By Rachel Benson, LCSW
One of the most common scenarios I hear from my clients with babies and young children is that by the end of each day, they feel like they “can’t handle” even the smallest setbacks. The baby who won’t easily fall asleep, the spouse who gets home 20 minutes later than usual, or the not-so-nice comment from an in-law, can set some parents into a complete tailspin, and leave them feeling like, “What’s wrong with me?” So I ask them, “how much time are you spending doing things for yourself that you enjoy?” Usually, they shake their head while looking wistfully off into the distance, or roll their eyes as though even the thought of that is impossible.
“Me-Time”, Self-Care”, “Alone-Time”, “Time to Decompress”. Call it what you want – the bottom line is that we all need it! Why? Throughout each day you are giving yourself to others. You wake up and get your family ready for the day. Maybe you head off to work where your to-do list is never-ending. Or maybe you stay at home and care for your children and your household, and there too, the to-do list is never-ending. Your spouse needs you, your parents need you, your children need you, your boss needs you, your clients need you, your friends need you. Now, visualize the amount of patience that you have filling up a mason jar. When you wake up after a decent night’s sleep, your mason jar is full. Throughout the day, as challenges occur, and you are attempting to solve problems and be the best you can be for everyone who needs you, your patience stores get depleted. By the end of the day, you are running on fumes. When you don’t have any patience left in the jar, it is easy to see why what would normally be a small annoyance causes you to react as though you were just confronted with the most awful, overwhelming thing possible.
You’ve got to replenish your jar – and getting “Me-Time” is a necessary component to do that. “Me-Time” helps us unwind, reboot, and clears our head. It improves our ability to concentrate, solve problems, and get things done. Most importantly, it helps us be more present and enjoy the time we spend with our children and significant others, which makes us better parents and partners. Stop thinking of getting “me-time” as a selfish act – instead view it as a path to improving your relationships with the people you love.
So what constitutes “Me-Time”? The most important thing to remember is that it must be FOR YOU! It must be something that you enjoy doing. It is different than an hour of alone time which you spend doing laundry, grocery shopping, or cleaning up. The activity must be something that relaxes and fulfills you. Think back to what you used to enjoy before having kids, or what new hobby you may want to explore, and use that as your guide.
“Me-Time” also doesn’t have to be by yourself. Your favorite “Me-Time” activities might be getting a manicure with a friend, attending a book club meeting, or sipping wine at game night. That being said, alone time can be nice too – a long, hot shower or bubble bath, reading a magazine at a park, or getting a massage can certainly feel rejuvenating.
Now to the million-dollar question – How do you get this “Me Time”?
Here are a few ideas:
- Discuss your need for “Me-Time” with your spouse. Explain why it is so important and work as a team to determine when this time can happen consistently.
- Put it in your schedule the way you would put in any activity that you plan to do. Blocking off the time not only helps to ensure that you will make the time for it, but it also gives you something to look forward to.
- Wake up 30 minutes before everyone else in your household and spend that time doing something for yourself.
- Develop some “helpers” and ask for help! Look into getting a babysitter or trade off with a friend so that you can both get some “me time”!
- Remember that “me-time” can happen in small increments too – you don’t necessarily need a 4-hour block of time. 15 minutes to clear your head can be helpful too!
So stop shaking your head and rolling your eyes and Make Your “Me-Time” happen! Your family will thank you!
For more thoughts on “Me-Time” and other ways to handle stress, please contact Rachel Benson at 714-468-3685 or [email protected]. You can also visit her website at www.tustincounseling.com.