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E16: Self-Care: Putting Your Own Oxygen Mask on First

E16: Self-Care: Putting Your Own Oxygen Mask on First

 
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Forgive typos and odd grammatical mistakes—this was transcribed using the magic of AI, and while it’s insanely awesome, it’s not perfect.

[00:00:00] Welcome back to the I Hear You podcast. Today we’re talking about self-love and self-care. We’re addressing head on a harmful 100% false belief that many of us carry throughout our day to day lives. And that’s the belief that other people’s happiness, comfort, energy, whatever, is more important than ours. It’s the belief that being a good parent, a good spouse or a good employee means driving ourselves into the ground for the sake of the greater good. And I’m going to tell you right now, again, that’s false, 100% false. The truth is, if you love others, if you want your family to be healthy and happy, if you want to have a successful career and have lasting joy in it, you must put yourself first. And today, we’re going to talk about why. Let’s get into it.

Help Others by Helping Yourself

[00:01:14] OK, for any of you who have ever traveled on an airplane, at least a commercial flight, you already know where I’m going with the subtitle on today’s episode. Put your own oxygen mask on first. That comes from the age old airline safety briefing where the flight attendants get up and now it’s just a video, but they talk about how if the cabin loses air pressure, oxygen masks will fall down from the ceiling to help you breathe in a situation where you might not otherwise have oxygen left in the cabin. And what do they tell you to do with those masks? Put yours on first before helping the person next to you, right?

[00:01:52] Why do they say that? I mean, they always show a parent sitting next to their children, they always show that in the video and they show the parents putting theirs on first and then putting it on their child. And that seems to go against the motherly / fatherly instinct of take care of your children first, right?

[00:02:16] But I think the answer here is obvious. I think we all understand why. Because in that moment, especially high energy, high intensity, dangerous situation there, it’s critical that you as the parent, or you as the sibling, or you as just another human sitting next to another human are able to continue to care for your children. It’s critical that you are able to continue to think clearly, that you are still conscious, that you still have oxygen so you can continue to help.

[00:02:45] It doesn’t do your child any good, at least not much good if you get the oxygen mask on them first and then you pass out. Yes, your child is now breathing, but they don’t have anybody else to look out for them. They don’t have somebody else there to comfort them and console them during the crisis.

[00:03:02] That same principle carries through to every other aspect of life, certainly in parenting, but really just in being another human being walking along the face of this planet. We often hear the adage, the phrase, “you can’t give what you don’t have.” And while that’s true in the physical and financial sense, obviously, you can’t donate money if you don’t have money.

Self Care is Not Selfish

[00:03:27] It’s every bit as true in the emotional and spiritual sense as well. We can’t really, truly help people work on their own emotional health if we haven’t worked on our own. It’s difficult for us to help somebody else find happiness if we ourselves aren’t already happy. It’s difficult for us to guide somebody along a path if we ourselves are not on that path as well, and ideally a few steps ahead of that person. And yet, many of us feel almost guilty if we ever take time for ourselves, if we ever take time to put our own oxygen masks on because society, maybe it’s your religion that you grew up in, maybe it’s just what you’ve heard from your family. Maybe it’s just what you’ve seen from friends or other mentors in your life.

[00:04:15] Oftentimes, we believe that it is selfish to take care of ourselves. We believe it’s selfish to take some moment to help recharge our minds, our bodies and our spirits. And that’s the very first point that I want to address here, is that loving and taking care of yourself is not selfish. The Webster dictionary defines selfishness as, “being concerned excessively or exclusively with one’s self, seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure or well-being without regard for others.” That’s the difference. And that’s what I’ve bolded on my notes here, it’s not seeking or concentrating on your own advantage or pleasure or well-being. It’s doing all of that without regard for others that crosses the line into selfishness.

[00:05:09] That’s not what we’re talking about today. I’m not a proponent here of saying, “you should just do whatever you want, you’re responsible for your own happiness!” Sometimes people when I preach, so to speak, personal responsibility and, “you are in charge of your own happiness,” some people think, really, you’re just telling me I can just do whatever I want in life and not care about others? Obviously not. The people I’m talking to right now, those of you listening, are the codependents. I’m not suggesting all of you are raging codependents, but you know who you are. And again, I identify as one of those, so I don’t mean that in any disrespectful manner.

