‘Put on your own oxygen mask, before helping others’.

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This is a familiar phrase, right? Typically heard on an airplane during the take-off safety presentation (unless you are a firefighter of course). But the truth is, this is actually really sound advice for any situation.

The rationale behind this instruction is that, if you cannot breath you risk losing oxygen and becoming unconscious before you are able to help others (i.e- without you putting your oxygen mask on first, you risk not being a help to anyone).

Now step back and reflect upon your own life.  What do you prioritise? When I think of this question, I want to say ‘my health’, followed shortly by ‘time with my family’, then, ‘work’.  But in reality, I have been prioritising work, my family, then my health.  Sound familiar?

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

This is the case for many people. Why? Because work sends us reminders: emails, questions, tasks. Like many business owners, academics, and students, my mind is on work and my ‘to do’. This makes it hard to do anything else, as it may seem less important at the time.

During these current times I am working at home a lot more.  Logic would suggest that I have extra time in the week as I am not commuting……. I do not know where that time goes. But I do know, I am not using it to prioritise my health.

So, why is my health so important to me?

I read a quote the other day which summed-up the answer to this question well: ‘my role can be replaced by my employer, but I cannot be replaced by my family’.  That’s not to say I don’t want to be good at my job or excel in my career. I am fortunate enough to really enjoy my job and it is important to my wellbeing (specifically, my self-esteem, feeling of life purpose and life satisfaction). 

But the truth is, to be effective at work I need to look after my health: sleep well, eat right and exercise.  However, most importantly I want to be well and healthy in my older life.  I want to be alive to see my son grow up and I want to be healthy enough to enjoy an independent older life.

Deep thinking right?

After researching the everyday life and quality of life perceptions of people living with chronic illness for almost a decade, I have been privy to hearing heart-felt and honest stories of reflection, regret and ‘if only’. Whilst good health does not eliminate the risk of conditions such as cancer and stroke, I feel it wise to heed the advice I have received over the years, and have reached a point in my life where I know I need to make a change.

So, going forward I plan to prioritise my own health and wellbeing in order to make me more effective at helping others, my home life, and work. More so, I am more likely to avoid burnout. This doesn’t make me selfish. In fact, only I can take responsibility for my own health and wellbeing.

This post aims to be a reminder to prioritise your health and wellbeing. For academics, we are welcoming our new students and it is important we are in a good place, and are ready to hit the ground running this new academic year. Please don’t read this thinking I have life sussed! Anyone who knows me knows I am partial to wine, chocolate and my fair share of lazy days. I am writing this to motivate myself too! I think it is good to reflect on what we do sometimes, as little steps can make all the difference. Inject a little bit off wellbeing into your day: read my earlier post- what is wellbeing? What will you prioritise today?

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