Put Your Oxygen Mask On Before Helping Others


8578127478_5d95d8cd69_zBy Glynis Bell

Just today on the web, I read about a woman from Portugal working here in the US. She was working 4 jobs and >>died in her car as she was napping between shifts .  She kept a gas can in her car so that she wouldn’t worry about running out when she was going from job to job.  It spilled and mixed with carbon monoxide of the running car, leading to her untimely death.  No doubt she didn’t have an option to have a sick day.  What would have compelled someone to take such an extraordinary risks?

Reading this story..reminded me of  a thought-provoking conversation with a local restaurant owner. He was a former social worker and we somehow got on the topic of what he would share with his former assigned families were he would counsel them now. We talked about how life is so busy nowadays that it’s a must to have priorities to get it all done.  He said that he would tell his families that they needed to put themselves on the top of the priority list.  He said that they often questioned him and asked why? “Why not put my children or family first?” “ Was it selfish to yourself first?” He went on to explain what I already knew to be true.  If you are not well and whole then you can’t take care of anyone else.   The light bulb went off as to why flight attendants, while reviewing safety regulations before flights, remind you to put your oxygen mask on first BEFORE helping others.  Hmmmm…seems simple?

But as busy women, working moms, community advocates, candidate for the presidency of the United States we often are the last ones to get the oxygen.  Hillary Clinton is gasping for air on her campaign trail.  She did what most women do – work through an illness. When she finally couldn’t continue and stumbled at a 9/11 service, the conspiracy theorists kicked into high gear. Even with a confirmed case of pneumonia and dehydration, she continued to work from home.  Take a moment to appreciate the pace she’s been keeping up for the last year on the campaign trail and imagine doing that while sick.

It shouldn’t be hard. We’ve all been there. Do we “mask ourselves first” or do we push forward and go into work without oxygen?  Many of us do, so much so that there is a term for it.  It’s called “presenteeism”, the very opposite of absenteeism.  It’s defined by employees who can’t endure financial loss due to illnesses or those whose work environment is stressful and full of pressure.  

At some point we must recognize that we all will get sick.  When we are sick we  should stay home, rest and get well for ourselves and then others. Hillary must have gotten the message too.  Rest Hillary, REST!  We should not be judged or shamed  for taking off our superwoman cape all in the name of healing, rest, wellness and sometimes sanity.  This is a must if we are to ultimately perform our best.

Perhaps we need policies in place as preventive measures to assure that we get the healing time that we need to be more productive employees.  Paid sick leave is a hot issue on the campaign trail. Perhaps now that one of the candidates has experienced the need for time off of work without paying the price of lost wages, or in her case polling points, she’ll use it as motivation to >>fight for the rest of us .


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