Michelle Daly is a 200 hour registered yoga teacher (RYT) with Yoga Alliance and works with My Yoga Studios to deliver yoga classes that focus on health and wellbeing. Follow her on Facebook at Yellow Sea Yoga (@yellowseayoga)
In many of our lives, finding time for oneself is like trying to find gold in a deep, relentless river. When I was a teenager, I seemed to have nothing but time on my hands. I’m not sure what happened in my life, but gradually spare time became something rare.
The loss of time for oneself is gradual and imperceptible. Sometimes the ‘busy self’ becomes addicted to the busy and when chances to do nothing arise, we can populate them deliberately to fill a guilty void. Some people need to ‘be doing something’ all the time. Others can’t remember the last time they had a choice in the matter.
I talked last week about feeling guilty about looking after ourselves. The first thing to remember is that you are not unique if you do. The second thing to remember is that taking time away from activities is, cumulatively, just as important and productive as ‘doing’. What we need to do is to take the guilt out of it.
So firstly, where does one find time?
Someone once said that if we keep looking forward to being happy, waiting for it to happen, we will run out of time. We need to use the moment we have now and learn to enjoy it. It really does work that way. So finding ‘time’ in a busy day can be literally selecting a gap in the schedule, or perceiving the activity we are engaged in differently. The journey to work for example, is there anything you could include that might make it more enjoyable? Music does it for me, but everyone is different. I turn off the news and just listen to music. I’ve trained myself not to think about work on the way there. It took a while, but I own the journey there now.
How much time do you need to devote to yourself?
That’s entirely up to you, the more the better. However, shorter, more regular breaks are better than long breaks taken very rarely. Ten minutes a day, or every second day accumulates into a weekly tally. Before you know it, the benefits of regular break taking will help to relieve stress, lift the mood, reignite old passions and make you feel more balanced overall. While there’s nothing wrong with taking a big sojourn after a long period of ‘business’, leaving it too long between breaks may result in too high an expectation of the break. Many people say it takes them a while to unwind on holiday, or that they can’t come down even when away from home/ work. Many people find they become ill the very time their holiday comes around. It’s a kind of crash and as I mentioned in a previous article, it is almost impossible to convert from a stressed state to a calm state on command.
What should I do on these breaks?
Whatever you want, or…..nothing. Think of things you enjoy, or used to enjoy before you got busy. Chose one, or a few. Then just do them. Try something new. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs follow the 5 Hour Rule, i.e they spend at least 5 hours a week learning something. Or, you could just sit down and listen to music that you love and totally focus on that. The main thing is that you enjoy the time you take for yourself and that enjoyment is all the reason you need to take that time.
You see we have to look at the end game of life. There are always things tugging at us, stressful things, commitments etc. There’s always something more urgent or pressing than ourselves. So many of us fall into the dishwater of dedication, remaining submerged while everything else is taken care of. All that busy time accumulates too you see, and can lead to burn out. Not straight away, but years later. Focusing on the end game, (how you want to feel in 10 or 20 years time), absolutely compels you to accumulate ‘me time’ as well. Dump the guilt, take a breath and prioritize things. You can’t do it all now, so some tasks will have to wait. Find your order and find within that order, time. Then use that time for yourself.
In a week you have banked some joy and perspective. Can you imagine how much joy and perspective could be banked in 10 years, 20? See your life as a complete package. Ask yourself, what will I have accumulated in 20 years of life, if I never take time for myself? When you compress your existence into the whole, the need to feed your spirit becomes mandatory.
I don’t know what it is you love to do, all I can say is do it. Every second you find for yourself accumulates. Life is finite, but there will always be enough time for you. Stake your claim on your lifetime, or lose it. Don’t turn around one day and realise that you left it too late. Now is a real thing and a good time to start.