"Me" time. Just the name of it sounds selfish, doesn't it? Perhaps that's why so many people feel guilty taking it. But while it may sound like an extravagance, it's essential to our well-being.
But far from being selfish, "me" time is really about consciously turning down the volume on your stress reflex.
Because we all have varying stress loads and thresholds, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to taking "me" time. Some people require more, others less. But here are four ideas for fitting it into a busy schedule.
1. Start small. If you are a hard-charging type who never really takes any "me" time, don't try to become the paragon of balance overnight. If you do, it probably won't stick. Try taking a 15-minute break once a week. Use the time to stretch, walk around the block, call a friend. Then gradually build up to 15 minutes a day. We'll bet you won't want to stop there once you see how great it feels.
2. Schedule it in. Most people we know who struggle to fit in the time for themselves don't lock it into their schedule. Because life is full of proverbial fires, there is always something that will appear at the time to be more important than recalibrating your stress levels. Don't get caught in that trap. Set a time in your calendar and consider it as important as an appointment with your physician. Because it is.
3. Involve a buddy. Enlisting the help of a friend or other loved one will help you, especially if you struggle with feelings of guilt for "selfishly" taking time to unwind. First, it adds a level of accountability. When you schedule downtime with a friend, you are much less likely to cancel than when you are just answering to yourself. Second, friends help reduce our stress levels. A new study has shown that connecting with a good friend decreases your level of cortisol.
4. Turn off the screens. When the time to take your "me" time arrives, turn off your screens, phones and the like. It's counterproductive to try to decompress while things are binging and pinging at you and effectively reminding your adrenal glands that there are more important things to do (stress!).
(The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized. Send ideas and questions to yourlife(at)getbuttonedup.com. For more columns, go to scrippsnews.com.)
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