It’s not a secret that the world is more stressed out than ever. With jobs, families, friends, hobbies and a dozen other things competing for priority in a busy calendar, it’s really not a surprise that it’s been reported that people have less free time than ever and that stress related diseases are on the rise at an alarming rate. We’re just doing too much and not taking the time out of our hectic and busy schedules to decompress and relax. As a perfect example, when I began to type this blog post, I had four phones within arms reach, three computers on and shining different screens at me, music playing in the background with the TV news on and I was trying to do leg stretches while sitting at my desk. How could I expect to focus and do something well if I was doing a thousand other things?
This is why we all need to stop, take a breath and step away from life now and again. This is why we need to all get really good at the art (and necessity) of taking me time. Constantly feeling like you’re under attack from the competing priorities in your life creates anxiety which in turn evolves into increasingly large stress levels. The cure to this? Taking “me time” – time for you to spend alone, cut off from the rest of the world to regain some control – or even just the feeling of it- over the chaos that is modern life. It’s just as important – if not more important – to spend time with yourself as it is to spend time with others.
So today let’s talk about how to get good at the art of taking me time in a variety of ways that go beyond the old standard of spending an entire day at the spa.
The very first thing you need to get good at is carving out the time for yourself in your calendar. I have friends who schedule time in their calendars and attend their personal time with the same level of importance that they would assign to a meeting with their boss and others who have standing dates every week to sit in a Starbucks with a book. My schedule isn’t quite as predictable, but it’s important to find time in your calendar to do it. And don’t tell me you don’t have time. Here are some creative ways to find me time when you have none until you can carve out the time in your calendar:
- Drive long commutes to and from the office? Turn off the radio, disconnect the Bluetooth, pack up the cell phones (which you should be doing anyway) and spend that time in silence concentrating on the road and thinking. I’ve come up with some of my most brilliant ideas whilst driving in silence, and I am always more relaxed when I get to my destination
- Spend your day at home with a baby? My mom told me when I was first a new mother that I should sleep when he did – and while I was blessed with a new baby that was an excellent sleeper – I laid down in those first few months whenever he did. Even if I didn’t sleep, it was an opportunity to lie down and think about my happy place rather than the poopy diapers piled up in the next room. Me being sane and more relaxed makes me a better parent
- Have to feed your family and make dinner at night? Ban everyone from the kitchen, pour a glass of wine and enjoy the act of preparing food for your family. You’d be surprised how even those who hate to cook can become quite the chefs when it means a little time to themselves – plus added benefit of eating healthier!
- Busy in an office all day? When the day gets to be particularly stressful, I have been known to leave my desk and go sit in my car for 5-10 minutes. I find sitting in the car and focusing on whatever is stressing me out (deadlines, personality conflicts, etc.) enables me to get to the root of my problem and in turn leave the safe confines of my car in a much better mental place. My office also recently installed a quiet room area where they have installed couches, comfy chairs and private areas to sit and decompress that employees can visit on breaks or at lunch – and while I’ve not yet visited the area, it’s a great sign that many companies are taking steps to recognize me-time as a real thing
- Really, truly have no time at all during the day? Take 5 minutes right before dozing off at night, lying in bed, to think about your to-do list for the next day, think through an idea that popped in your head earlier, daydream about that lingering dream which you’re trying to figure out how to make a reality, listen to a meditation podcast and relax. Just connect with yourself and your thoughts.
So you’ve carved out some time and have time to spend reconnecting with yourself. What does one do during me-time? Well – this is where you need to know what floats your boat. I enjoy me-time more than many people and know exactly what I would do with the rare, valuable and cherished time I get to myself. Here’s what I did:
Ask yourself what you would do if you had no commitments. You have a paid week off from work and no family, friend or other social commitments. Your husband/kids/roommate/mom/sister/boyfriend/girlfriend are gone to Antarctica with no cell phone reception for the week. You have one week entirely at your disposal with no one to judge how you spend your time or try and change your mind, but with all the resources you currently have (you didn’t win the lottery in this daydream). How would you spend your time? What would you do?
Delving deep into this exercise will give you a pretty clear picture about yourself if you don’t already know. And reading into those answers will get you in a spot that you are able to identify what you should be doing during this time to nurture your relationship with yourself. What would I do? Well, I would eat spaghetti morning, noon and night. I’d catch up on seasons of TV my husband can’t stand, I’d get my hair and nails done. I’d wander around my favourite stores looking at the new items, I’d re-organize my closet. I’d burn my expensive candles, I’d drink really nice wine. I’d dance around to my favourite music, I’d probably spend a lot of time on my blogs. I’d clean out the junk drawer that I’ve been avoiding for months, I’d take all the clothes that need to go to the tailor/drycleaner to them so I can wear them again. I’d re-curate my Pinterest boards, I’d buy myself fresh flowers. I’d go sit by the ocean with a latté, I’d figure out how to backup my photo stream.
Do you see were this is going? In doing this exercise a few years ago, I discovered all the things that make me tick, the things that are weighing on my mind and that I should just do already and what things relax and interest me. Don’t worry if people will judge you for them either – this is not about what anyone but you thinks. From my list, my me-time is spent doing the things I like to do- browsing shops, drinking wine, blogging and being pampered. But it’s also allowed me to realize if I love spaghetti as much as I do – why not learn how to make homemade pasta and sauce? If I’m thinking about the random junk drawer I would clean, why not just clean it? If I like to dance when no one is watching, why not take a dance class and have that be my exercise I always beat myself up for not doing? Me time can be not just decompressing in the traditional sense, but anything that takes something off the plate of worry we all have.
I said this list would go beyond a day at the spa, but it is the first thing that comes to people’s mind when they think of “me-time” for a very particular reason. I’ve had some of my most surprising revelations whilst lying in the quiet dark ambiance of a spa while my troubles get massaged away. Plus, there is the added benefit that you leave feeling like a million bucks. Still don’t believe me? There is scientific evidence that massage has a variety of health benefits and with individuals in the US spending $4-6 Billion dollars a year on massage it can’t be just me. If you’re lucky enough to have extended health insurance coverage, be sure to check and see if professional therapeutic massages are covered in your annual plan. I am lucky enough to have several hundred dollars a year worth of coverage in my plan that I take full advantage of every year – meaning that it doesn’t even have to cost me anything out of pocket to use. I also discovered several treatments beyond massage that I love to indulge in at the spa – purifying mud baths, facials… Anything that involves you, yourself and relaxation is a win.
I truly hope that in reading this, you have gotten an idea of a way that you can take some time out of your busy days to reconnect with yourself. If you don’t think that it’s true, I dare you to Google the research behind it or the libraries of books full of quotes referencing the importance of taking time for yourself. Think about it – you will never know, love or believe in anyone as much as you believe in yourself… So putting the time into you is a pretty great investment.