What An Airplane Taught Me About Self Care

Sometimes we find powerful applications for life in the strangest places. Like an airplane. Where we’ve gained a simple, obvious, yet profound illustration for self care!

Kristin and I fly a lot. In fact, recently, we were flying so much that we literally swapped out with one another at the airport. I pulled up with all of our kids buckled into the car, Kristin had just landed from Denver, Colorado so she got into the car, and I got out with my suitcase and headed in to board a plane to New York City.

Normally when I get on a plane, I find my way to my seat,  pull out my noise-cancelling headphones, and stare out the window. One particular day, the batteries were dead on my headphones so I couldn;t use them. After shedding a few tears (kidding…sort of), I resigned myself to listening to the safety spiel the flight attendants give before we take off. They humorously explained that in case our love plane suddenly becomes the love boat, our seats can act as flotation devices and that if we haven’t learned to buckle our seat belts by now, we need to immediately exit the plane and enroll in kindergarten again! After their speech was over, one of the attendants walked down the aisle making sure our belts were buckled and our tray tables were up. Then she stopped across the isle from me to talk to a mom traveling with her young daughter. “I noticed that you have your beautiful daughter with you,” she said to the mother. “In the unfortunate event that we would lose cabin pressure and oxygen masks deploy from above, make sure you secure your mask first mom, and then secure hers, okay?” The young mother nodded and smiled at the flight attendant. How perfect of an illustration of self-care is that?

It’s critical that we parents take care of ourselves first, so we can adequately take care of our babies. Before I had kids, and even when I was a young father, I would have looked at you and said, “No way, friend!” If it comes down to me or my baby, I’m taking care of my baby, but sometimes caring for myself means that I will be equipped to care for my child. In the event that the airplane loses pressure, I might pass out before taking care of my child and then we are both in trouble. Self care is the same way. If I’m not healthy, both of us will suffer. 

As a human being your energy and health are not supplied from a waterline. They are supplied by a pitcher. And everyone knows that pitchers can only pour so much water out before they need to be refilled. If you keep pouring and not fill up on a regular basis, you are really pouring nothing into your children, your family, or the world around you. 

How do we make sure we are taking care of ourselves so we can take care of our children? Here are some keys we have learned to do personally, and they work!  

  1. Call Out For Help. Why? Well it’s simple. You need help. Some of us had people tell us before we entered this journey, that we shouldn’t do it. Maybe it was a family member or close friend. Now everything feels like its falling apart, we are afraid to say anything for fear of hearing “I told you so!”When I was in fourth grade I was failing math, miserably. I wouldn’t raise my hand for fear of being made to feel stupid. Not raising my hand didn’t change my circumstances. I may have felt safer, but I was still failing. You need to call out for help. I challenge you to stop reading right now, and write down the names of 3 people you trust, who won’t judge you.
  2. Take A Time Out.  The purpose of a time out is to reset. Often we can’t use time out with children who have experienced trauma but we can use them for ourselves. We can use a time out to reflect on how we got off course and what we can do to fix it.How often do you really look at where you spend your time and what your schedule actually has on it?

    Back in 2008 Kristin and I went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. One of the things Dave drove home is that, while we are quick to say we just don’t have any money, if we were to actually write every dollar down on paper, on purpose, we would actually discover we have more money than we think we do. We’ve just been tithing to Starbucks and Target too much. The same practice is true for our schedules. If we take some time to write down every single thing we have to accomplish, every single day, we will discover pockets of time here and there. When we talk about taking time for you, we’re not necessarily talking about a weekend getaway to the mountains or a beach somewhere. Taking a time out is about taking time for you to think, breathe, or just be. For example: one or two days a week, right after you get your children off to school, take an hour to go on a walk, exercise, read a book, or take a nap. Instead of stressing every day over laundry, take one day to not fold another basket for an hour and rest. Intentionally plan time once a month for a night out with friends. There are so many ways you can take time for you. You must be intentional, it won’t happen by chance.

  3. Find Community. We need community. We can’t do this alone. We need to surround ourselves with fellow foster and adoptive parents. After I stopped working in the local church in 2014 and became a full-time author, blogger and public speaker, we decided quickly that Indianapolis would remain home base. Our family has deep roots here. We have a community here that includes two other families who have walked through every part of life with us. Having a physical community is critical.

    In my book, Confessions Of An Adoptive Parent: Hope and Help From The Trenches Of Foster Care And Adoption (Harvest House Publishers, 2018) I outline what an authentic support community looks like and how to find one. We also recognize the power of online space and created a virtual support system for foster and adoptive parents called Oasis Community. We created this site to help you connect with a community of like-minded people on the journey. We were never meant to journey along on our own.

  4. Recalibrate Your Course. This is a practice you can do when you intentionally take a time out. Sometimes the course you are on with your children is not working. And you know it pretty quickly, right? When this happens, it’s important to stop, and hit the reset button.