[00:05:45] I’m talking to those of you listening who feel like you can’t take time for yourself, because if you do, you feel like the world will fall apart. Your kids won’t get where they need to go, your team will fail at work, your spouse will no longer love you, your parents will be disappointed, your friends will think you’re not loving enough. I’m talking to you. And I’m not saying that you can’t still be kind to others. I’m not saying you can’t still care for others, what I’m saying here is you can’t only be kind to others. You can’t only care for others and give no thought for yourself, because that’s not healthy. It’s not sustainable and it actually causes more harm than good, especially in the long run.

Be Careful Not to Overdraw Your Bank Accounts

[00:06:33] So allow me to make an analogy here for a moment. Our energy, our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual energy is like a bank account. We make withdrawals and deposits from and to it daily. But just like a real bank account, it’s only of use, we can only create value and help others with it, if it has a positive balance. If that balance hit zero, we’re done, we can’t help anymore. If you overdraw a bank account, you actually do damage. If you have overdraft protection, which frankly I hate because you get hit with fees. If you overdraw your bank account, you have to now pay a fee. If you overdraw, you might have higher interest rates. If it’s a credit card, then you’re suddenly you’re under a mountain of debt. You might even lose possession of certain assets. So when you overdraw your financial bank account, you lose ownership, you lose freedom and you lose the ability to help others financially.

[00:07:39] Now, what happens when you overdraw your physical bank account? This might look like not getting enough sleep, eating poorly, not exercising frequently. What happens? You get sick. You get fat, you lose mobility and you lose physical function. We cannot overdraw our physical bank accounts just like we can’t our financial. To keep going along these lines here, what happens when you overdraw your emotional bank account? What does that look like? Well, it looks like maybe over-committing your time for others, listening to people complain all day. Holding in a lot of emotional turmoil, trauma, hurt, pain and not talking to somebody who can validate and listen. What happens when you overdraw that? You snap at someone. Or you break down and just start sobbing. You become resentful toward people. Because, again, you’ve overdrawn your emotional bank account, you haven’t put any money back into it.

[00:08:46] And finally, what happens if you overdraw your spiritual bank account? I’m not talking religion here, you don’t have to be religious. But this might look like spending all your time, just go, go, going, never taking time to meditate, to reflect, to dream, to write your thoughts out. You overdraw your spiritual bank account and you feel overwhelmed. You might feel worthless, hopeless, stagnant or otherwise burned out. So I hope that you see you see the point here, this isn’t just a simple thing of, oh, yeah, you’ve got to take some time for yourself. It’s critical because the reality is you only have a finite amount of energy throughout your days, your weeks and sometimes even your months. So as you go through life, it’s critical to ensure that we’re making just as many deposits into these physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bank accounts as we are making withdrawals.

Our Children Model What We Do For Ourselves, Not What We Do For Them

[00:09:50] I was speaking with my mother a few months ago and she related an interview she’d seen on Oprah a number of years ago and this interview was with a couple of women, but there was a life coach on there by the name of Martha Beck. And this woman was was reassuring, a mom who had escaped an abusive relationship, that it was OK for her to take care of herself. Now, the mom, as I understand it, was worried about her kids and the abuse that they had seen and how it was going to affect them emotionally. And she also mentioned that she wished for her son’s forgiveness. I don’t know the context, I don’t know what it was that she didn’t feel her son had forgiven her for, but that was something that she was struggling with. And during the episode, Martha explained to this woman that if she wanted her son’s forgiveness, she had to first forgive herself.

[00:10:41] And this is quoting from that interview, she said, “Our children model what we do to ourselves, not what we do to them. So if you see unforgiveness in his eyes, she says, it’s because you’ve not forgiven yourself. Your only job is to learn to love yourself. The children, that’s all they’re wanting for you to do.” And she continues and relates an experience that a psychiatrist that she knew had dealt with that further illustrates this point here.

[00:11:14] She said that this particular psychiatrist spent 20 years dealing with neurotic patients. And she said that they would always say, “I know my mother loved me, but…” And then they would go into all the problems that they were dealing with. And she said, one day this psychiatrist met a really, really healthy man. And she thought, gee, I wonder what a normal person’s mother is like. I hear what all of the dysfunctional and the hurt individuals parents were like and certainly what an unhealthy parent looks like, but what was this guy’s mother like? Because he’s very healthy, he seems very centered, he seems very happy.

[00:11:55] And she thought that he would say, “Well, my mother loves me perfectly, she made no mistakes at all.” Instead, he said something she had never heard before from a patient. He said, “My mother loved life.” And Martha wrapped up her point here by saying, “parents who neglect to love themselves raise kids who don’t show themselves love either. They don’t treat themselves the way you treat them, she says. They treat themselves the way you treat you.” And that, I agree with that.

