Time spent relaxing on one's own as opposed to working or doing things for others, seen as an opportunity to reduce stress or restore energy.
Women take less time for themselves than men, thus putting their health at risk.
Women today have been told we have it all -- careers, families, kids, community involvement, and relationships. But all too often, having it all leaves us with no time or strength left for ourselves.
"There's a tremendous amount of stress and pressure put on women: being parents, being daughters, mothers, wives, professionals. All of these roles combined to leave many of us not taking adequate care of ourselves -- which is what sustains us and gives us the energy to take care of all these other responsibilities that we have," says Randy Kamen Gredinger, a Wayland, MA, psychologist and life coach specializing in women's issues.
Whatever your case may be, women you need to take time each day to do something for yourself. We tend to think of leisure as a luxury. When time gets tight, it’s usually the first thing to go. But having enough downtime is actually a necessity for optimal coping and thriving. In fact, lack of adequate time for rest, relaxation and personal interests may be one reason that U.S. women report feeling more stressed than their male counterparts.
Make Yourself a Priority
Emotional well-being is closely tied to physical well-being. If we aren’t taking time to rest, relax, reenergize and restore, bad things will happen eventually. Chronic stress increases the risk for a wide range of psychological and physical health conditions, including anxiety, depression, heart disease, digestive disorders and sleep problems.
Beyond that, when we don’t take time to nurture ourselves and indulge personal interests, it’s easy to lose touch with who we are in the world. We can become consumed by the constant press to do life rather than experience life.
We may believe, usually without even being aware of it, that doing for others should always come first. It’s important to recognize and counter this belief. Tell yourself, “even though I feel guilty, I have no reason to. So I’m going to do something for myself. Life isn’t all about me, but it is about me too.”
- Remind yourself that me-time keeps you motivated and rested enough to care better for others. In other words, taking care of yourself is actually unselfish, because it makes you a better caregiver and nurturer the rest of the time. This can be a powerful antidote to the unearned guilt and fears that come from worrying about being selfish.
- Make yourself your top priority.
Schedule Your 'Me' TimeMake your free time as important as the pediatrician's visit, the conference call, and your meeting with the contractor. Treat it just like any other appointment.
"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: I want to recharge my batteries so I don't feel so frazzled and worn out."
Try to find at least half an hour to an hour every day for you. It doesn't have to be all at once. And before you decide what you're going to do with the time you're building into your schedule, promise yourself that you won't waste it. Use the time concentrating on what you are doing in the moment, and not planning on what you need to do next.
You don’t need a lot of time, either. Here are ideas for making the most of even 5 minutes of "me" time.
If You Have 5-10 Minutes
- Sit on the porch with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. Or a cup of coffee and no newspaper. Just watch the clouds go by. No phone or calendar allowed.
- Call a friend to chat. This doesn't mean planning the bake sale or organizing the neighborhood watch -- just talk, without an agenda.
- Move. Get up from your desk, stretch, and walk around the block or up and down a flight of stairs.
- Breathe deeply. While you're sitting in your office, car, or home, focus on breathing slowly and gently for 5 minutes. It's OK if your mind wanders a bit, but don't start planning what you have to do next -- just follow your breath.
- Pet your pet. Focus for 5 minutes on cuddling with cat or dog. You'll both feel better.
- Put on your iPod and hit shuffle. Then just sit and listen.
- Read one chapter of a book you've wanted to make time for. Keep a basket in your office or living room with a good book, magazine, crossword puzzle, or other short escapes.
- Find a nearby park and go for a brisk walk.
- Putter. This doesn't mean cleaning the house or organizing your kids' clothes. Instead, it means doing little things at home that you enjoy, like trimming the rosebush and putting together a bouquet for your office or kitchen.
- Soak in the tub. If you're a parent, make sure another adult is on duty so no one's going to yell "Mom!" Plan so you'll have some fabulous bath goodies on hand. Don't forget a glass of ice water or wine.
- Get a massage, a facial, or a mani-pedi.
- Take a nap.
- Schedule a class that you've always wanted to take just for fun. For instance, Amy Tiemann took an improv comedy class to get a night to herself after her daughter was born.
- Plan a long walk with a friend. Go shopping for a new outfit. Commit to it early in the week and honor the commitment.
Add your own favorites to these lists. Whatever you choose to do with your "me" time, make it relaxing and restorative.
"If you don't feel like it works for you, try something else," Moore says. "'Shoulds' are the enemy of relaxation. Don't think about what you should do, but about what makes you thrive."