    Back in 2015 I was in the mountains of Tennessee speaking at a conference. Because I travel a lot, I try to stay in shape by exercising at whatever location I’m currently at, if I can. At this particular location, I was on a beautiful small college campus with lots of paths to run on. And, oddly enough, the humidity was low. So I woke up the first morning I was there and went for a 3-mile jog. I used my Nike app and my headphones. I set my course, activated the app, and enjoyed a nice run. It was such a good run that I decided the next morning I would follow the same course. But after I took off running, I immediately knew something was wrong. The voice on the app that told me how much distance I had run suddenly came on way before I had reached a mile and told me I had completed a mile. At the halfway point of the run she told me I was finished with my run.After reading a review on the app, I discovered that I had to re-calibrate the app with the satellite by following a few simple steps. After I did that the app was back to normal and I enjoyed great runs the rest of the week. That wouldn’t have happened had I not stopped and taken the time to hit the reset button. This is the same thing we need to do when we realize we have gotten off course in our parenting, in our health, and in our care of ourselves. Hitting the reset button may look different for each of you. You may need to stop what you are doing and reach out to someone who can help you get back on course. Maybe you need to schedule a doctor appointment. Perhaps it’s about auditing your schedule and figuring out how you can reorder your days with structure. Maybe you need to figure out how you can take time for you. Whatever it is, it’s time to recalibrate your course.

  5. Order Your Days. One of the biggest enemies of parenting, is a lack of structure. This is an easy trap to fall into. Afterall, we are busy people, and we are parenting children who need a lot of our attention and time. We can easily forget about order, structure, and routine.One of the biggest reducers of stress and anxiety, is structure. If you are living in disorder, you need to order your days. Anytime we know what to expect, we can find it easier to live in peace. A child who has suffered the chaos of past trauma, thrives in a structured environment and you set the tone for that structure.You, as a parent, personally will experience peace and calm when you design your family with structure and routine. These are two of your greatest tools in your parenting toolbelt. Use them liberally.
  6. Do Something That Brings You Joy. My friend Jayne Schooler from Back2Back Ministries in Ohio and I were having a conversation about self care for us as parents. She said, “I believe doing something that brings us joy is a vital part of self care.” She went on to tell me that it had been years since she played tennis because of having to be so hands on with her children. But finally, she decided it was time she picked up her racket again. It had been years since she stepped onto a court, but the first time she did, it immediately filled her up.Friends, you need this. Remember that old hobby you used to love. Remember the days of participating in that club or group that filled you up? Why have you stopped doing this? And what’s stopping you from picking it up again? You need to find something that brings you joy and do it. No hesitation…no excuses.
  7. Be Grateful. I think one of our biggest problems as parents on the foster or adoptive journey is that we spend so much time focusing on what’s going wrong, that we fail to see what’s going right. We can get so hyper-focused on what we don’t have that we forget to celebrate and give thanks for what we do have.Gratitude is a choice we can make that makes all the difference in our perspectives. On this journey, on our children, and on our lives. A few years ago, Kristin was in a dark place. She was dealing with depression and anxiety and could not see past the darkness we were dealing with with one of our children. Then her mom told her something that changed everything. “Is the sun coming up? Have you given thanks for that? Do you have a family who loves you? Have you given thanks for that?” Game-changer! Here’s what I want you to do for a quick homework assignment. Make a list of everything you have. Think about your life. Do you have a home? Do you have children? Do you have a car? Is there food on the table? Do you have a job? Whatever it is that you DO have, stop and give thanks for that. Be grateful for the things you do have.Doing this will help you to get past wishing or hoping for things you don’t have.

Stop Thinking You’re Being Selfish!

Some of you are reading this, really wanting this, but still wrestling with this feeling of selfishness by even thinking about taking better care of you. Self-care is one of the most giving, selfless things you can do for your family. When we started putting these practices in place to better care for us, it made our entire family healthier because we were recharging our batteries, filling up our parenting pitchers, in order to better pour into our children. Heck, they may even tell you that they’re thankful we did.

So now it’s your turn. My closing challenge is that you take some time over the next few days to make a plan for how you can institute the keys I just mentioned above in your life.

Did you know? Our brand new course Self Care Workshop is now open for enrollment. Self Care Workshop gives you a proven plan to better care for yourself while you care for your children. Self Care doesn’t have to be complicated. But we kind of think it is because we’re exhausted often. We look at self care and give up before we even try to change our lives. Self Care Workshop takes the guess work out of caring for yourself and gives you practical steps to change your health, and in turn, change your children’s health. We believe you can’t effectively pour into your children if you’re running on empty. Through Self Care Workshop you don’t have to any longer.

Click here to enroll today!

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