Self-Coaching Activity: Put Your Oxygen Mask on First (Energy Renewal and Self-Care)

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

There's a reason flight attendants say, "Put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others." We can't help others if we can't breathe. In the same way, we are less effective in our lives and work when we don't take care of ourselves.

Managing and Renewing Your Energy

As an avid high-intensity interval training (HIIT) fan, I like using the five heart rate zones from OrangeTheory as a way of thinking about how I manage energy throughout the day.

In OrangeTheory, we are encouraged to spend 12 to 20 minutes of a one hour workout in the orange and red (challenging) heart rate zone and the rest of the workout in green (challenging but doable) zone. In a similar way, sustaining a metaphorical "all out" pace in our work day or week is a recipe for burnout. When we push our limits, we loose our perspective and begin to operate in survival mode. Eventually we quit, become apathetic, have a panic attack or emotional eruption, or in some cases, much worse.

To avoid burnout, we can think about our day like a good workout that includes a mix of warming up, transitional, and cooling-down activities, enabling us to maintain a positive outlook and perform well under the stress of an "all out" need or unexpected challenge.  

Many feel that they cannot control their workload, and while that may be true, we always have the ability to control how we approach our work. In her book The How of Happiness, Dr. Sonja Lyumbomirsky notes that happiness is only 10 percent environmental factors. The rest is a mix of our personality, mindset, and choices. That means that happiness is largely up to us, and I posit that focusing on energy renewal is a first step towards happiness.

Try This: Want to listen and journal? Use this audio track.

  • In your journal or using this worksheet, think about activities that help you "warm-up" for your workday. For example, making a to-do list or checking the important emails first.

  • Now think about activities that help you transition between projects. For example, grabbing a fresh cup of coffee or having a brief chat with a colleague.

  • Next, what activities help you rest periodically and cool down at the end of your day? For example, taking a stretch or meditation break, going for a run, doing an energizer with your team, or making a gratitude list.

Cultivating Self-Care

Now that you understand how to better manage your energy, let's think about ways you might cultivate self-care. In a leadership development activity led by facilitators from Leadership Foundry, participants were asked to think about self-care on four levels.

Try This:

For each of these four categories, come up with three to five activities or practices that nourish you. They can be things you already to or things that you think would help you.

You can use this worksheet to help collect your thoughts.

Body: Building and maintaining your physical energy.

  • Fitness

  • Nutrition

  • Sleep

Heart: Being conscious of and managing your emotions; creating and maintaining meaningful and productive relationships.

  • Self confidence

  • Self control

  • Relationships

  • Empathy

Mind: Practicing realistic optimism, learning new skills, and re-framing mindsets that lead to fatigue and exhaustion.

  • Mental preparation

  • Visualization

  • Time management

  • Creativity and play

  • Mindfulness

Spirit: Aligning your behaviors with your core values and purpose.

  • Living into values

  • Having faith

  • Feeling a sense of purpose


  • Across all the categories, circle your top five most important self-care practices.

  • For each, how are you doing with this practice? If it helps, give yourself a score from one to five, with five being "very fulfilled" and one being "needs work."

  • What is one thing you currently do that you'd like to keep doing? 

  • What is one thing you could do more of? (or less of?)


  • Over the next week, work with just these two self-care practices.

  • Also, incorporate a few of the energy renewal activities you found into your work day.

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If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to our blog to receive email notifications whenever we post, and check out our events page for our coaching and workshop schedule.

You may also like to read these Self-Coaching blogs:

  1. Designing the Journey (Personal Road Map)

  2. 6 Ways to Mine for Values

  3. Inventory Your Personal Needs

  4. Creating a Personal Decision-Model

  5. Contracting with Yourself

  6. Crafting a Personal Mission Statement

  7. I Am My Future Self, Right Now (Personal Visioning and Goal Setting)



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