Almost two thirds of us lack me-time, a recent survey has suggested. But having regular time to yourself isn’t just an indulgence – it’s essential for your wellbeing. ‘If you miss out on it, you’re likely to feel more stressed and anxious, and less in control of your life,’ says coach and therapist Gladeana McMahon. ‘You may find it difficult to identify what you really want.’ It can mean you get caught up in unhealthy relationship patterns or work you don’t enjoy, simply because you don’t give yourself the chance to slow down and notice how you’re feeling. So why are you really giving me-time a miss?
YOU FIND IT HARD TO SAY ‘NO’
‘This is a very common problem,’ says McMahon. ‘We don’t want to say no because we worry about offending someone, or think they won’t ask us again.’ In fact, she says, whether it’s a friend asking you to meet up or your boss wanting you to take on more work, they’ll usually take a ‘no’ much less personally than you may expect. ‘Don’t apologise or over-explain, but do come up with a solution,’ she suggests. For example, you could tell a friend you can’t meet up for a drink this week but you could talk on the phone instead. That way, they’ll know you still value them. At work, try to suggest an alternative plan, whether that’s dividing up the work with someone else or extending the deadline by a few days.
YOU DON’T PRIORITISE YOURSELF ENOUGH
‘A lot of people lack time to themselves because they don’t see they deserve it, they put other things first, or they simply don’t understand how important time out is to their wellbeing,’ says McMahon. But you’ll feel much calmer and more positive if you carve out some downtime. You’ll also be more productive and more supportive to friends and family. Start small. While psychologists estimate most of us need around 20 hours of time to ourselves every week, even taking half an hour a day can make a difference. Think about ways you could build it into your life, suggests McMahon. For example, you could swap your morning shower for an evening bath and have a long soak. Or go to a café with a good book in your lunch break. Walking is another great way to squeeze in me time – try strolling part of the way to work, focusing closely on your surroundings.
YOU’RE AVOIDING SOMETHING
‘If you’re one of these people who’s always rushing around, doing things, ask yourself if there’s something in your life you’re trying not to look at,’ says McMahon. Keeping super-busy can be an avoidance tactic – it may be a way to stop yourself having to think about the fact that you’re lonely or are worried about your future. Remember, me-time doesn’t always have to mean being on your own – if that feels too much for now, at least build in some regular slots of time doing things you enjoy with others. You could join a book group, a choir or a walking group that heads out each weekend, for instance. Get into the routine of it and look for a pastime that feels joyful rather than worthy – it should be something fun and esteem-boosting – but make sure it’s also positive and productive, rather than just having a night out drinking. Meditation may also be helpful for you – it lets you spend time on your own and clears your mind in a controlled, positive way. Try the Headspace app for guided meditations (visit headspace.com for a free 10-day trial, called Take 10, that teaches you the basics of meditation). Or do it in a more structured way by heading to a weekly meditation group – this can give you the discipline you need to get into the chillout habit.