-reflection, journaling, or watching an episode of an interesting TV series are good examples of self-care. You may also enjoy crafting, working on a trade, or improving a skill, such as cooking. Self-care is important for our emotional well-being because it helps us feel restored and rejuvenated. These activities are not just good self-care habits, they can also be an effective way to cope with stress.

Is your emotional wellness “tank” low? Perhaps the best way to begin your journey to more fulfilled emotional wellness is more connection and better self-care. Allow yourself to be connected to others, share your thoughts and feelings respectfully, and make time for yourself to do things you enjoy.

Prioritize self-care activities instead of making them the first thing to be scrapped from an overflowing schedule or when times get tough.

Self-care in difficult times

Illustration of man walking on tight rope

Practicing self-care can feel like a balancing act amid when life is stressful, but it's so important to take care of both your physical and emotional well-being during turbulent times. In stressful situations, it's common to feel anxious, fearful or irritable, have difficulty concentrating, or experience physical symptoms like headaches, upset stomach, muscle tension, or insomnia.

Here are a few tips for managing your stress and anxiety and reducing some of the unpleasant physical symptoms:

  • Maintain perspective and remind yourself of the facts. How real is this threat to me right now?
  • Attempt to follow routine activities as much as possible, as this enhances comfort and predictability. 
  • Talk with friends, family, coworkers or a counselor about your feelings and concerns.
  • Engage in some form of exercise daily. This is very effective in reducing stress. Walk, ride bike, or follow a fitness routine online. 
  • Limit your intake of upsetting news. Temporarily disconnect from social media.
  • Do things you enjoy. Make time to let go and engage in positive activities to help care for yourself. This helps give your mind a break and helps to maintain balance.
  • Relax by using deep breathing, meditation, prayer, or other relaxation techniques that work best for you. Practicing mindfulness can be especially helpful.
  • Focus on things you have control over.

Monitoring our emotional wellness is a lifelong task. Remember to treat yourself well. By doing so, you will likely find more enjoyment in all your roles in life.

For more information about The Village’s services, or to make an appointment with one of The Village's trained mental health experts, call the office location most convenient for you or contact us online.

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