[00:12:33] I have seen that over and over and over, not only in my own life, but in the lives of the people that I work with, my clients, and people that I talk to who oftentimes are struggling with codependency, they’re struggling with boundary issues, they’re struggling with self-love and self-care. Guess what? Eventually, it comes out that their mother struggled with the same thing, their father struggled with the same thing. It’s almost uncanny how much we inherit from our parents, and maybe that sounds obvious. We certainly always hear about it, it’s almost the joke of any conversation about therapy, I’m just going to lay on the couch and talk about my family of origin problems. But it’s the joke because it’s often true, it’s often where we learn from.

Lead by Example

[00:13:22] The paradigm shift here is that many of us assume that it’s because we have to teach our children specific things, we have to get the verbiage right, we need to train them right. The old adage, “do as I say, not as I do,” that clearly is not beneficial. Take care of yourself, show by example what emotional health looks like. This applies very strongly to parents, but for those of you who aren’t parents, it has the same effect on everyone else around you. I have seen plenty of people start taking care of themselves and watched their parents almost receive permission to do the same. They say, “wow, he or she is taking care of themselves and they seem happier, that’s OK? I didn’t even know I was allowed to do that.” And it gives people permission to do the same.

[00:14:22] So taking care of ourselves, putting that oxygen mask on ourselves first is a gift to other people just as much as it is to ourselves. If I call up a friend and I am asking for some help, maybe I’m asking for some help on my house, and I say, “hey, can you come over on Saturday?” And he says, “you know what, I’m not going to be able to come over, I’m actually taking some time to go get a massage.” Or maybe he says, “you know, I am setting aside couple hours tomorrow to plan out the next couple of months here and make sure that I feel good about where things are headed.”

[00:14:58] I personally would look at that and go, hey, that’s cool. I like that. Maybe that’s what I should be doing instead of working on whatever else I was working on. It is a gift to others just as much as it is you. So I want to pause here for a moment now and ask you to take a moment to reflect. How are you doing here? How good are you at taking balanced time for yourself? In general, do you feel like you lead a balanced life or is there room to improve? Do you generally feel happy and willing to help others or do you feel obligated to do so? Do you feel like you have to? And you do so begrudgingly? In general, are you happy or are you sad? Are you depressed? Are you resentful? Do you feel like you are a victim to life? If you feel like there’s some opportunity there for you to improve, that’s what the second half of this episode is all about: three tips to making self-love a priority.

How to Make Self Care a Priority

[00:16:04] Now, before I get into the first tip, I want to provide one little caveat here. This doesn’t mean you get to shirk responsibility. You don’t get to say to your spouse, “Hey, I just listened to this podcast about taking time for myself and I’m realizing it’s really important. I just need to go golfing right now or I really just need to relax and watch a show right now.” Right in the middle of a busy afternoon and drop all the children, chores, and errands at their feet. You don’t get to do that, you still have responsibilities in a partnership, in a marriage, at your job.

[00:16:40] What you do get to do and what I am a big proponent of is having a conversation with your partner, or family, or manager about what you need and how you can take that time for yourself without dropping your responsibilities. So I find it important to make that clarification there because of how much I talk about “you are responsible for your own happiness. You have to take charge of your own happiness.” I am not saying you get to throw your other responsibilities out the window. Part of taking responsibility for your happiness is having these conversations with people, getting creative, finding ways to take care of yourself that works for the other parties as well.

Tip #1: Identify Your Rechargers

[00:17:22] So tip number one, and you could even say step number one for making self-love a priority, is to identify your most powerful rechargers. And what I mean by that is identifying things, activities, places that relax you, that refuel your energy or otherwise add back to your bank accounts. And step one here is to literally write them down somewhere. Put it on your phone, write it down on a little notepad. But find two or three activities or places that you can do or go to that you just know helps refuel your soul.

[00:18:01] Now, I’ll give you a hint on physical, sleep is one of those. Whether you think it or not, there is a mountain of research on sleep and how critical it is for every aspect of our health, mental and emotional as much as physical. So if you know you’re not getting enough sleep each night, start there. Find some way to get more sleep. Even if you can’t sleep through the night because of your job or because of, you know, a newborn child or something like that, find ways to still get as much sleep as possible. You know, growing up, anytime I was overwhelmed, or overworked, or feeling like the weight of the world was on my shoulders, my mom would first ask how well I’d been sleeping. “Fatigue makes cowards of us all,” she would always say, and I believe that’s what her father told her, I don’t know, maybe he was the source of the quote, “I don’t know, I don’t really care. All I know is it’s true.”

