Counselor’s Corner: Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask Before Assisting Others
Anyone who has flown has heard the airline staff explain “In the event of a sudden drop in pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from above. Secure your own mask first before assisting others."
The idea of ensuring our own well-being before we take care of others may feel selfish, but it is truly the first and most important step. Self-care is taking deliberate action that benefits your mental, physical, or emotional health. This looks different for everyone! For example, you might practice yoga, go for a walk, read a book, go to dinner with a friend, or any activity that brings you joy or helps you feel more relaxed.
But just like in the airplane example, in order to assist others, we have to take care of ourselves first. We need to make sure we have enough oxygen to keep going.
It is also important to recognize that sometimes self-care is not enough, and we need to seek extra support from a mental health professional. How can you tell that your “oxygen level” is too low? Here is some information that might help you recognize that it’s time to reach out!
How do you know that you need help?
- Your feelings are intense: We all feel angry or sad, but to what extent? Intensity means that your feelings are interfering with your normal life and you worry about the worst-case scenario happening.
- You have experienced trauma and cannot seem to stop thinking about it: Death of a family member, a break-up, an accident, or job loss can be very difficult. Often the pain eases with time but can interfere with our daily lives. Things to look out for are withdrawal from people or activities we enjoy and lack of sleep.
- You have unexplained, recurrent aches and pains or continually get sick: emotional upset and stress can affect us both emotionally and physically. Too much stress can weaken our immune systems, making us more susceptible to headaches, stomach aches and colds.
- You are using substances to cope: If you find yourself eating or drinking more than normal, these could be signs that you are trying to numb your feelings by using substances to cope.
- You are getting bad feedback at work: you might feel disconnected from work, even if it used to make you happy. This can lead to changes in concentration and maybe even negative feedback from managers and coworkers.
- Your relationships are strained: you may feel unhappy or frustrated with your family and loved ones sometimes, but stress can make these negative interactions more frequent or more hostile.
- Your friends or those close to you have said they are concerned: Sometimes friends and loved ones can notice patterns that are hard to see from the inside. You may want to consider their perspectives.
How to Find a Therapist
Finding a therapist might feel daunting, especially if you already feel overwhelmed. A good therapist is non-judgemental, accepting and patient.
You can start by doing some research online to find therapists in your area, ask friends for referrals and ask your medical insurance provider for their database of recommended therapists. If you do not have insurance, take note that many therapists offer options for uninsured patients.
Therapy works best when you are comfortable with your therapist. Shop around and attend a couple of sessions to find a therapist and modality of therapy that works best for you. It might be based on common goals, cultural commonalities or even just a gut feeling.
The Huffington Post
American Psychological Association