One thing that hasn’t changed about flying is the safety instructions provided to passengers in the case of an emergency. There’s great relief in knowing that what saved lives decades ago is still tested and true to save lives today. Since 1938, flight attendants have shared explicit instructions pertaining to the oxygen mask with those aboard. They underscore an intriguing portion of these rules directly to the parents on the aircraft. Those with little ones are told that in the event of decompression, they must place this oxygen mask on themselves first and then tend to their child to help position it over their nose and mouth.
Though given time and time again by crew members, it remains a questionable piece of advice. Is it truly the best approach? Is one to look after their own safety before ensuring the well-being of a person who requires assistance? This concept of “save yourself first” isn’t a struggle for parents alone. It’s an idea that plagues the majority of those in a position to help.
Once we are in roles dedicated to aiding, assisting, and protecting others, it becomes our life philosophy. It is hard to imagine being in a situation where others don’t come before self. Medicine and the many providers who define the field fall right into this mindset. Placing the patient first and above our wants and needs is the job. Self-sacrifice is the expectation we place on ourselves, our families, and colleagues. It is the high bar that defines and shapes our extraordinary field.
Though this may be the case, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reminds us that there are always exceptions to the rule. In May, the organization leads the charge for Mental Health Awareness Month, a time set aside to bring voices together to advocate for mental health awareness and access. The goal is to convene a nation to realize its shared vision of seeing anyone affected by mental illness obtain the appropriate support and quality of care to live healthy, fulfilling lives. This realization includes frontline workers.
Healthcare is one demanding field as stress is inevitable. Taking care of others, saving lives at the risk of our own, and watching some of those lives lost isn’t made to be easy. Just as we can’t help others with their oxygen masks before we put on our own, we can’t care for our patients without caring for ourselves as well. Self-awareness is not only encouraged but required. NAMI compiled a list of signs to help medical professionals know when the pressure has become too much. From feelings of depression to the inability to sleep, it is essential to recognize when our mental well-being is in need of realignment and refueling.
After recognition, action must be taken to decompress and return to equilibrium. The Point-of-Care Ultrasound Certification Academy™ wrote the blog, Mental Health Care for Frontline Heroes, which provides steps we can take to support our mental health. It features Patricia Wilson, MA, LMFT, a licensed therapist, who walked us through efforts we should deploy during high-stress moments and also at regular intervals, proactively working to keep pressure from consuming our world. Her expert guidance was crafted into an infographic we can use daily to remind us to “Love Ourselves.”
Wilson offers seven ways to face the negative, acknowledge it, and tackle it head-on.
- Taking Care of Self
- The Four Agreements*
- Coach Yourself
- Keep and Maintain Other Interest
- Engage in Stimulation Activities
- Play the “No Blame Game”
Be sure to follow the Point-of-Care Ultrasound Certification Academy™, May 17 – 23, daily, as we highlight how to put these “Love Ourselves” steps into action. See what we’ll post on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and join the mental health challenge this month.
Also, read the complete Mental Health Care for Frontline Heroes blog to review the details behind each “Love Ourselves” reminder. A quick note before you do. The first item listed on this journey to mental well-being is “Taking Care of Self.” Wilson shares, “Love yourself first. We can’t care well for our patients if we haven’t been caring for ourselves. They need us at our best, so we can give them our best.” That is all the permission we should ever need. We are in this to care well, give our best, and show up at the top of our game. If we leave our oxygen masks off, running around the plane helping others tighten the straps on theirs, eventually, we will no longer be available to do the job we live to love.
May Mental Health Awareness month reminds us that we also require and are allowed a rescue. Prioritizing our mental well-being is permissible if we plan to remain in our position to save.
*The Four Agreements is a code of conduct based on ancient Toltec wisdom detailed in the self-help book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, written by bestselling author Don Miguel Ruiz. These agreements are seen as practical steps one can take to receive freedom from self-limiting beliefs that hold them back from experiencing a fulfilling and healthy life.