[00:18:59] When you’re overwhelmed, when you’re exhausted, everything seems harder, everything seems like it is a world ending situation. And it’s amazing what a good night’s sleep or even just a 20 minute nap throughout the day can do to refuel and recharge our mind, body and spirit. So tip number one is to identify specific things that you love that recharge you. So this could be watching a show, just chilling in front of the TV, oftentimes we demonize that, but sometimes that’s what you need. Sometimes that’s a good way to just escape for a short bit of time and to blow off some steam.

[00:19:36] It might look like going for a walk or a run, maybe going skiing or golfing or swimming. Reading a good book, taking a nap on the weekend. Writing in your journal, maybe taking an hour to plan out your week so you can feel like you’re going into it with clarity and with a plan. It might look like going to a movie with a friend, or going to lunch with a family member. If it refuels you and helps you come back with more energy and excitement for life, it’s good. Put it on the list, because this is what you’re gonna tap into in tip number two, which is scheduling “you” time.

Tip #2: Schedule “You” Time

[00:20:17] Now, I’m not kidding here, I know it probably seems like an oversimplification, pick what you want to do and schedule it. But I mean it, if you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen. And, for those of you who are very calendar based, calendar driven, really physically put it on your calendar. If you don’t follow a calendar, find some other way to make sure you actually take time this week or in the coming weeks to do one of those things on your list. Now again, along with the scheduling does come those conversations we talked about earlier on in this episode.

[00:20:51] Those people that your decision affects, so your partner, your manager, whomever, talk with them, explain why this is important to you and work together to find a way to make it happen. My wife and I do this often because we’ve realized how important it is for each of us to set expectations ahead of time. And so oftentimes coming into the weekend, we’ll just casually, you know, maybe we’re driving to dinner or something or we’re on our way back or laying down for the evening and say, “by the way, what are your expectations for tomorrow?” My wife goes through hers, and she might say, “I really just want to make sure I get this laundry done.” Or, “I really have to take a couple hours to get this work done.” And I share what I want to do and typically we can make it work. Sometimes we have responsibilities, things that we have to take care of together. We kind of shuffle responsibilities back and forth, but generally there’s a way for us, when we’re both being assertive to say what we want to do, to put it on there.

[00:21:50] Sometimes it’s simple for me, this is gonna sound weird.. For me, recharging one of my bank accounts is walking through Costco or walking through Home Depot and finding things or just window shopping. I know it sounds crazy, but I know there’s some of you listening that can relate to that. My wife hates it, well she loves Costco, but she hates Costco the way I do it, which is I have to walk every single aisle. She’s in, get your thing, get out, and she hates Home Depot for the same reason. I like just meandering, walking through the aisles. And I bring that up here because it really is a way that I recharge and it’s going to be different for all the rest of you. And so I set that expectation coming into the weekend.

[00:22:35] I mean, really just this morning we were talking and I said, “well, you know, here’s here’s what I have to do. I’m going to record this podcast, going to do this. And then I have blocked out an hour to go to Home Depot. And you’re welcome to come, but I figure you probably don’t want to come.” And she said, “nope, I’m fine. You go have your Home Depot run.” And we figure it out, so I’m looking forward to that, I know that it will be helpful, It will help me check a few things off my list and also help recharge some of my emotional bank accounts. So tip number two, schedule that time. It doesn’t have to be every day, doesn’t even have to be every week if you don’t feel like you can do it, but I highly recommend you find a way to get some “you” time in daily or weekly, so that you can make sure you are recharging those bank accounts.

Tip #3: Retrain Your Mind

[00:23:23] Tip number three. You’ve identified things that you like to do that recharge you, you’ve put it on your calendar, you found some way to schedule that time. Tip number three is to actively retrain your mind to see this as a positive, to see this as something that you have permission to do. Because, again, I’m talking largely to those of you who have codependent tendencies. Those of you who are the people who are always willing to jump to the front of the line to help somebody, you’re always willing to throw yourself and your needs out the window if you think it’s going to help your children, or your friends, or your family, or your coworkers.

