Put Your Own Oxygen Mask On First (and other life lessons learned on a plane)

Enjoying the view
Enjoying the view

I’ve become a fairly seasoned air traveler over the past few years, flying to various places in the U.S. with my boss and occasionally alone, so I’ve heard the safety instructions countless times.  Since I’ve set a goal to blog once a week and knew I had a trip coming up, I was already planning to write about one of my favorite analogies for self-care: putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others.  However, this past week we were on some particularly long flights, about 17 hours round trip, not including layovers.  So, I had a lot of time to read, write, listen to podcasts I’d downloaded, and even watch a movie I’d been meaning to see… which all led to some additional insights I’d like to share.

oxygen mask instructions
oxygen mask instructions


Let’s start with the oxygen mask.

If you’ve ever been on a plane, you’ve heard this instruction: “In the case of an emergency, oxygen masks will drop down. Put your own mask on first, before assisting children, the disabled or anyone else needing assistance.” This seems to be the only “selfish” act in our society that doesn’t have a stigma associated with it. In this situation, everyone understands that you must take care of yourself first so you are then able to assist others.  But this translates to so many other non-emergency areas of your life as well.

If you’re constantly taking care of other people’s needs before your own, they won’t be getting the best version of you.  And eventually the stress from putting yourself last will build up to a point where you will no longer be emotionally or even physically able to help the people you want to help anymore. Note: this is coming from an admitted People Pleaser, my default setting is to put the needs of others before my own, this is something that I am still working on myself.  In fact, because of the oxygen mask reminder, I downloaded “The Art of Extreme Self-Care” by Cheryl Richardson onto my Kindle to read on the flight.  In the introduction alone, I highlighted so many chunks of text that really hit home! “I needed to quit being a martyr and focus on getting my own needs met.  I had to stop expecting others to read my mind and start being direct about what I wanted…  I also had to begin asking people to share the load instead of being a hero by attempting to do it all myself.  Finally, I had to stop being an automatic yes machine when people asked for my help and instead learn to say no with confidence and ease.”  Wow.  I want to learn how to do all of that!  I haven’t finished reading the book yet but I’m looking forward to implementing her self-care solutions (or “Challenges” as she calls them) once I do.  If this is something that you also struggle with, I recommend checking it out, you can even download a preview of the book for free from Amazon!


You have control over your reactions to uncontrollable situations.

Just about everyone has their seat preference, usually aisle or window but there may be a few middle lovers as well.  Me? I’m an Aisle Person. I like the openness of being next to the aisle and I can get up whenever I want without having to bother anyone next to me.  However, on one of my flights this past week, I ended up in a window seat.  At first, I wasn’t happy about it. Being next to the curved wall of the plane felt a bit claustrophobic… the overhead luggage bin obscured my view of the television screen so the option of watching a movie was out… it was an Exit Row so I potentially had a lot of responsibility in an emergency situation… and there were two people that I would have to bother if I needed to use the lavatory during the flight!  Then I took a deep breath, let it out slowly… and decided to look for things to enjoy.  Like, I could actually look out at the beautiful views while we took off, something I can never really do from an aisle seat… there was extra room for me to stretch out my legs because it was an Exit Row (and I studied the emergency pamphlet to make sure I was comfortable with what I’d have to do in an unlikely situation)… and I had plenty of good books on my Kindle to read instead of watching the in-flight entertainment on a tiny screen anyway!  This really did make me feel better and I ended up enjoying the flight.  Taking a deep breath and looking for things to enjoy and appreciate in any given situation is a much better alternative to grumbling and complaining and wallowing in the initial negative feelings. Sometimes it’s difficult, sure, but you can make a game out of it to play with yourself.  Like, “I spy with my little eye… something to appreciate!”  Try it sometime and see how wonderful it feels to shift your perspective.


Fear is the enemy, Love is the cure.

[*Spoiler Alert* If you haven’t seen Frozen yet, read ahead at your own risk.]  I’ve been wanting to watch Frozen and was excited to see that it was the feature on one of my flights this past week (one where I had a good view of the screen!)  There’s a reason this movie has won so many awards!  Not only is it beautifully done, but the story is really inspirational and empowering.  I even teared up at some points.  The main message that I took away from it is not to bottle up your feelings and shut people out, because you’re likely to explode at an inopportune time and end up hurting those who you were trying to protect.  By cutting herself off from Anna and staying locked up in her room, Elsa was alone with her fears and worries and so what she feared the most came to past.  The wise old Troll King warned of this early on in the movie saying, “Fear will be Elsa’s enemy!”  But I suppose his warning was misunderstood as “other people’s fear of Elsa will be her enemy,” rather than “Elsa’s fear of her own power will be her enemy.”  Once she decided to embrace her power, Elsa created so much beauty and was ultimately able to use her powers for good!  And of course, like most modern fairy tales, True Love saves the day.  But it wasn’t the typical True Love’s Kiss of most Disney princess movies and I loved that twist!  If you haven’t seen the movie and read all the way to the end anyway (maybe you weren’t planning to see it?) I really think you should.  It’s so much more than a cartoon for children.  It’s a beautiful feature film that happens to be animated.

I could probably write even more, since I read another book on the plane and also listened to a few good podcasts, but I’ve always liked the number 3 and I think that’s enough for now.  Have you had any epiphanies on an airplane, or ready any good inspirational books lately?  I invite you to share your experiences in the comments below!


Jilienne Rose

4 thoughts on “Put Your Own Oxygen Mask On First (and other life lessons learned on a plane)”

  1. Love this! In fact, James and I played that game (via text) “I spy with my little eye… (something positive)” when they couldn’t sit us together going to JFK.

    I love that you have a blog! 🙂

    PS. I love Frozen! We’re still singing “Do you want to build a snowman” around the house.

    1. Thanks, Yeni! <3 I'm really glad you're enjoying it. And that's so cool you and James did that! 🙂 It's fun, right?! (& PS – I've got "Let It Go" stuck in my head.) xoxo

  2. Frozen is a wonderful movie. I can’t wait for it to be released on video this month so that we can watch it again.

    I haven’t flown in many years, but for me flying always represents adventures and new beginning since so many of our major life changed have necessitated traveling long distances by air. So I guess part of the lesson there would be… “Embrace the Adventure.”

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