At a recent conference I got chatting to a colleague in her 50s, who told me that she doesn’t think she has ever had real “me-time”. She got married in her 20s and had kids pretty much straight away, and explained that she has always done things for her family; her partner, her growing children… the very thought of taking even an hour out for herself made her feel “guilty” (not to mention, impossible).
I was shocked and intrigued by this, so I started investigating a bit and realised that this effects so many people! I was chatting to an old friend, now a mother of two, and she practically exploded on me “Grace! I honestly have NO time for myself! the only times I get alone is when I’m in the shower or asleep, honestly!”
The thing that amazes me about this is how my attitude and thoughts about this have really changed since I’ve taken a greater interest in my fitness and health. I got into a relationship and married pretty quickly, straight after university in fact when I was 24 years old. I certainly enjoyed being a “miss independent” with my “single ladies” in my uni years – so it was a real adjustment to getting married (and living with a boy for the first time!).
Despite thinking I was quite care free in my youth I realise that I devoted a lot of time to others; I was your classic “constant giver” and put myself last – including my health. I wouldn’t bother working out and blow the diet on the first day to buy and eat cheesecake with a friend who just got dumped (true story!) and this happened more often then once!
As time went on I became a constant giver not just in my personal life, but in my professional life. My life and time revolved around serving others to the point I felt guilty to take any time for myself. I would work through my lunch breaks and not even take time to pee during the day let alone drink a cup of water. I at one point in the haze of exams on top of more exams I was close to total burnout. I was stressed to the eyeballs, eating rubbish food, dehydrated, never working out and feeling guilty for even taking half an hour to go for a walk.
It was when I reached this pivotal pint that I learnt the importance of protecting myself. I realised I’m no good to anyone if I’m frazzled, stressed and certainly no good to myself morbidly obese and unhappy in my skin. I realised that if I was struggling with this now, how on earth would i cope with final exams, a child, or a mortgage (or all 3?!)
Which brings me back to Me-Time. As a part of my “6 month experiment” I talked about earlier in the year, I decided to consciously devote time to myself. In the same way I would meet up with a friend for brunch/coffee/a date – I have been treating myself to things I have always wanted to do; whether that be spending some time in the gym spa, going to an art gallery, going to a music gig or just reading a novel or taking time to blow dry my hair. Being “clean” from facebook for now 8 months now has been a HUGE improvement too as I’m not a spectator in others lives anymore but living my own!
“Dating” myself has been SUCH a JOY! For someone that has really struggled with (closet) low self esteem at points in my life, it has been great falling in love with myself all over again. I am aware that this can all sound extremely selfish/self absorbed – but having been on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, a little bit of self-centeredness on this occasion has been a Godsend!
One of the biggest changes I’ve made is to my health. I’m now working out 5-6 times a week consistently for the last month! I cannot tell you what a difference it has made! I’m doing a combination of weight lifting, HIIT, Classes and Yoga and I’m NEVER bored – to be honest its the highlight of my day (other then seeing my partner of course!) I also do not flake out on myself; I will not cancel my plans to take myself to yoga just because it is convenient for someone else. I’ve learnt the importance of saying “No” and sticking up for myself – which is HUGE!
I’ve also got hobbies, interests and all round feel like a more balanced, happy, smiley, excited person. Creating that space for Me to figure out who “ME” is has made me realise what I like (and what I don’t like) and who I want to be (and who I don’t want to be). My professional goals and personal goals are so much more clearer, and I think I would still be sifting myself through the smoke had I been living at the whim of everyone else around me as I had for so long.
I notice this thing about having time for yourself and feeling guilt is particularly prevalent around mums, both young and old. I have a lot of friends with kids/expecting and it is such a huge adjustment and there is a huge unspoken pressure on women to be the omniscient provider to the child – and devote their whole mind body and soul to motherhood which can create all sorts of conflicting emotions which don’t ease as time goes on.
My advice for those who have ever felt that same feeling, with or without kids, is the same that I learnt for myself that if you are not happy in yourself then no one is going to be happy – there is no point staying at home feeling fat lonely and isolated. I know its MUCH easier said then done but I think even a discussion with your partner/family/friends/boss about having some protected time (even if it is just 20 minutes uninterrupted in the bath) every now and again will be so beneficial. Occasional “me-time” pampering treats such as getting your hair/nails done is always nice as is getting a good workout in.
In practical terms I think about “Me-time” in the short, medium and long term (or tiny, small and big picture)
the short term/ tiny picture is how can I create some me time this afternoon/evening/lunch break:
– go for a walk alone in your lunch break for 10minutes, or sit on a park bench
– wake up 30minutes earlier to enjoy the silence of the morning before the day starts
– Even during a busy day at work – promise yourself within the hour, go to the restroom and take 5 minutes to re-touch your make up/hair.
– meditate for 10minutes
the medium term/small picture I look at how I can create some me time this week, typically in an activity that will take not much more then an hour
– book a hair appointment
– get myself to a zumba / yoga class
– go for a run
– pencil time in your diary to read a book for just 45 minutes
– meeting a friend for a coffee
the long term/big picture I look at how i can create some “me-time” in the month/year ahead. I always think about the term ahead (still at school!) and if I can take any days off/ weekends away. Even if away is to visit my mum/friend/go on a course or a workshop I would love to go. Its so good for the soul to have something to look forward to – one of my regular “me-time” activities is my monthly visit to the London Modern Quilters Guild meet up where I enjoy an afternoon meeting new friends and pottering around Knightsbridge.
For me going to the gym most days has become my “me-time”; its a space where I can turn up the bass loud in my headphones and drown out the worlds stresses. I let the phone go to voicemail and I just have fun for myself! Even if I’m feeling tired/stressed/angry before I ALWAYS come out feeling better!
do you have “Me-time” ?
Have you ever felt guilty about taking time for yourself?