It has taken me a long time to say this without apology, but here it goes: My “me time” is non-negotiable.
If it sounds selfish it’s because, well, to some degree, it is. But, being selfish is sometimes the only way you can take care of some self-ish. Spending time with yourself to observe, listen, learn, reflect, and release is nurturing and is imperative to personal growth. Unfortunately, given all the obligations (used in a neutral, not necessarily positive or negative manner) in our lives, it is easy to neglect our selves. Even more unfortunately, life will throw ish at us until we are forced to turn our attention to ourselves.
I absolutely learned this the hard way. Twice. Once in college when I was putting all of my attention on school and many other obligations and not enough on myself. Life gave me an anxiety attack so severe that I landed in the ER and subsequent attacks that eventually had me on medication. I changed a lot of things in my life including starting yoga and was great for a while.
Then imbalance struck again years later in my first stint of graduate school and left me with misdiagnosed health issues that affected me for 3 years. Both of these were situations where my “me time” was either non-existent, unproductive, or even counterproductive. I was negotiating me too much. Even now I will get little reminders (injury, sickness, etc.) that I need to stop negotiating.
The difference is, now I listen and I listen early. And then I stop negotiating.
Block Out Time
You are your own VIP. You’re more important than the other VIPs in your contact list.
Whether this means you physically block out chunks of time in your calendar, post a sticky on your mirror, or you just mentally make notes, you need to block out time. And it needs to be non-negotiable. That is for you, by you and it is important. Whether you have 5 minutes for a quick #ReadySetPause or 5 hours for a spa day, intentionally focused “me time” is still “me time.”
In fact, I often find when I have less time to work with I am less distracted from the task at hand: connecting with me. I know for a fact that it was my specific attention to carving out this “me time’ that got me through my PhD without the same health issues I had in previous academic experiences. I wouldn’t have made it otherwise.
Stick up for yourself with your time. Self-defense is the best offense.
Disclaimer: I am not married, I don’t have kids and I don’t work a typical 9-5 type job. I fully understand that my potential opportunity for “me time” is, therefore, much more flexible than someone who does have these obligations. However, while I may have more flexibility especially with the amount of time spent, the principle is the same.
There Are Exceptions To Every Rule
Non-negotiable needs to stay non-negotiable. As someone who strives to be the exception to the rule in life in general, I will, of course concede that there are exceptions. Special, one-time events, emergencies, unforeseen circumstances, etc happen. It’s ok. What’s not ok is for those “special, one-time events” to become habitual. That is when you’ve turned to negotiable. There will always be invitations, obligations, and opportunities, you need to decide if you can sacrifice your “me time” for them or not. Or maybe there is a way you can work around it. Maybe you can arrive late to something or leave early, maybe you reschedule or skip it all together.
You are the judge of importance. Just remember, it is very easy to start negotiating your time away to others. Be purposeful and intentional about keeping at least some time for you.
Spend Your Time Wisely
How do you best connect with yourself? Meditating? Gardening? Yoga? Running? Training? Crafting? Whatever it is, make it serve you. Let it help you disconnect from everything else. Let it be about you and that activity. For me, it’s my sweat time. Obviously this serves multiple purposes in helping me as it is strengthens me physically as well, but it is my mental disconnect into my physical body that I crave. The catch is, this is also my job, so it’s extra tricky to make sure that I spend time for me, by me without regard to my clients, classes, etc. I often train outdoors by myself for this reason. It’s just me with my iPod and my sweat. You don’t want your “me time” to be a job, or a chore or anything other than self-fulfilling time. Even if your job is your passion (as in my example), this time is solely about you.
Remember the Oxygen Mask
You know the safety precautions on an airplane they drill into you about putting on your oxygen mask first before helping others who may need assistance? Yeah, well, the same applies here. There’s only so long you can go helping others and disregarding yourself before you run out of steam. Prevent that. Put your mask on first, get some oxygen and then you can help everyone around you with his/hers. “Putting on your mask” doesn’t have to take a lot of your time away from everyone else. But taking care of your needs first will likely give everyone else a healthier, more helpful version of you to work with or be around. Please believe, I understand that is easier said than done. Clearly, as the only way I have even been remotely successful at being non-negotiable was to fail at it repeatedly. I struggle with it all the time. We tend to feel guilty about being selfish, especially when it comes to doing things we really like to do. But it is so useful. And necessary. And it just makes you better at everything else you do.
Be selfish. Get into your self-ish. And do it unapologetically.
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