I, like most women, am pre-programmed to take care of everybody else before me. It’s hard in this day and age when we seem to be doing it all. We’re daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, professionals, and we feel the pressure every single day.
But we all know how we can be after a couple of nights (or months) of not getting adequate sleep, or how frustrated we get when we don’t get even 15 minutes a day to ourselves.
Taking time off to do something you enjoy as a means of taking the edge off and releasing the pent-up pressure of your daily responsibilities isn’t a luxury – it’s a must!
Studies show that when you don’t prioritize yourself and your needs for, at least, a few minutes each day, you become resentful of those taking up your time and space. Then you start taking it out on them by lashing out, being frustrated all the time as opposed to your usual calm and sweet self.
Taking a breather gives you the opportunity to relax and recharge so you come back with a better ability to carry out your commitments with more clarity and a sense of enjoyment. Learning to be “in the moment” is crucial to your own personal sense of happiness.
This is what those who practice meditation refer to as “practicing mindfulness.” It gives you the power to control your emotions and lower your stress levels. When stress levels are low, your perspective on things tends to be more balanced, and positive, you’re not angry as much, you’re more organized, in control and energetic.
“We’re a multitasking society. If we’re having a conversation with a friend, we’re thinking about the other things we have to get done,” says Allison Cohen, a marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles. “Instead, you need to be present in the moment…”
Often people ask me how I do so much. My response is I have learned to be in the moment. Whoever I am with, whatever I am doing, I concentrate on that and only that. No additional phone calls, no extracurricular activity, nothing. Just that encounter. It keeps things in perspective and creates clarity and strategic moves.
Here are a few tips to remind you how important it is to carve out some time for yourself.
You deserve it.
In order to lower stress levels, women need to stop feeling guilty about leaving the dishes unwashed, leaving the kids to play on their own for a few minutes, or leaving their work at work. So the first step is to consciously make the decision to free up some minutes during the day for you – everything (and everyone) else can wait.
“You have to build in battery recharge time,” says Margaret Moore, co-director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School. “We’re very good at project management in our work lives, but not so well in our personal lives. Treat it like any project…”
Decide how you’d like to spend these precious minutes.
Some women exercise, others read a book; some do yoga, while there are those who just want a cup of coffee and some quiet. Whatever provides you with relaxation and a chance to free your thoughts and release some of the pressure, then that’s what you should do.
Remember, though, that you should treat this time as you would any other appointment and don’t get bullied by your sense of guilt into doing housework or running errands during your special time.
It takes practice, but you’ll quickly discover that you become a much calmer version of you when you make time for yourself, and who doesn’t want that!
Practice smart time management skills.
Whether it’s scanning emails, surfing the net or answering personal calls during your workday, then it’s time to put a stop to anything that wastes time and leads to nothing. Learning to organize your responsibilities should be your top priority, this will eliminate stress and free up time, which you can use for something more enjoyable.
You can even sit down during the weekend to organize your time, and write down everything that should be accomplished for that week. Sometimes, this means that there may be times when you have to say “no” to some obligation or other that you don’t want to participate in that doesn’t bring satisfaction or joy into your life.
On the plus side, if you’re facing a problem at work or at home, sometimes the best way to find an answer is to stop thinking about it altogether.
Channel your energy into doing something creative. Being creative could be what you need to grease those brainstorming wheels and regain your focus. It could also be the exact thing you need for better sleep.
Find the time.
Well, unfortunately, there are only so many hours in a day – you won’t ever be able to change that. However, what you can do is free up some time here and there to your own personal gain. Juggling your work or study schedule, traffic and everything in between can be freakishly difficult to handle.
However, all you need are some smart organizational skills, and you can be the one in control of your time and not the other way around.
- If you drive, use this time to listen to music or the radio. You can even enjoy the quiet and your own thoughts.
- If you can ditch your car and use public transportation, then you can use that time to do something you enjoy, like read a book or writing or even meditation.
- If you can walk, all the better. This way, you’re doing some exercising; you can listen to music or an audiobook.
- If you have an appointment, try to get there 15 minutes, or even more, early so you can have those minutes to yourself.
- If you can, have lunch by yourself at least once a week. Go to the park to get a break from all noise pollution, or if you can’t, stay in your car or a quiet cafe or restaurant where you won’t find any distractions. Many associate being alone with loneliness, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Being by yourself allows you to enjoy your own company. You get back in touch with your interests, likes and dislikes so you know exactly what makes you happy, and a stronger version of yourself.
“Solitary time can help you have a better understanding of yourself, your thoughts, and your emotions,” says Katherine L. Muller, PsyD, associate director at Center for Integrative Psychotherapy.