No matter how much one thrives on activity (I don’t) or crowds (I don’t) or deadlines (blech), down time is essential. You need to take time for yourself. This so-called selfishness can save your sanity.
Note: This is a guest essay by Nanea Hoffman.
According to physics, “Time is a scalar quantity.”
Translated for people like me (who almost flunked that class), this means something that has “magnitude” – but “no direction.”
In my experience, “Me Time” is a concept of great personal magnitude – and, ideally, also has no direction.
I mean Me Time.
Even if you manage only 10 minutes of this in a day, it is worth it, because without these interludes of self-indulgence, you will become a petulant, pouty, strung-out tangle of toxic resentment.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Who enjoys being around someone who refuses to draw boundaries for herself? No one you would want to know, that’s for sure.
We all have wants, needs, and limits. It is unhelpful and unkind to pretend otherwise.
A long time ago, when I was a new mom and I was going through one of my chronic bouts of existential angst, I saw this woman on the Oprah show talking about how to cherish yourself. She said it was important, every morning, to make sure your cup was full. She wasn’t talking about coffee.
Every day, explained the guru woman, before you went to your husband, your children, your job, you should take a moment to “come into yourself.”
I remember being thoroughly annoyed. Very poetic, lady. Now, how the hell do I do that? I wake up every morning next to my husband. My 18 month old is still nursing, so he’s more like a growth on my left hip than a separate child-entity. And I’m a housewife, so I wake up in my job every damn day.I understand now that what the wise Oprah guest lady was trying to say is that you have to take time for yourself, every day. Maybe not first thing in the morning, but at some point. I’ve had a spotty track record with this, over the years.
There are literally days when I forget to eat breakfast or lunch because I have been so busy taking care of everyone else and fulfilling obligations that suddenly it’s 4 p.m. and I’m stupid-hungry.
Then, I eat a bowl of cereal and realize that I’m not getting sick, I was just hypoglycemic.
Carving out time to eat a meal does not, by the way, count as Me Time.
Or it shouldn’t.
Here’s a quote from Ester Buchholz, Ph.D., in Psychology Today:
“When listening to patients talk about their lovers, family, or friends, I am struck by their expressions of gratitude if they receive “time off” to engage in their own pursuits. Like prisoners who are granted parole before they deserve it, they feel that their freedom is a gracious gift. Therefore, they have a hard time ever suggesting the possibility of spending a relaxing day alone.”
I know my family can tell you that I’m much nicer to be around after I’ve had some personal time.
They would much rather have me take a 45 minute break and then return refreshed and engaged than live with my tight-lipped, barely restrained impatience all the damn time. Nobody likes a martyr.
That is the tricky part. There’s no specific formula. Here’s what some of my sanity breaks have looked like:
– 15 minutes of sitting on the step outside my house (which could charitably be described as “a festering armpit” filled with dirty dishes, laundry, clutter, and cats) while drinking a beer and ranting to my sister on the phone
– 30 minutes of wandering the aisles of Safeway with my earbuds on listening to my favorite playlist (sometimes it’s okay to multitask during Me Time, as long as you feel fulfilled), stretching a quick shopping trip into an air-conditioned, fluorescent-lit mental health break
– 2 hours with my best friend at a grungy neighborhood pub on a Friday, after the family has been fed and tended
– 40 minutes on the elliptical watching an Orphan Black episode
Remind yourself that you aren’t taking this time from your loved ones; you’re taking it for them. You’re giving them the gift of a calmer, nicer, more present you when you return.
Seriously. Ask them which they prefer.
My life is hectic. I’ve got two school age children, a husband, a house that always verges on chaotic, an elderly mother to care for, and there’s this website I run. There are lots of needs to fill. There always will be.
Some days, I am hanging on by my fingernails. I’m not going to get everything done, and I’m certainly not going to get everything done perfectly. So, the best I can manage is to remember to put on my own oxygen mask first.
This post was originally published on Sweatpants & Coffee, here.
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Nanea Hoffman is the founder and Editor in Chief of Sweatpants & Coffee, an online magazine dedicated to comfort, creativity, inspiration, and fun. She writes, she makes stuff, she drinks an inordinate amount of coffee and loves stretchy pants. Twitter: https://twitter.com/SweatpantsCafe Facebook:Sweatpants & Coffee and Nanea Hoffman Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sweatpantsandcoffee/
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