Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others

flying-people-sitting-public-transportationI’m writing this while on a flight from London City Airport to George Best Belfast City Airport.

When you’re on a commercial flight, do you pay attention to the safety announcement? Most people probably do the first time or two they are on a plane. By the time you are a seasoned traveller I suspect you barely pay any notice.

I do, though. More out of courtesy to the flight crew, if I’m honest, rather than in expectation I will ever need to blow into the small tube to fully inflate the life vest.

These instructions, however, could save your life:

  • Keep your seat belt fastened throughout the flight, as we may experience turbulence.
  • Take a few moments now to locate your nearest exit. In some cases, your nearest exit may be behind you.
  • If the event of an evacuation, floor-level lighting will guide you towards the exit.
  • In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Secure your own mask first, before assisting others.
  • Should you need to use the life vest, located under your seat, here’s a practical demonstration on how to use it.

As I listen dutifully to them, I think these are similar rules to coping with life.

Staying ‘safe’ is a good start. Look at where you are now. Lock that in, anchor it. No matter how good or bad you feel your circumstances are, don’t let yourself slip. Keep your seatbelt on, in case life gets turbulent. Actually, not just in case – it will get turbulent, to a lesser or greater degree.

Look for appropriate exits, and remember they are not always obvious. Take a few minutes now and think “How have I got out of previous difficult situations?” Examples don’t need to be huge.

You may want to consider who you turned to for help.

Did you come up with a range of options to pick from?

Did you stop for breath?

Now think about a difficult situation you found harder to find a way out of. Why was that?

Didn’t ask for help?

Rushed into a decision without considering a range of options or pausing for breath?

If you applied the thinking from the previous paragraph, would that have helped, even in just a small way?

These are your exits. The one you see straight ahead may not be the best one: there may be one much closer that you just don’t see. Look for those exits now, and be ready to use them.

Identify people who you can trust and rely on.


Take a breath.

Break down the issue into component parts, if you can.

Think about different ways to tackle the issue.

Work through pros and cons of the options.

Like a carpenter who measures twice, but cuts once, double-check that your next step is the best one, based on the information you have available, before proceeding.

In some circumstances, your planned support is either not there, or not the right type of help. If this is the case, is there any floor lighting leading the way? Professional advice from experts or appropriate research on the internet can be useful, but be careful to avoid non-accredited sources.

So, look after yourself first, before helping others. If you spend too much time worrying about them, being involved in their lives, and offering a shoulder without considering your own welfare, there is a risk you will be the one to struggle. Not straight away maybe, but certainly over time.

Once you are in a good place, and can maintain that, you will be more able to help others.

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