How many times have you reflected on your day, week, month, year — or even entire chunks of your life — and thought, "Where was I when that was happening?" If you can relate, you might benefit from more "me" time — time that's all about you and nobody else.
Even just a few minutes a day of concentrated me time can help replace stress with increased productivity, understanding and even joy, transforming how we approach work and interpersonal relationships.
Kristen Tussey, a licensed professional counselor at the Ashland Transpersonal Counseling Center, specializes in helping women focus on personal growth. She offers these proactive tips to help carve out "me" time.
• Make a wish to be your own best friend. "Really feel this," says Tussey. "Make the wish. Feel the wish. Imagine the wish … "
• Schedule some time for you first thing every day — three or 30 minutes, whatever works. "It's aligning your intention, feeling a connection with yourself before you begin your day," says Tussey. "Become a priority in your own world."
• During your me time, acknowledge what you're feeling. "Let yourself feel what's going on in your body, your emotions and your mind," counsels Tussey. "Relax and breathe and let what's there be there. You don't have to change it in this very moment."
• Recognize that life circumstances are always changing. "Sometimes we have what we want and sometimes we don't," says Tussey. Because every human being is in the same boat, why not chill a bit when things aren't going smoothly?
• Identify activities that make you happy — hot baths, meditating, hiking, taking a class, joining a group. Then make one or more happen. "Doing something moves you away from feeling choiceless and powerless," says Tussey.
• On tough days, use your me time to make a list — not a to-do list, but a list of 10 things you're grateful for. "These are things that are working for you," says Tussey. "Maybe your health isn't working, but money's OK."
• Reach out. Sometimes me time can be about others, especially if the doldrums have taken over. "Call a friend, get a counselor or do something nice for someone else," suggests Tussey. "In a way, it makes you feel better."
The first step is an attitude adjustment regarding stress-makers, says Lisa Pavati, a body-mind therapist and personal potential facilitator who runs the Wellness Guide and Funding Your Dreams in Ashland.
"Let's remember our core value goal of why we're so busy in our lives," says the single mom of a 6-year-old son. "For example, if we're so, so busy with our jobs, what's the reason for our job? It's probably to provide for the health and well-being of ourselves and our loved ones."
Once we recall the primary objective for why we chose to get so busy, it's easier to reframe the situation; after all, isn't working for the welfare of our family a noble, responsible and even satisfying undertaking?
Now that our valid and valuable goals have been revealed, how do we change the stress from soul-sucking to nourishing? As with so many other personal transformations, the process happens internally.
Pavati recommends locating one's positive attitude. "Invoking that inner spark and adjusting our attitude helps us be more productive and efficient and to be more joyful while we're productive," she says.
That increased productivity can open up windows for me time, especially when it's combined with honed communication skills.
"Good communication leads to more effective use of everyone's time," says Pavati. "Clear, positive and realistic communication helps us make objectives that are doable."
Use the same technique when communicating with yourself. "If we're clear, positive and realistic with ourselves, we won't have a 15-page to-do list and spend the day being depressed about it," says Pavati.
When negative feelings do arise, Pavati suggests invoking another simple tool: breath.
"When we're mindful of it, our breath is so powerful, changing panic to feeling centered."
Newly found me time can be used for special, self-focused activities that nourish our well-being. For Mariane Corallo, owner of Rasa Center for Yoga and Wellness in Medford and Ashland, that means going to her yoga mat, meditation spot or on a hike.
"The trick is to do this before you find yourself in that negative space," says Corallo. "It's preventative medicine."
Discovering "the right meditative movement that works" for you is the key to sticking with it and experiencing the long-term benefits of such a practice, says Corallo.
The positive results of regular me time are manifold, from greater emotional balance to calmer nerves, to being more "there" for the people in our lives.
"Most of us are truly giving, thoughtful people wanting to pour energy onto others," says Corallo. "Once we start to see that it's not a selfish thing to nourish your own spirit for the betterment of others and yourself, and truly believe it, then it becomes a simple decision to carve out the time to stay whole."
Aren't you worth some focused me time?
Pencil some in today.