Friday, October 31, 2014

Be sure to adjust your own oxygen mask before assisting others...

We've all heard it, whether on a plane or in a movie. In the unlikely event of a change in cabin pressure... Please be sure to adjust your own mask before assisting others. It's good advice. If you try to help others first, you may lose consciousness from lack of oxygen yourself, and be unable to help the other person anyway. It's really good advice.

...Good advice that we rarely listen to in our own lives. Are you the parent of a gifted child? Are you overwhelmed, exhausted, or just plain "spent," trying to keep up with your own life, and your kids? Put on your own oxygen mask before attempting to assist those around you!

But what does this mean??

As with everything else in this crazy parenting journey, the meaning varies with the individual. For some of us, it means going out for a run, whether around the block or 26.2 miles, a marathon. For some of us, it means spending an hour in yoga or meditation; for others it means spending 5 minutes by yourself, alone, in the bathroom. At least for a few years. But even those 5 minute time-outs count.

For many of us, the last time we spent ANY time for ourselves, doing what we wanted to do, has faded into a distant memory, a mirage on the rear horizon. That's not a good thing.

Whatever we do to take care of ourselves, it's important that we actually DO it. It's important to take care of ourselves before we try to take care of our kids and spouse (in no particular order). It's even more important for our kids to see us taking care of ourselves--our minds, bodies, eyes, relationships--they need to learn to do the same thing for themselves.

Whatever you do for to relax and rejuvenate yourself, keep a few things in mind. First, keep your eyes in mind. Our eyes require exercise, particularly, they require changing focal length to keep their flexibility and youth. We laugh at the ads for Presbyopia on the TV or in magazines, but our eyes do age and harden, and the more we exercise them, beginning in early youth, the better. Do you spend your days working on a computer? Take 2 minutes every hour to focus on something outside your window. Better still, GO outside the window and exercise your eyes, lungs, and skeletal muscles all at once with a few minutes walk.

Next, keep those muscles in mind. What we eat is important, but we could consume the best diet in the world and without exercise, we would not be healthy. Exercise doesn't need to mean distance running or lifting weights; it can be walking around the garden and pulling weeds. Winter doesn't mean that you can't go outside to exercise. Put on your heavy coat and gloves and get outside to admire the ice on the trees, the snow on blades of grass, or the view from the top of the ski slope. Summer where you are? Go for a walk around the mall or the library, in the nice cool air conditioning.

Don't forget to exercise your brain! Use it or lose it turns out to be sage advice for more than just our bodies. Recent research suggests that for many older adults, the decline in mental facility is related to their choice to use or stagnate their brains. In other words, learning, solving puzzles, and keeping mentally nimble is as important to offset the effects of aging as exercise and stretching is to offset the effects of aging on our bodies. Yes, the crossword puzzle or Words with Friends really is our friend!

I'm as guilty as the next person. I spent years of my life in the same routine, day in and day out. I sat in my car commuting to work, where I sat and stared at the computer for hours on end. The only thing I exercised was my fingers... typing. I didn't even have a window anywhere nearby to look out and refocus my eyes. Then I came home and played with the kids, but by then it was usually board games... it was dark out. Cooking, shopping, that was a little exercise, but something for my sanity? Not so much. And I must admit, it's slightly easier to do things for myself now that we are officially "empty nesters," though not nearly as much easier as I expected.

We also need emotional "exercise." For those of us with spouses or significant others, this means spending time together. Preferably together alone. For those of us without significant others it may look different, but it's still spending social time with others who do NOT need their diapers changed, their shoes tied, or their homework supervised. You know, other grown-ups. Not just working in the same cube-farm with others, but spending enjoyable time with them, perhaps dining, talking, book club, or many other forms of adult social interaction.

A few years ago, my husband stumbled on it. He found something that gets us outside and has us exercising our eyes in close and distant viewing. Something that exercises our brains in puzzle solving, observation and learning. Something that exercises our bodies, a little at a time (that's all I can handle; I have limited mobility), but for those who are able, offers miles of hiking, biking and even a little diving and climbing, if you're so inclined. And better yet, something that has us spending time alone together, talking, working on puzzles together, then at other times has us socializing with other adults who share our interest. What is it?

All my friends are grinning now. They know what I'm about to say. Some are as hooked as we are; others haven't tried it yet, and perhaps think we're a little nuts. Two are personally responsible for introducing us to our new activity. Yes, it's...

Geocaching. A global treasure hunt that over 6 million people are playing today. The perfect geek, er, gifted adult activity. Every geocache is a puzzle to be solved, a treasure to be found. Some are so simple you can park the car, step out and grab them. Others require hours of research and puzzle solving, while still others require hours of hiking and searching outdoors. There are over 2.5 million caches active on all 7 continents, plus one in the International Space Station, but that's a "terrain 5" - specialized equipment required. And among those 2.5 million there are caches for everyone, no matter how mobile you are, or how much puzzling or hiking you are looking for.

Geocaching has taken us to historical places near and far, including many we never knew existed. We've learned geology at home and in our travels. We've solved puzzles, simple and amazing; we've even created a few of our own for others to solve. We've met tons of people, and made many friends. And yes, we've improved our health. Not bad for a treasure hunt game!

Geocaching is just one solution, our personal "oxygen mask." What's yours?

Click to continue to the next blog in this month's loop, all featuring amazing self-care suggestions and success stories...

This blog is part of Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop on Gifted Advocacy. Visit all the blogs in this hop!


  1. Geocaching. Hm. I'll have to look into that. What a unique idea. Thanks!

  2. Good reminders, Carolyn! Those of us who are "official empty-nesters" can find that we thought self-care would take care of itself once the children leave home, but that's not the case.