Attention: Please Put on Your Oxygen Mask Before Helping Others

Gas Masks image by State Library of Victoria Collections via CC by 2.0.

As military spouses we are masters of multi-tasking.  While many of us have outstanding support from our spouses, we still do the majority of the work on the home front.  We care for the kids, the pets, the household … pay the bills, make the medical appointments, cook the meals, do the shopping, shuttle the kids … remember the birthday gifts, write the thank you cards, make- or in my case, buy, (who am I kidding?) the baked goods for school events.

We may not be perfect – and we may do these things with un-brushed teeth or hair that’s three months overdue for highlights, but we get it done.  We burn the candle at both ends, taking excellent care of everything and everybody … unfortunately, we forget about ourselves in the process.

Help Yourself Before You Help Others

We battle one emergency after another – securing everyone’s oxygen mask, but our own!  Anyone who has ever flown in an airplane knows you secure your own mask before tending to others. If you don’t take care of yourself, you risk burnout and more serious health consequences than a hygiene problem.

Stress can overwhelm us and put our health in danger.  It can cause excessive fatigue, weight problems, and depression; it can also affect our spouses’ productivity at work and our children’s well-being!

We can’t escape the stress – we just have to learn to manage it.

Putting Yourself First Is Not The Same as Being Selfish

My civilian friends ask me all the time, “How do you do it?”  The truth is…I just do it.  I don’t know any different.  Things need to get done, despite the challenging circumstances of my military family.  What I have learned is that I can balance the constant demands, I can react more rationally to the military curve balls, and I am overall healthier and happier when I put myself first in the process.

I’m not telling you to book daily spa treatments or ignore your kids on a regular basis.  I’m talking about making sure you exercise, you eat well (instead of eating the chicken nuggets off of your child’s plate), you connect with friends, you meditate, pray or just breathe a few minutes each day to center yourself.  And if you need a trip to the spa every once in awhile to rejuvenate – go for it!

Take care of yourself.  Yes…put yourself first!  Your family will appreciate it.  I know when I work out on a regular basis and prepare healthy meals, I handle stress better, I can successfully multi-task, I feel confident and healthy.  Making myself a priority keeps my life in balance – you can do it too.

Ultimately, it makes you a better spouse, a better parent, a better professional, and a better person.  Secure your oxygen mask first, and then tend to the important people and tasks in your life.  When you do, everyone thrives!  Even on the days when you might forget deodorant!

JannellJannell MacAulay is a military spouse and USAF active duty member.  She is also the President and Founder of Healthy Body Healthy Life, LLC, a non-profit organization that provides free fitness classes and health coaching to military spouses.  HBHL is run by military spouses and is focused on improving the health of military families.  Focusing on three pillars:  Fitness, Nutrition, and Mind/Body HBHL’s program uses a building block approach to balanced change.  HBHL can help YOU and YOUR family get healthy!  Go to for more information.  Join the program, donate to the cause, or sign on as an HBHL instructor!


  1. The oxygen mask is such a great analogy for life. It can be so easy to forget ourselves in the mad dash to take care of others. (At least it is for me.) I like what you said about taking time for ourselves. It doesn’t have to be something big or cost money or be earth shattering, but we all need a little something of our own. Great post!

  2. […] once in a while. It’s easy to get pulled into the mentality that you have to put yourself last and focus on the needs of everyone else around you first. In the long run, this will burn you out and make you lose sight of who you are. […]


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