The Oxygen Mask Metaphor

If you ever listen to the preflight briefing the FAA requires flight attendants to give, you will notice one of the things they tell you is this: in the event of loss of cabin pressure, masks will drop from the compartment in front of you. Pull the mask to start the flow of oxygen, then use the elastic to secure it over your nose and mouth. If you are traveling with a child, place the mask on yourself first, then assist the child. It’s no accident they tell you to put the oxygen on yourself first, since you can’t assist anyone if you are incapacitated, and someone will then need to assist you.

In some ways, this is a key metaphor for dealing with difficult times, and I think it is very smart advice. I know someone who is in a stressful situation right now, caring for a dying relative, and my advice to her is that she not forget to take care of herself. She is of little use to her relative if she gets sick or collapses from stress or goes insane. It’s difficult to remember to take care of yourself because caring for someone else can be so demanding and immediate, but you have to make time to do it. I’ve been in that situation many times with my wife Abby, who has been very seriously ill more times than we care to count, but I always try to take care of myself, most importantly when it comes to getting enough sleep and remembering to eat.

Air travel has its flaws, but safety isn't one of them.
Air travel has its flaws, but safety isn’t one of them.