[00:24:03] You need to retrain your mind from thinking, “that’s bad, I can’t take care of myself, I have to help others. That’s the kind, that’s the Christian,” that’s whatever it is in your mind, thing to do, into the truth. Which is: that self-love is not selfishness. Self-love is kind, self-care is kind to yourself and to others. So tip number three is to do whatever you need to do now to make sure you maintain this mindset, and to retrain any negative thinking around it. Because chances are, if I’ve done my job on this podcast right now, you’re probably pretty motivated. You’re probably thinking, yeah, that makes sense. I need to do that. I see how that’s going to help my kids. I see how that’s gonna help my spouse and me and whatever. But about two hours from now, when reality really hits, or maybe the moment you finish this episode or maybe you get interrupted right now by your kids screaming or something, you’re going to forget. You’re gonna go right back into your old patterns of thinking, so you have to find a way to interrupt those negative thought patterns and change them and reprogram them. For some, this might mean adding some daily affirmations into your morning routine. You might say something like, “My happiness matters,” or, “I love myself, so I can love others” or something like that.

[00:25:28] For others, that might mean putting little sticky notes around the house that remind you to do a quick balance check on your bank accounts. Your physical, emotional, spiritual. That’s something I love doing, checking in periodically and going, OK, wait, how am I doing in these areas? And you might be surprised at how often, if you’re being honest with yourself, you’re saying, “I feel good physically, but I am exhausted emotionally.” And maybe you agreed to go to dinner with a girlfriend or a guy friend that night, and if you’re really being honest with yourself, that sounds exhausting. It’s a long day at work, it was a long day with the kids, whatever it was for you, the thought of sitting down and talking to this particular person is draining. You have permission to call them up and cancel or reschedule.

[00:26:18] But you’re not going to do that if you’re not even aware of the fact that you have overdrawn or you are at risk of overdrawing your emotional bank account. And at this point in this podcast series, I’ve given you several tools to have that conversation. Hopefully you’ve been able to internalize a lot of the truth, a lot of the principles we’ve talked about thus far to help yourself recognize when you’re being codependent with this person.

[00:26:47] To help yourself take a step back and go, OK. I need to take responsibility for my own happiness here. Hopefully you have some tools to communicate that with other people and to put yourself first again in the emotionally healthy way, not in a selfish, entitled way.

[00:27:08] So tip number three here, find a way to gently remind yourself throughout your week to check in and see if you need to recharge. The more in tune you can be with how you’re feeling, the happier you’re going to be, because that is the first step to change. And I mentioned this on an earlier podcast episode, but that was one of first things I was trained to do when I started going to therapy 10 plus years ago. It was identify your emotions, get real with how you’re feeling. Get real with whether or not you’re burned out in certain areas, because guess what? That’s where the damage happens. That’s when we start acting irrationally. That’s when we make poor choices. That’s when we say things that we’re going to regret, is anytime we’ve overdrawn one of those bank accounts.

Got It? Try It.

[00:28:00] OK, you’ve got that? You’ve got the three tips? Identify your most powerful rechargers, those things you just love to do. Two, schedule the time. Do it, not kidding. And three, actively retrain your mind. Find some way to help retrain that thought pattern into something positive. Realizing this matters, this is important. And this is kind. Those are my three tips for you today.

[00:28:25] So guess what my invitation is? Do it. Schedule 15, 30 minutes sometime in the next seven days. Do it right after this episode. Sit down and go through these three tips. Don’t put it off. Do it for your kids, do it for your spouse or your partner, do it for your career. And of course, most importantly, do it for yourself. You matter.

[00:28:50] We all want to be happy in life and life does not have to be a drag. Yes, it is full of stressors. We’re all crazy busy, we’re all overloaded. I’m trying to stop myself from saying, “oh, I’m busy. I got so much to do” because reality is, I’m in charge of most of that one, and two, everybody feels that way.

[00:29:08] So I’m not doing anyone any good to sit and complain or even brag about how packed my days are. You’re in the driver’s seat. You get a chance to change that. And if you want to also help others, take care of yourself. Be an example of somebody who’s emotionally balanced, physically balanced. That sounds kind of weird. Somebody who takes care of themselves emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually and even financially. Because that gives permission to your children, to your friends, to your family, to your coworkers to do the same. Lead by example and you’ll be surprised at the positive ripples you make.

[00:29:51] Are you liking the show? Then please consider sharing with a friend or leaving a review. I’m pleased to say that the show is growing in popularity and has a pretty nice upward trend in weekly downloads. So thank you to all of you who are doing so. I take it to mean that you are finding all of these principles as value as I have, which is of course motivating and exciting. It keeps me spreading the love. So, as always, you can contact me via at my Website michaelssorensen.com or directly at michael@ihearyobook.com I look forward to seeing you again here next week.

Image by Paul Hanaoaka on Unsplash.

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