Put Your Oxygen Mask on First

Having just returned to work after the luxury of about six weeks off, I have been reminding myself, that in fact it was not a ‘luxury’ to take six weeks off, it was something I wanted to do and is and was part of my overall plan of looking after myself – what I call self-care.

I want to remind us that, in order to do our best work, we need to build and create resilience and reserves in our life and that includes self-care. In today’s world, especially post-COVID, there are many people suffering with mental health issues for a variety of reasons, some of which can be too much work and no fun. As coaches, if we are not ‘fit’ for purpose we cannot support our clients in the best way that they deserve.

Let’s look at some of the benefits of creating resilience and reserves and at some of the things we can do to ensure that we do look after ourselves. In this article, I will use examples of what works for me. Use these ideas and questions as a jumping-off point to find what works best for you.

Creating Reserves

Let’s start with looking at the concept of creating ‘reserves’. We are often told by financial advisors that we need to create a financial reserve for when things might get tricky or go wrong. The same is true for us. If something goes wrong, becomes complex or challenging, or we get very busy and we have no ‘reserve’, then life can get pretty tough, and our resilience may be reduced, and stress rises. If we do not address it, we may become even more strained and then ill. So, in order to build resilience, we need to build reserves. And yes, it’s a catch-22!

When I refer to reserves, what do I mean? Some examples would be:

  1. Time – having time just for me (not easy I know)
  2. Space – having time to think, create, innovate, and have fun
  3. Energy – feeling well rested every/most days to live each day well and be excited
  4. Money – have enough for present and future
  5. Opportunity – have enough good ideas and things so the future can look bright.

There are many other types of reserves you could look at and that will depend on who you are and what you feel you need in your life for your wellbeing. When I reflect on my idea of self-care, the five reserves above are the ones that strike me as being most pertinent for me.

What reserves would be your top 5 for self-care?

From time to time, I will ask myself this question (even if I am not feeling particularly stressed or busy):

How energised am I right now – on a scale of 1-10?

If my answer falls below 6, then I recognise I need to look at what might be going on for me, what needs to change and what I need to pay attention to.

I ask myself some of the following:

  1. What boundaries that I have in place am I breaking? (Time)
  2. What am I saying yes to that is not going to give me joy? (Energy)
  3. What is stopping me saying no to things? (Money possibly)
  4. How am I planning my day/week/month that may not be working for me? (Space)
  5. When did I last take a break or a holiday? (Clearly not something to worry about right now!) (Opportunity & Time)

What I often did when I noticed I was too busy, was to start cancelling things, and those things are often the ones that do give me joy, but which would also require energy. My goal nowadays is to create enough reserves and resilience that I don’t need to do that and, where possible, find a different way to reduce any “busyness”.

What are the benefits of doing this? For me they are:

  1. I am ‘fit’ for purpose. My clients will get me at my best, not the tired or even burnt-out me.
  2. I will be more effective at looking after others. The metaphor of putting on your own oxygen mask on a plane before helping others really speaks to this. If you are not well, what happens to those who depend on you?
  3. My creativity will return and hopefully bring me joy and new ideas.
  4. I will then find time and space to do those things that give me joy and in turn create energy for me.
  5. Me and my coaching practice will be more ‘attractive’ to others and hopefully that will top up my money reserve.

As you move into 2023, especially with all that is happening in the world right now, what do you need to do to ensure that you have enough resilience in your life in order that you can remain healthy and happy, and find joy not just in work but in life?

If this article has tweaked your curiosity, you might like to look back on these other articles I have written that I feel speak to parts of self-care and reserves:

Self-care would most likely be a great topic to bring to your coach or your supervisor, to support you to understand who you are, what you need, and want to do, to ensure you are fit and healthy and what ‘oxygen’ you need to do that, so that self-care becomes a priority.

Hilary Oliver, MCC

Hilary Oliver is a Master Certified Coach (MCC) with the International Coaching Federation (ICF). She is also a trained Coaching Supervisor and Mentor Coach. Hilary trains coaches and works with managers and leaders to develop their coaching capability. She works as an International Corporate Executive and Board Level Coach, a leadership development designer and facilitator working with a wide range of organisations. Hilary also specialises in working with organisations to support them develop coaching culture. She has been the President of the UK ICF Chapter and is a Past Chair of the ICF Global Board.

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