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Rigina Brett, author of Be a Miracle, talks about how to stop thinking about others and start thinking about yourself.
Be a Miracle is 50 unique lessons to help you accomplish the impossible. Read one of them and feel the rush of inspiration and thirst for change!
Lesson 8. Put on your "oxygen mask"
Whenever the flight attendant gives a standard lecture on safety rules, no one pays attention to him, but I stop all my business and force myself to watch and listen. For me, this is a welcome reminder to take better care of myself. I especially love the moment when the flight attendant lifts the oxygen mask and says to everyone: "If you are traveling with small children, be sure to put on your own oxygen mask yourself before helping others."
How often do you get permission to put yourself first? Traveling parents aren't the only ones who need to heed this advice. Too many of us, especially women, are guilty of self-negligence. We were raised to put our spouse, children, neighbors, even strangers and our own work first. I once interviewed a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic for a stress radio program. Dr. Michael McKee said a phrase I will never forget: "Don't set double standards for yourself." You need to treat yourself as well as everyone else.
This lesson came to me especially clearly one day when I was planning to go to yoga class and finally wrote the session on my overloaded calendar. I had not been to yoga for several months and did my best to free this evening. Two hours before class, a close friend called, who needed a person who could sit with the child. Will I be able to be with her son tonight? Of course, I said, and canceled my yoga. And then she asked why she needed it. She wanted to go to yoga.
Heck! I deprived myself of yoga classes - and I did it myself, on my own initiative. No, I had a wonderful time with the baby. But I didn't give myself a single opportunity to consult with myself before sacrificing my time! I do this all the time. Like most women I know.
Years ago, the American College of Cardiology in Atlanta published an impressive report that women are at greater risk of dying from heart attack than men because they delay going to the hospital for treatment. It usually takes women an hour longer to get to the hospital when they start to feel the symptoms of a heart attack. Doctors and researchers may be as surprised as they want, but women are not. When a man experiences chest pain, he calls 911 and goes to the hospital. What does a woman do? She decides that chest pain may indicate a serious problem, so she bakes lasagna, makes meatloaf and cooks tuna stew so that the whole family does not starve to death during the week she is in the cardiac ward.
Opening the refrigerator to place the cooked food in it, she notices the green cheese and unsightly remnants of some kind of food, so she starts emptying and cleaning the shelves. She packs lunch for each family member the next day before packing her bags for the trip to the hospital. Glancing into the bathroom to collect her toothbrush, she pauses to clean the sink, wash the bathroom and toilet. She mentally pretends that the family will run out of clean linen in a day, so she tosses a pile of linen into the washing machine and folds the clothes taken out of the dryer. She only goes to the hospital after everyone has been fed, done their homework, and done the chores. On the way to the hospital, she brings her daughter to football practice, returns the books taken from the library, and enrolls as volunteers for the preschool reading program along the way. By the time the woman gets to the hospital, she is almost dying. But it is not her own life that flashes before her eyes, but the life of her children and her husband.
Women have always ignored their suffering and minimized their needs. We always approach ourselves with double standards. We put ourselves in last place.
We never treat any person as monstrously as we do ourselves.
How can we change? What should be done so that we first put on our own oxygen mask? First, give yourself permission to do this. Consider this official permission to start taking better care of yourself. Taking care of you and your food is your business, and nobody else's.
Dr. McKee has suggested several possible solutions that are worth trying out in practice. Here are the thoughts that I took from our conversation.
Take care of yourself. No more double standards. Respect your obligations to yourself no less than your obligations to others. Don't give yourself enough away that nothing is left for you. Schedule your personal time with ink, not pencil.
Give yourself five minutes. Slow down and give yourself five minutes to calm down, focus, and gain clarity. Sit motionless in the car before picking up the children after work or entering the store. Reboot. You will then be able to make better decisions and discover that you are not really the axis on which the world revolves. What a relief!
Do six breaths per minute. I personally have a problem with breathing. Dr. McKee suggests taking only six breaths every minute. You inhale for five seconds, then exhale for five seconds. Try. It is wonderful!
Control your emotions. Do not give the remote control of your emotions to others. No more accusations: "This guy pisses me off … My boss will bring me to an ulcer … Children are a complete headache." Take the remote control away from them and press the “CALM” button more often. You cannot control what others are doing, but you can control your emotional reaction to them.
Do breathing exercises throughout the day. Choose special moments to practice - for example, when you stop at a traffic light, receive an email from your boss, or stand in line at a store. Take one or two ten-second abdominal breaths and tell yourself, "It's okay, it's okay."
Take yourself a cruise of pleasure. Leave one hour for yourself each week. Let this be your personal pleasure cruise. Spend it on "cleaning feathers", go to an art museum, to a jewelry salon or to a flower shop. Take an hour of peace and listen to your favorite music, read your favorite poet, take your favorite bubble bath. Give this hour to nature, soak up the sun, listen to the rustle of the rain, peer into the twinkling of the stars. If you can't carve out a whole hour in a row, break this large gift into three small ones - 20 minutes each.
Take an inventory of all the good things. Stuck in rush hour traffic, take a look around and do a little ritual of gratitude. The car standing nearby is sealed with tape. Oh! Thank you for keeping your car safe. There are three screaming children in the car in front of you. Om-m-m! Thank you for the silence in your car.
Shorten your perspective. See life as a series of sprints, not as one long marathon with no end in sight. And between jerks, rest and renew.
Aristotle divided the world into thinking, feeling and doing. In order to cope well with stress, a person needs to change something in each of these areas, according to Dr. Mackey.
Here is my favorite quote from Aristotle: "We are what we do all the time."
Try to get into the habit of loving yourself as much as everyone else. Put on an oxygen mask first on yourself - and everyone around you will also breathe easier.