Do You Know How to Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask?
on April 2nd, 2020
“What are you doing to put your oxygen mask on first?” someone asked me on a recent coach community call.
The question struck me because so many have told me over the past few weeks that the situation with the global pandemic does feel like a freefall from the sky. I recognize I am very lucky. I can work from home, and my friends and family are currently healthy. I have not had to face the painful reality so many in Italy and across the USA have had to confront. Despite that, there have been times when I have felt—literally—I was running low on oxygen. Days ago, I found myself gasping for breath as I struggled with anxiety and the reality of living with the environmental situation of my urban space.
I think many of us are struggling to breathe right now, even if we are not diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. We’re gasping because we’re worried about elderly loved ones or our jobs or how we’re going to explain the current situation to the frightened children in our lives.
After my coaching call, I sat down and really thought about it. What can I do to put on my own oxygen mask? When the news broke, I immediately swung into helping others. I realized only afterwards that I needed to stay centered and grounded so I could continue to be a support.
I realized how important it is to take responsibility for preserving and deepening relationships right now. Whether we’re home with a spouse and family or not, we have an opportunity to spend time with loved ones in a whole new way. Now is the time to slow down, listen, and check in with extended family and friends.
As the pace of life slows down a bit with self-isolation and quarantine, we also have a chance to slow down ourselves, which is both an opportunity and a challenge to set a new pace in life. I had a teacher who told me that the most transformative practice we can engage in is “count to ten.” I call it “taking a breath.” Instead of filling the space we have right now—home from our jobs and busy social lives—with news sound bites and more to-do lists, could we slow down and breathe? Could we start a meditation practice or sit in stillness to see what breaks the surface?
I invite you to take a deep breath right now, paying attention to your body. Sit up or stand up straight, staying relaxed but elongating your body naturally. Take another deep breath. What do you notice? Is there tension or hurt anywhere in your body? Where is it and what does it feel like? During the current world challenge, I invite you to sit still, breathe deep in this way, and check in with your body each day.
What can fit into this space as we slow down? One option is to ask ourselves a question we can only really answer when we create the space to dive deep: What do I really want right now? Right now, in this imperfect world with the challenges and the opportunities we have, what is the yearning in us? What kind of future do we want to create? Because after the breath, when we can inhale on our own without the oxygen mask, we have the opportunity to step into creativity and start making something. But first we have to hit pause to gain the strength we’re going to need.
The virus we are fighting collectively right now robs victims of their ability to breathe. Even if you’re not personally affected, the stress of the current world situation can leave you gasping or can leave you sleeping poorly and breathing shallow. I invite you to recenter, breathe deep, and get ready to move forward into the future.