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Help Yourself First

January 6th, 2014 by Suzanne Sweeney

Most of you will have seen the safety video on planes before takeoff.  What does it tell you to do when the oxygen masks appear from above your head?  Put your own mask on before assisting others.  Might seem a bit selfish at first but it makes sense when you think about it.  You are in a much better position to help others when you have taken care of yourself.  The same principle applies when supporting, managing or developing others in the workplace.  It is important that you make sure you have the personal resources and resilience before helping other people build theirs.   Especially, as is often the case, you are likely to be going through the same changes and facing similar barriers and challenges. Often we are good at advising and helping others but are guilty of neglecting our own needs.   We have thought about  some practical things you can do take care of and invest in yourself.  If you don’t who will?


Although rewarding and satisfying supporting others can be a drain on your energy and enthusiasm and we all need to keep our reserves topped up.  Start with some small things that can be built into your daily routine.  Small changes can have a disproportionate impact.  We all know the physical and psychological benefits of regular exercise and healthy eating.  Do something with that knowledge.  Drink more water and build 30 minutes of walking into your day.  For a quick energy boost try eating a banana or a handful of almonds.  Take breaks.  A simple change of scene will reenergise you, elevate your mood, keep you alert and make you more productive. A change of pace will do the same thing.  If you have been active then relax, do nothing for a bit but if you have been inactive for a while, move about. 


Struggling to stay optimistic and positive?  Then try writing a ‘thankful for’ diary every day.  Just jot down 3 bullet points on what you are thankful for or pleased about from your day.  If you want to develop this idea further you could try the suggestion in Richard Wiseman’s book ‘59 Seconds – Think a Little Change a Lot.  According to Wiseman you only need to maintain the diary for a week and you will quickly notice a difference. Monday you write about things you are grateful for, Tuesday you record a wonderful experience you’ve had, Wednesday you spend a few minutes thinking about something fantastic you want to happen in the future, Thursday you write a short letter telling someone how important they are to you, Friday you reflect on what has gone well for you in the week.  If the effect wears off just repeat the exercise again.


With some small changes part of your routine you could then move on to things that will need you to go out of your way more.  Keep a closer eye on how you are spending your time.  Log what you are doing, where, with whom and for how long?  Review that and reflect on whether that is hampering or helping your personal resilience and resourcefulness.  Look out for things you could say ‘no’ to more.  Make a conscious effort to do something you really enjoy and are good at.  Use your prime skills.  It will really boost your confidence and self esteem.  Get in touch with and/ or spend time with someone who really brings out the best in you, someone who makes you feel valued and appreciated.  Stop yourself saying we ‘must’ get together and arrange to get together. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support yourself.  There’s a danger that we can get caught up in looking after others’ needs and either neglect our own or feel we should be able to get on with things ourselves.  We forget that time spent sharing our own thoughts with a confidential and supportive listener will be beneficial and a good investment.


You might want to invest more time and energy in developing yourself and your ability to support others by tackling some ‘bigger’ things.  Check you are ‘practicing what you preach’.  Ask yourself the kind of questions you are likely to be asking others. Do something outside your comfort zone or something you’ve always been meaning to do but somehow never got round to it.  Look for opportunities to volunteer your time and talents.  The feel good factor of providing for others will have a significant impact on your sense of well being and personal resilience.  Broaden your knowledge and understanding by reading some books on personal development and coaching.  Fiona Harrold has written several self help books but you can use the coaching techniques and exercises to support others.  For more focus on career coaching take a look at Essential Career Transitions Coaching Skills by Caroline Talbott.  Caroline highlights how disruptive transitions can be and that some people may need support even after positive career moves.  You might want to develop your interest further and consider studying for more formal qualifications, independently or with the support of your employer.








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