Why taking time for you isn’t selfish

‘Time is a created thing. To say “I don’t have time” is to say “I don’t want to’ – Lao Tzu, ancient Chinese philosopher

OK, you may not agree with Lao Tzu, but the truth is, if you really wanted to spend a couple of minutes on yourself, you could. It’s more of a mindset change. You might say that you’ve got a busy life and a million and one demands on your time but if you discovered that taking time for you every day would mean you’d have more energy, better motivation and increased enthusiasm, wouldn’t it be worth it? It’s incredibly hard when you have a busy life and your to-do list is never ending but it really is important to take time just for you.

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I can’t possibly fit in any time for me!

If you’ve got lots of demands on your time, particularly small children who have no understanding of personal space (yep I’ve been there too!) you might feel like this is an impossible ask. It might be tricky to fit something in when you won’t be disturbed but it is so worth it. Maybe you’ll need to start with just a couple of minutes. Maybe that time will need to be in the bathroom or in the car because they are the only places you can lock yourself away! It really doesn’t matter when or where, the important thing is that you do it!

I have lots of me-time already thanks!

Of course not everybody has a super busy life. Some of us have lives that aren’t particularly demanding, who are able to spend plenty of time doing things they enjoy, watching TV, scrolling though social media, meeting with friends and family. They have plenty of me-time don’t they? You might be surprised at this but the answer is – not necessarily!

This came as a big surprise to me. I thought I had me-time. Outside of work, I have no real demands on my time. I am able to spend a couple of hours each evening relaxing, maybe watching TV, reading, phoning a friend, playing a game on my iPad or scrolling on social media. Before the pandemic I would regularly go out for a meal with a friend or visit the theatre and I was also going to a weekly dance class – two hours of something I loved. Surely all of these things were me-time? Well it turns out that they’re not. There’s nothing wrong with them, far from it, but they are not the me-time we’re taking about here.

The ‘rules’ of Me-Time

Taking time for you is about doing something on your own that makes you feel calm and relaxed. Something where the stresses and strains of daily life aren’t bothering you, either because you are fully absorbed in the activity or because you are giving yourself the space and permission to empty your mind of thoughts. To genuinely count as ‘Me-time’, make sure you stick to these four principles:

  • Ideally spend at least five minutes on whatever activity or mindfulness practice you choose
  • No screens of any kind allowed!
  • Make it a daily event
  • Do it alone

What type of thing counts?

The list of possibilities is endless and will very much depend on your interests. You might choose to do the same thing every day or change it up. It could be something as simple as making a coffee and sitting in the garden watching the clouds, maybe doing some breathing exercises or taking a bath and really luxuriating in those bubbles. You might decide to meditate or do some yoga or stretches to start your day in a positive way. Maybe you’ll go for a walk, read a couple of chapters of a book or you could try painting, sketching, journalling or scrapbooking. There are endless possibilities but the point is that it should be something you enjoy, something you look forward to and something which leaves you feeling calm.

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If you are really busy and finding time for yourself is hard, then it might not be realistic to pick up your paintbrushes or go for a walk on your own but you could probably manage a few stretches first thing in the morning or maybe some meditation before bed (double benefit as you’re likely to sleep better too!).

Isn’t it just something else to add to my day?

It’s important that me-time is spent in a calm, stress free state. If you see it as one more thing to do, it isn’t going to benefit you and will probably end up causing you more stress. If you write a daily to-do list then try adding ‘me-time’ to it and making it a priority. You’ll probably find it easier to stick to the same time every day and, by doing this, it will help reinforce me-time as a habit.

Sometimes, you can make an activity you are already doing into me-time. Imagine, for example that you always have a cup of coffee in the morning. Normally you drink it while you are making breakfast or loading the washing machine or answering messages or checking the news. You hardly even taste the coffee and sometimes you don’t even finish it. But what if you were to make it in your favourite mug, sit down in a comfy chair and use all five senses as you enjoy it? Imagine how you would enjoy the smell, the feel of the warm mug in your hands, the sight of your special mug and any memories that evokes, the sound of silence (or family life going on around you) and of course, the taste of the coffee. It would only take a few minutes but in that time you would relax, step back for a moment and think about nothing other than your senses and enjoying that coffee.

The important thing is that you make me-time a priority knowing that you are going to benefit from it. Once you’ve tried it for a week or two and have experienced its benefits, hopefully it’ll become a habit and something you can’t wait to do each day!

My journey

For me, I have found that opening my bedroom window and doing a few minutes of stretches first thing in the morning, looking into the garden and completely emptying my mind of thoughts is a great way to start the day. If I find that thoughts are entering my head, I repeat to myself ‘calm’ or ‘I am stretching’ or something similar. You can only think one thought at a time so by repeating a simple phrase or word, you block out anything else.

Doing this every morning is giving me a real sense of calmness and fitting it in isn’t a problem at all. Instead of checking the latest news on my phone before I get out of bed, I am preparing my mind and body for the day ahead. i’ve been doing this for about a week now and I am really beginning to feel the difference.

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I’ve also started writing in a gratitude journal which I do at the end of the day, just before I go to sleep. More on gratitude journals another day!

I’ve learnt that ‘me time’ is actually quite easy to do and I’m trying to make time in my day to do it as much as possible. Sometimes it’s simply changing my mindset and being in the moment. Instead of walking to work thinking about the things I need to do, I focus on my surroundings, particularly the trees, flowers and sky, as well as my footsteps. Or I might sit and watch the birds play in the garden rather than flicking through a magazine or tidying up. It sounds obvious but I had never really done that before.

You are important!

I really hope that after reading this blog you will make ‘me time’ a priority. Prioritising yourself is so important but most of us find it hard and many of us see it as being selfish. But plenty of studies show that, if you can do this every day, you will soon find that you have more energy, greater enthusiasm and increased motivation and are better able to be there for others. Have you ever thought about the safety announcement on a plane which tells you to fit your own oxygen mask first before helping someone else? It’s not selfish to do that, it’s to make sure you can breathe properly and help others to do so too. ‘Me time’ does the same thing.

Spending just a few minutes every day prioritising yourself will help you to be that person who can be fully present for someone else. A win-win! You feel calmer and more energised and those around you will benefit too. What’s your tiny tweak going to be?!

Until next time xx

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2 comments

  1. Hello Cathy, this is really good it breaks down why taking time for yourself is so important. Will definitely try this and stick to the four principles.

    Like

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