By Susan Jerrell, TOFT Founder
Make time for yourself and you will feel better about the time you make for others. If you devote every waking moment giving to others, you may find yourself short tempered, agitated, and stressed. These feelings can manifest themselves both emotionally and physically.
What if you could decrease those feelings of frustration and angst?
You can actually, if you start taking time for yourself.
But how do I make time for myself, you ask? “My schedule is booked. I don’t have any time. I feel guilty. I have to do everything.” If those excuses sound familiar, rest assured there are ways to make time for yourself and definite benefits when you do.
Specifically, you will learn how to tell if it’s time for some “me time,” why “me time” is important,” how to find time for “me time,” and how to overcome resistance to “me time.”
“If you feel ‘burnout’ setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself.” – Dalai Lama
How to tell it’s time for some ‘me time’
You will know you need “me time” when everyday life is overwhelming. You have most likely at some point said, “I need some time for myself!”
If you recognize any of these traits in yourself, it’s time to take a break:
- You feel easily irritated by actions that normally do not bother you.
- People get on your nerves for even mundane things. You know it’s bad when even their breathing or the way they chew is making you crazy.
- You do not find anything funny and have forgotten what it’s like to have fun. You wonder if you’ve forgotten how to smile.
- You feel stressed all the time. Some days you feel like you don’t even have time to breathe and one more task would send you over the edge.
- You are not enjoying life and always feel tired. You go through the motions, but nothing is giving you pleasure. You may have to drag yourself out of bed each morning.
- You react negatively or angrily. Has anyone asked why you are mad lately? Have you angrily responded, “I’m not!”
- The muscles under your shoulder blades feel tense and your head throbs. You can physically feel the tension in your body.
We’ve all been there at one time or another. No doubt life is busy, but taking care of ourselves allows us to renew ourselves and then give our best for others.
Why having time for yourself is important
“Me time” is important for your overall mental health. Having time alone to do something you enjoy helps you decrease stress and unwind. That decompression time is important because it gives you a chance to recharge your energy and well being.
Not allowing time to care for yourself can lead to burnout, more frequent illness, and exhaustion. All of these characteristics can decrease your work productivity and hurt your relationships.
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” – Anne Lamot
A study by Dr. Almuth McDowell found that quality “me time” improved psychological well being, family relationships, and work productivity. The length of time spent alone was not as important as the freedom to choose the activity. Doing something you enjoy can give you a feeling of satisfaction that translates into happiness and goodwill toward others.
Spending time alone can also increase your creativity and help you process your thoughts. This can aid in memory retention and improve your concentration. According to Psychology Today, alone time allows you to think deeply, discover yourself, and effectively work through problems.
So now that you know why having “me time” is important, let’s talk about how you can make time for yourself.
Plan what to do with your ‘me time’
Each of us will approach “me time” in our own way, as we should. After all, that is what “me time” is all about. However, we can all benefit with a plan to make it happen. Why? Because without a plan we will aimlessly waste the precious time we have and end up feeling less than satisfied.
Think back to the times you mindlessly scrolled through Facebook posts or Instagram photos and realized that an hour had passed by and you could never get those stolen moments back. More than likely you felt frustrated rather than rejuvenated.
To get started, begin with a wish list of activities you really want to do. Make an actual physical list of them all, both small things that will take minutes and longer projects that can be ongoing.
Think about activities that make you feel valued. What makes you feel satisfied and whole? Is there an activity that brings you joy? What makes you happy?
It can be as small as sipping a cup of coffee on your back porch as you watch the sunrise or as grand as a day away at a spa being pampered.
The only requirement is that it be something you enjoy. You should look forward to it and be fully absorbed in it. The ideal “me time” would take you away for the moment from all you deal with on a daily basis, let you forget, and allow you to recharge.
Ideas for what to do during ‘me time’
While ideas for your special alone time will vary, there are some activities that lend themselves to mental and physical benefits.
Find a passion or hobby. Think about those activities you are naturally drawn to and that allow you to escape for a bit. Whether you read a book, build a chair, shoot a target, or work a puzzle, they all serve the purpose of letting you relax and let your guard down.
Step into nature. Nature has a way of soothing our souls and allowing us to reflect. Take a walk, plant a garden, mow your yard, sit in the sun, watch the birds, or pick some flowers. Breathe deeply, feel the earth under your feet and the breeze on your face as you take in the natural surroundings.
Get physical. If you like physical activity, a game of tennis, golf, a run, lifting weights, a hike, or exercise may be just what you need to feel rejuvenated.
Indulge in personal self care. A massage, a manicure or pedicure, a day at the spa, or some time at the pool may be the activity you need to gain your equilibrium and make your spirits soar.
Let your creativity flow. For the creative minds, painting, photography, writing, or journaling are all “me time” activities that can refresh your mind and improve your mood.
“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.” – Jean Shinoda Bolen
While we call it “me time,” you might also occasionally choose to enjoy time with your best friend or spouse. Sometimes those personal connections provide a respite from the everyday routine.
Trying a variety pack of ideas will also help keep you from stagnating and give you something to look forward to. Regardless of the activity you choose, it should give you pleasure and make you happy.
