Whether you're single, married, or in a relationship, the demands of life and the expectations of those nearest and dearest to your heart can make finding time for yourself a huge challenge. Between dedicating time to parents, children, partners, siblings, in-laws, nieces, nephews, friends, colleagues, and work, it's hard to even dream of stealing a little time for yourself.
Couple that with the guilt that many people, especially women, experience when they manage to find a few moments of time for themselves, and it becomes clear why so many people feel that finding time for themselves isn't worth the effort. But worth the effort it is, and not only because of the personal benefits you'll reap. Alone time has interpersonal benefits as well.
As I described in my recent post, 6 Reasons Why You Should Spend More Time Alone, the personal benefits of solitude are many. Taking time for yourself gives your brain a chance to reboot, improves concentration, increases productivity, helps you discover (or rediscover) your own voice, gives you a chance to think deeply, and helps you problem solve more effectively. It also gives you a better sense of balance and self-awareness that can lead to a better understanding of yourself--what drives you, what inspires you, what excites you. This, in turn, can have a positive effect not only on the quality of your relationship with yourself, but also on the quality of your relationships with others.
But in today's world, how do you find the time to give to yourself? And equally important, how do you deal with the guilt when you somehow manage to find it?
As overscheduled as our lives are these days, it can be quite a challenge to find time for yourself. There are a few things you can do, such as using your lunch hour, waking up a little earlier than everyone else, and temporarily disconnecting from your gadgets (see 6 Reasons ... for more details). But if you've tried these tricks and still can't seem to find any time to schedule for yourself, then you may need to take a hard look at your schedule and your priorities.
What are some things you're doing now that can be consolidated or eliminated? Is there anything that can be postponed? What can be delegated? Maybe it's true that you can do things better than everyone else, but in most schedules, there are some things that don't need to be done better; they just need to be done. By delegating those tasks, you can free up some time for yourself, which may be much more productive in the long run than doing everything yourself.
Another important point to remember is that you don't have to come up with hours and hours of alone time. Just start off small and see what happens. Hopefully, the little bit of time you steal for yourself will become so reinforcing that you'll find more and more ways to get more of it.
Overcoming the Guilt
Some people, particularly women, feel guilty about taking time for themselves. They see themselves as the one who should be taking care of everyone else, and their needs often fall by the wayside. However, taking care of yourself is something that you should never feel guilty about. It not only models healthy behavior for the ones you love, it also keeps you happy, healthy, and strong so that you can continue doing what fulfills you; and if that's taking care of others, then you're in an even better position to do that.
Moreover, guilt is counterproductive to reaping the full benefits of solitude. If you spend all or even some of your "found" time feeling guilty that you found it, then doesn't that defeat the purpose?
If you need even more justification to lose the guilt, consider these points:
♦ Spending time with yourself is time well spent because it makes you a happier person to be around.
♦ Spending time with yourself benefits everyone because by having a happier and healthier mindset, you're in a better frame of mind to take care of the people who are important to you.
♦ Spending time with yourself is preventative medicine to combat burnout. What good will you be to anyone if you eventually burnout? (And you will if you don't take care of yourself.)
Once you begin making time for yourself, dont be surprised if you don't run into a little resistance from those in your life who are used to you always being available. There are many reasons why this resistance might happen--insecurity, overdependence, feeling slighted or rejected, or simply because they have become accustomed to always having you around. Don't let their resistance stop you. Reassure these people that you're still there for them, but in order to be there for them over the long haul, you also have to also take care of yourself. Then, do it! Just as they've grown accustomed to you always being there for them, they'll get accustomed to you taking time for yourself.
Hopefully, the ideas I've shared here will leave you inspired and motivated to find ways to make time for yourself. If you need a little more inspiration, here's a quote I like from Marty Herald's Personal Growth and the Art of Inspired Living blog. She writes, "When we take some time to solely think about ourselves, and not have to consider our impact on others, we begin the process of true self-awareness. It can be a little daunting at first, but the result of this awareness is that you learn what drives you, what excites you, and what motivates you. This new-found self-awareness is a beautiful thing and it can have a dramatically positive effect on your life and relationships."
So give yourself a gift that will keep on giving ... time for yourself.
© 2012 Sherrie Bourg Carter, All Rights Reserved
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Sherrie Bourg Carter is the author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout
(Prometheus Books, 2011).