Article for Nurses

Nurses, Put Your Mask on First!

by Aila Accad, RN, MSN

Nurses are terrific when it comes to taking care of everyone else, but when it comes to us; we often ignore or override our own needs. Whether its basic needs like regular meals or release of deep emotional pain, we are at the end of the list (more accurately not on the list) of the people for whom we care every day.

Being tough, nurses pull this magic off for a long time before our resources start to burn out. Then, the solution is to pull up by your bootstraps and keep on going. This seems admirable on the surface. In the end, there is no glory in the burned out carcass of an overly self-sacrificing nurse.

The simple yet profound wisdom of a familiar airline safety protocol is useful to take to heart. “Put your own oxygen mask on FIRST, before you help others with theirs.”

This is brilliant advice! Since nurses have such great stamina, a little care of ourselves up front, goes a long way toward supporting our availability to help others over time.

Be an example for the things you tell your patients to do every day:

Eat - Don’t have time for full meals? Just put an energy pack in your pocket every day. Get a zip lock bag and put some nuts, raisins, supplements, whatever energizes you in it for a quick pick-me-up. Take a handful before you deliver that tray of food or meds.

Drink Water - Most of us have gotten into the habit of drinking things our body cannot use (caffeine, sugar, carbonation). Replace one beverage a week with pure water and feel the rejuvenation in your cells. As your cells re-hydrate, you will look and feel younger and more vibrant. Then, you can genuinely encourage your patients to do the same.

Breathe - Take a moment before going on to the next task in your day to take a deep breath, center yourself and smile. You’ll increase the oxygen to your cells and brain and spread cheer to yourself and others at the same time.

Rest – Take a stretch break. Literally, stretch your arms, back and legs. Most animals stretch regularly. When you take time to rest and stretch, research shows you are more efficient and a creative problem solver.

Take Five to Put Your Mask on First - While you are taking that stretch break for five minutes, have a glass of water, pop some nutritional snacks, take a deep breath, let it out and smile.

Feel the return of energy and relaxation to your body, clarity to your mind, and caring to your heart. Then, go out and take care of others even more effectively than you could before!

© 2008 Aila Accad


Aila Accad, RN, MSN known as ‘The De-Stress Expert’, is a professional Nursing Speaker, Trainer and De-Stress Coach. She presents innovative Nurse De-Stress & Lead Programs . You can learn more by contacting her for speaking , workshops , retreats and personal coaching on the Contact Form below.

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