Find ways to make ‘me time’ happen
One of the biggest excuses for not taking time for yourself is the time factor. On a busy day it is easy to say there is no time. The problem with that is that when we don’t take time for ourselves we can become bitter and angry. When that happens, no one wants to be around us, and we don’t even want to be around ourselves.
The solution? Find the time.
Start by looking at how you spend your time each day. Be honest with yourself. Take a couple of days and make a list of all your activities and how long you spend doing them.
I set my phone to notify me of how much time I spent online, and quite honestly, it was ridiculous. I quickly found time I didn’t think I had. How much time do you spend on social media, Youtube, or online window shopping?
Look over the list and see what must stay and what could actually be erased, rearranged or saved for another time.
Schedule time with yourself
Next, schedule time with yourself. Actually put “me time” on your To Do list. Physically write it on your daily schedule like you do all of your other activities. If you do not prioritize it, you will not make it happen.
Be realistic when you do this. Some days you will have more time than others. It’s okay if sometimes you only have 10 minutes. Just make those 10 minutes count!
Carve out and claim time to care for yourself and kindle your own fire. – Amy Ippoliti
However, if you look creatively you can likely find several short amounts of time throughout the day. Think of your drive to or from work, the brief morning moments before your day goes into full on assault, a quiet moment while you are folding clothes, or that half an hour before you fall into bed. While you may not have a consecutive hour to yourself, you may find some stolen moments along the way.
I like to grab my Kindle for moments I might have to wait and enjoy a few minutes of reading time. Where can you find some stolen moments in your day?
Let go of unrealistic expectations
Next, discover what you can let go. Forget about perfection and the unrealistic expectation that you can do everything. Look over your To Do list and decide what doesn’t actually have to be done. Keep the non negotiables like sleep, but the cobwebs in the corner will wait until another day.
You can also learn to delegate some things on your list. What can your spouse do to help lighten the load? Are their jobs your children can do that you are currently doing for them? What jobs or duties at work do you take care of, but do not really have to do?
Part of this is giving yourself permission to give up control. Too often we think that no one else can do what we do. Or, we think no one else does it as well as we do. That control puts unneeded pressure on you and decreases the available time you could use for yourself.
“When you say ‘yes’ to others make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.” – Paulo Coelho
Lastly, learn to say no. When you already have a full plate, don’t agree to do more. It is okay to say no. In fact, it is the only way to guarantee you save time for yourself. If you do not say no to some activities and request, you will find yourself over-scheduled and overwhelmed.
It is important to realize that the world will go on just fine if you don’t step in and try to do it all. To find time for yourself, lower those perfection expectations and allow others to help.
Overcome resistance to ‘me time’
Sadly, the first resistance to “me time” you may encounter is from yourself. Many of us have been raised to put others first. Overtime we have taken it to such an extreme that we forget we also need to take care of ourselves. We may even feel like we shouldn’t take time for ourselves or that we don’t deserve it.
Let’s clear that up right now. It is okay to give time to yourself. You do deserve it, and it does not make you selfish. When you take care of yourself you are much more able to take care of others, and you will do it much more graciously.
“Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.” – Anna Taylor
The second resistance you may find is from your own family who may be used to having all of your time. However, you can train your family, and there is no reason to feel guilty. Explain to your family the importance for all of you to have time to yourselves. This doesn’t have to be just about you because each family member can benefit from their own “me time.”
If you are married, start by talking to your spouse and letting him/her know why this is important to you. Enlist their help and support. Also be a willing partner in giving them their much needed “me time” too. Taking time for yourself in a relationship can make each of you stronger and more attuned to each other’s needs. It allows you to be fully present when you are together.
Finding time for yourself as a parent can be particularly challenging. With babies and toddlers, you will probably have to wait for nap time or bedtime, but older children are fully capable of understanding the need for alone time. Children can benefit from time to do something for themselves as well. You are teaching them a practical, self-care technique. It can be a time you all look forward to.
If you have teenagers, you’ve probably found that they take a lot of “me time.” In their ego-centric world, they may need to be awakened to the fact that you deserve the same courtesy you afford them.
Thirdly, you may find some resistance from your work. If you are the person people turn to for extra work hours, extra projects, committee assignments, and just a few more minutes of your time, you will need to set some boundaries. Just because you are asked to do something, doesn’t mean you have to say yes. Decide in advance what your personal needs and expectations are and stick to them except in emergency situations.
Establish your expectations and again, add those plans to your To Do list. Give it some time, and you as well as your family will soon adapt to those expectations. The more persistent you remain, the less resistance you will feel from yourself and others.
Make time for yourself today
Start planning your “me time” now. Don’t wait.
Making time for yourself, can change your general outlook and leave you feeling happier and more fulfilled. With intentional planning, you can find some time each day for you.
“Take the time today to love yourself. You deserve it.” – Avina Celeste
Remember, you do not have to justify yourself. It’s okay to say you have plans, because you do have plans with yourself! Taking care of yourself benefits not just you, but all the people around you. A happier you means happier people around you.
So, throw away the guilt. You are worth it. Your mental and physical health are worth it. End of story.