If you have been on an airplane lately, you’ve heard the safety speech. Did you notice the part about oxygen masks? Make sure your mask is secure before helping others around you. What happens if you don’t secure your own oxygen mask in an airplane emergency? You may pass out before you are able to help those around you.
When I hear that safety speech, it reminds me of a common theme in my appointments with patients: the need to put your health first.
Many of my patients are givers. They are spouses, parents, and children and they give of themselves to their families on a daily basis. Additionally, several of them have giving professions such as personal care attendants, health care providers, and teachers. Over the years, they have always put other people’s priorities before their own. They worry about taking care of the needs of others and they neglect their own health needs, such as sleep, nutritious food, exercise, and relaxation.
For example, I worked with a patient who took time to make lunches for her three children and her spouse every night but never made her own lunch. Instead, she relied on fast food during the day which was contributing to her weight gain. If you are a giver, I’m sure you can think of similar examples.
It’s wonderful to be a giver but you can’t neglect giving to yourself. To achieve your health goals and live your happiest life, you need to prioritize yourself. If you don’t keep yourself healthy, it is going to impact your ability to give to those around you. Maybe you will be less patient or have less energy due to lack of sleep… Maybe you won’t physically be able to help someone due to mobility or functional body problems…Maybe your life will be shortened due to health problems you have neglected… You need to take care of yourself so you can be the best you, whether it’s as a spouse, parent, child, sibling, coworker, or friend.
In the case of the patient I mentioned, we set a goal for her to take a few extra minutes each night to make her own lunch. She did this and started losing weight since she was eating less fast food. Losing the weight gave her more energy and made her feel better about her body and this made her a happier person and a happier wife and mother. Taking care of herself helped her to better take care of her family.
If you are a giver, tune into whether you might be giving to others at the expense of your own health needs. Remember to make sure your health is secure before helping others.