snowflakeIf you’ve ever flown on a commercial airline flight, you are well aware of the instructions that occur before the airplane approaches the runway. It may sound something like, “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for flying XX airlines…please fasten your seatbelt and make sure that your tray and seat are in the upright position…emergency exits are here, here and here…” And then they may say something like:

In the event of a decompression emergency, an oxygen mask will automatically drop down in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.

I want you to think about the first time you heard those instructions. Did they kind of set you back a bit? I know they did me. My thought was “Wait, if we are in a decompression emergency, I’m putting the oxygen masks on my children before I put it on myself!” But, the airliners know what they’re doing. They know that if we pass out due to lack of oxygen, we are of no help to our children or anyone else for that matter.

The oxygen mask scenario is a perfect example of how we really should be valuing our own life, our own health, and our own well being in perspective to our jobs and responsibilities that engulf our everyday lives as teachers. We are notorious for taking care of everyone else first and putting ourselves last. We all do it. To do otherwise goes against our nature; we take care of people, that’s who we are. Taking care of ourself seems selfish and counterproductive. But we soon learn that as we neglect our mental and physical health, we quickly and ultimately become of “no help” to anybody!

As I write this article I am seeing the results of going against the oxygen mask scenario. I am home with a ugly little virus that I contracted the day spring break began.  Yes, I got sick at the end of a crazy, busy week that contained (among other things) two thirteen hour work days which included a full work day with Parent -Teacher conferences at the end of them. My immune system was frazzled and I was beat. Sickness (in this case) was the result.

It’s very easy to put our own health on the backburner, after all, we have a lot of people to help succeed, and it’s an inundating job! Yet if our health goes, our ability to help others goes too.   Your ability to do your job becomes impossible and ultimately you’ll be forced to take time off because you’ve worn yourself and your immune system to a frazzle.

Here are some healthy things you should be doing to “secure your oxygen mask first”:

1. Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. You will think better, handle your job and life better, feel better and look better!

2. Stay away from soda that can damage your body in many ways; it depletes your vitamin intake and dehydrates your body. Instead, drink water and lots of it.

3. Monitor your caffeine intake. If you need a caffeine boost, choose tea or a small amount of coffee. Stay away from the “monster” type caffeine drinks. If you must drink soda, drink it as a special treat once a week. (P.S. A dehydrated body will mimic the need for caffeine.)

4. Move your body. Teachers generally spend the day on their feet, so at the end of the day, exercising is the last thing on their minds. However, if you would exercise a minimum of 20 minutes a day, at least 3 times a week, in some fashion that elevates your heart rate or includes weight bearing exercises, you will sleep better, reduce stress levels, lower your blood sugars and blood pressure, and look like a million bucks!

5. Give yourself at least one day off from any type of work. Study shows that people that work 7 days a week, have higher blood pressure, higher anxiety and are more prone to illness and injury. Again, if you try to do it all, you will be no good to anyone!

6. Set a fixed schedule between work and home. Agree that during a set period of time, no school work will get your attention. Give yourself permission to be “off”.

7. Spend time with God and give your anxiety and troubles to Him. Studies show that prayer and meditation times can bring clarity, peace and a general sense of well being.

It goes against our nature to spend time thinking about taking care of ourselves instead of others. It’s not who we are, and it’s generally a foreign concept to our psyche.  But, much like the oxygen scenario, if we truly want to make a difference in other people’s lives, we need to first make sure that we are healthy enough to do so. Remember, secure your mask first so that you may assist other people.



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