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Strap On Your Oxygen Mask, First

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*This article was originally published in Men’s Health as a part of their Best Advice Ever Received Campaign. It was adapted for Lean It UP.

I’ve always found sage advice in the most unexpected places. I’m not sure when this officially clicked or where I picked it up, but it’s the utterance you nonchalantly brush off whenever you’re jetsetting cross-country; usually 1-2 mini bottles deep.

“Make sure to secure your own oxygen mask first before helping others”

Translated: focus on yourself, and get that right, first. Only then can you genuinely give yourself—your awesome, ultimate self—to others around you.

I don’t care how confident, optimistic, or successful you are. Life is really good at finding our unique weak points, aiming for the jugular, and ripping us apart. We’re not immune. Challenges of various types and magnitudes—deaths, break-ups, lost jobs, health crises, lack of purpose, et al—pop up spontaneously, without warning, and cultivate a mental state that’s unfamiliar. Instantly, you know that you’re not yourself, and it’s incredibly disorienting — as if you’re lost in uncharted territory, without Google Maps to guide you back.

Sometimes you’ll find yourself dejected and depressed. Often you’re overly harsh and critical about everything. And you’ll likely second guess your actions and lack confidence, to the point that it’s debilitating. Eventually that starts to radiate outward and seep into the world around you, impacting everything from your relationships and career, to the way that you pursue your hobbies and interests.

We only have so much energy available everyday. If it’s in your nature to listen relentlessly, be generous and compassionate, and always puts others first, the majority of that energy is constantly spewing outward. Between friends, jobs, significant others, parents, hobbies, brunch, and Instagram, we’re wired to focus on a million different things. And if your career is predicated on understanding people and helping them with very personal issues—like mine is as a personal trainer, health coach, and the owner of a fitness website—you’re actively invested in the emotional well-being of an additional group of people.

But how can you expect to effectively help any of those people if you’re a mess yourself? It’s like feeding a starving family with rotting food.

A Jenga tower won’t stand—or support much additional weight—if it’s built from a weak foundation. Life mirrors that. You cannot effectively help others, and take on an increasing number of external challenges, until you’ve solidified your persona and repaired any dents in your ego.

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When adversity hits, take some time to reroute that energy back towards yourself, in a way that’s compassionate and non-judgmental. Slow down and really dive into what’s plaguing your soul. And then mend it, slowly. It’s not selfish. Otherwise you’re depriving people of what they really want — you, in your purest form. And people deserve that. Because you’re pretty cool.

Take a cue from Carrie Bradshaw or Kendrick Lamar. Attack a new work project. Read profusely. Binge watch Game Of Thrones. Hit up a spa. Meditate. Revamp your wardrobe. Do CrossFit. Rendezvous solo to a new city. Hell, do a juice cleanse. Focus on whatever you need to do to get yourself right.

Just don’t feel bad about it.

I’m rooting you on — we’ll all be happier for it.

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Instagram (@BRYDISANTO) & Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto
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