I spend a lot of time on airplanes, which means that I have heard the safety speech enough times to almost have it memorized. While the information is specific to air travel, there’s one line that has stuck out to me as a great reminder for people living with chronic conditions: Make sure your mask is secure before helping others.

What happens if you don’t secure your own oxygen mask in an airplane emergency? You may pass out before you are able to help those around you. Now, how does this apply to people with diabetes and obesity?

Many of my patients are givers. They give of themselves in their families on a daily basis, whether to spouses, children, or parents. They also have giving professions, such as personal care attendants, health care providers, or teachers. Over the years, they have always put other people’s priorities before their own. They worry about the needs of others and they neglect their own health needs, such as sleep, nutritious food, exercise, and relaxation.

For example, one of my patients took time to make lunches for her three children and spouse every night but never made her own lunch. Instead, she relied on fast food during the day for herself. This made it hard to manage her challenges with her blood sugars and weight. If you are a giver, I’m sure you can relate.

Prioritize yourself to help those around you

It’s wonderful to be a giver, but you can’t neglect giving to yourself. To achieve your health goals and live your happiest life, you need to prioritize yourself. If you don’t keep yourself healthy, it is going to impact your ability to give to those around you. Maybe you will be less patient or have less energy due to lack of sleep… Maybe you won’t physically be able to help someone due to mobility or strength problems… Maybe your life will be shortened due to health problems you have neglected… You need to take care of yourself so you can be the best you, whether it’s as a spouse, parent, child, sibling, coworker, or friend.

In the case of the woman I mentioned earlier, we set a goal for her to take a few extra minutes each night to make her own lunch. As she worked towards this goal, she was able to cut back on her fast food lunches. She noticed her blood sugars were more consistent during the day and she was starting to lose weight. She had more energy and felt better about her body. Her family noticed these positive changes and she told me she was a happier wife and mom. By taking care of herself, she was able to take better care of her family.

If you are a giver, tune into whether you might be giving to others at the expense of your own health needs. While it seems to work in the short-term, neglecting your essential health needs can have long-term repercussions. Remember to make sure your health is secure before helping others.