Put On Your Oxygen Mask First

I recently returned from a trip to California that included presenting at a conference and visiting with my parents and some friends. My travels included five separate flights and on each one I got the same safety explanation including the importance of putting on my own oxygen mask first, if the need arose. I hope that the need never arises, but I wonder if in the event of an emergency, I will remember this advice and not fumble to get the mask on my daughter first while my own breathing becomes more and more difficult.

Oxygen MasksAs a parent, wife, friend, and colleague, I’m faced with trying to remember to put my own oxygen mask on first on a daily basis. I’ve written already about the importance of my daily routines, but I don’t always complete my daily habits, especially the ones at the end of the day (take just a minute or two to mediate to calm my mind before bed, and go through my gratitudes for the day) because I’m tired and feel like I need to choose between those habits and reading with my daughter. There was a day last week that I skipped my morning workout to have some time to just talk with my wife while she had her morning coffee (an ulcer a few years ago ended my coffee drinking). There are times at work that I end up off the schedule I’ve made for myself to get some tasks done, especially first thing in the morning, because I’m catching up with a friend / colleague in the office (I work in a shared space). In each and every one of the above mentioned cases, I failed to put my oxygen mask on first, and I did this by choice.

In the case of my night-time routine, I need to start that earlier. I know that I’m not a night person (I’m one of those annoying morning people, even without coffee) so I need to back up the start of my evening habits to make sure I can do them, which I know helps me to sleep better, AND I’ll the have time and energy to read with my daughter.

As for the morning chats with my wife, again this calls for a slightly earlier start. I’m awake early enough, but sometimes I’m not particularly quick about getting out of the warm and cozy bed. This has become even more challenging as we head toward winter in Saskatchewan. I need to get better at forcing myself up and out of bed once I’m awake for the day, and get started on my morning routine. This will provide me with more time for those morning conversations while still getting my workout in. Both the connection with my wife, and taking care of my health are important parts of contributing to the well-being of my family.

The work thing is also an easy fix. I have a two-sided sign on my desk that my wife found for me. On one side is a smiley face and the message “Hello! I’d love to chat. How are you?” and the other side says, “Sorry! I’d love to chat, but I’m busy right now. Talk to you later!” My office mates are quite understanding of this, but I have to get into the habit of using it on a regular basis so that everyone around me can get used to noting what the sign says when they come to see me. One colleague has even taken to using the same sign in her own office. Being able to get my work done without feeling rushed or distracted benefits not only my own well-being, but also everyone whom I’m working with on projects.

These are all examples of why and how I need to put my oxygen mask on first to benefit me, but also to allow me to help / be there for those around me. That’s the point of the airplane safety demonstration and an important lesson we all need to remember in our daily lives.

On a side note, a few months ago I was on a flight and seated next to the window in one of the emergency exit rows. The flight attendant came to speak with me before take off to go over the routine in case of an emergency landing. After she left, the man seated next to me said, “I hope you know what you’re doing,” to which I replied, “I hope we won’t need to find out.”

Photograph by NTSB. Used under a Public Domain license.

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