Something we struggle with as busy, always connected people is making time for ourselves. Yet every self help guide, mindful course, book on wellbeing, article on ways to avoid depression and increase wellbeing all point to a key area to develop; making time for yourself.
Easy said right? We all have some pressures in our life, whether that’s work, study, family, friends, pets, a project we’re committed too, or a never ending commitment to posting selfies. There are always things we could, and we feel we should, be doing.
That’s one of our first issues; guilt. Guilt at spending quality time with ourselves. Whether it’s ‘I’m not worthy’, or ‘There’s a million other things that I should be doing’ or ‘I don’t spend enough time with the people I love so I don’t even have time to spend on me’, we all have narratives in our head that stop us making time for ourselves.
Well it’s a myth. We can all make time for ourselves, whether it’s 15 minutes a day, or carving out an hour of time on a weekend. Sure if you have commitments such as children or pets, it’s a lot harder, but it’s a discipline, and it’s hard to create the habit but so worth it if you can.
First comes acceptance: you deserve this time. It will give you a sense of peace if you let it, a chance to recharge your batteries, let go of things that are bugging you, take a few deep breaths, allow yourself to miss those that are normally around you demanding your time and energy, and give you time to be you. So accept, this is part of what you need to be happy and healthy, for your wellbeing, and part of a routine to build in, as much as time at the gym, or Facebook is part of your life.
Secondly schedule: If you know you’re going to struggle to find the time, or allow yourself the time, put it in your diary, stick it on the family planner, even put it in the work calendar if you’re going to take it on your lunch break. It will be much easier to stick to if it’s there in black and white. If you’re going to stick to the same time every week then make it a recurring appointment.
Tell everyone: Set expectations. Tell your family you’ll be taking an hour out on a Sunday morning. Tell your colleagues you will be having a 30 minute lunch break, explain to your partner you will be taking half an hour after work each day and carve out and protect that time. At first people might find it hard to accept, they may even call you selfish for daring to look after yourself, but persevere and it will become their habit as well as yours. In the mindful course I went on, our tutor told us about someone who had attended, who had worked all the hours known to mankind, and never taken time for themselves. As a result at some point everything had come crashing down. Now every lunchtime, they take a lunch break for themselves. Everyone knows and respects that that is what happens. It even encourages others to know the importance of lunch breaks.
Find things you love to do: This is the fun bit, what are you going to do with your time? If you’re going to take smaller breaks due to commitments such as having to fit in with a baby sleeping, or a caring role then finding bite size things to do could be part of starting your alone time; a meditation, a read of a magazine, painting your nails, a short walk, even sitting out in the garden and noticing how beautiful the flowers are. There are lots of things you can do in small slots of time. If you give yourself more time then you can explore the city, take a picnic, go for a drive, read a book, get out in the garden and do some planting, go for a run, a longer walk, go for a coffee, take up some craft, make something, bake something. Get in touch with old hobbies, or catch up on all those things you’ve wanted to do but don’t have time for
Turn your phone off or onto silent and put it in a drawer: unless you absolutely need it on, and in all honesty, apart from if you were waiting for the call of a lifetime, or there’s an emergency situation going on, there aren’t many reasons why you should need it on 24/7. It’s likely to be a distraction and if you do answer it during your ‘me time’ you’re not respecting that time, so others won’t either. Getting on apps like Facebook and instagram isn’t making you time, because you’re still connected to hundreds, if not thousands of other people.
Finally enjoy it: At first when you start having alone time it can be strange, you’re not used to it, other people don’t like you not being on call all the time, you don’t know what to do with yourself, you feel guilty for putting yourself first, but over time you’ll learn to enjoy and treasure the time you give yourself. You can always use some of the first times you have for yourself to think of activities or things you’d love to do for yourself and make a note of them for future.
I can’t function without alone time now. I’ve got over the guilty feeling that I should be doing things for others. I do all sorts of things, I volunteer at a cat rescue, read books, go for a coffee or an explore, I am trying to learn to crochet necklaces (but failing miserably), I meditate, look at the world outside. Afterwards I feel a sense of piece, and I am all round a much nicer person to live with, I think my wife would tell you that too!
Let me know if you are new to making time for yourself, and how it goes if you give it a try.