What Is “Me Time” and How Can You Get More Of It?
What Is “Me Time”?
Me time is time that you set aside to be present with yourself, mind, body and spirit. Taking time to care for yourself is vital to maintain your health, happiness, and productivity.
“Me time” can be spent in a variety of ways; what may feel like “me time” to one person may not feel like “me time” to someone else. For one person, “me time” might be spent in solitude, alone with one’s thoughts and engaging in mindfulness activities. For another, “me time” might be spent in community with friends and loved ones pursuing a hobby.
The commonality is that “me time” brings the mind and body back into sync with one another, which is necessary for optimal function.
Why Is “Me Time” Important?
“Me time” is not a luxury – it is a necessity. As the saying goes, “you cannot pour from an empty cup”; similarly, your brain and body need to rest and re-energize in order to serve you well. As little as 5 minutes of “me time” is restorative, but at times, you may find that you require 24 hours or more to reset your mind and body.
Foregoing “me time” can lead to burnout, exhaustion, and more frequent illness.
If you are a manager or a parent, you are utilizing CEO-like thinking to exhibit self-control and to make rational decisions. Both of these behaviors take place in your brain’s prefrontal cortex.
However, if you have exhausted your stamina, your brain will shift to the use of your amygdala, which is the emotional part of the brain. Your amygdala exists to initiate your fight-or-flight reaction when you are in danger. Under normal circumstances, there is no need for a fight-or-flight type of response, but that is exactly what your brain will give you if it is over-extended due to a lack of “me time”.
How Much “Me Time” Do People Need?
A 2015 study by Dr. Almuth McDowell found that people who experienced high quality, rather than high-quantity, me-time enjoyed better work-life balance, wellbeing and were more engaged at work.
Dr McDowall shared: “Me-time is a much talked about concept usually because people lament that they don’t have any. Interestingly, we found that me-time doesn’t have to be solitary and is more beneficial if it involves freely chosen activities. Opinions varied whether mundane routine tasks, such as housework, count as me-time — doing the washing up does not reap benefits for everyone!
“Overall our research suggests if people take time out to recharge their batteries and experience the time taken out as high quality, this reaps benefits for their own psychological wellbeing, their family relationships, and for their employers as they are more likely to perform better at work.”
A 2012 survey of more than 18,000 people from 134 countries sought to learn what “taking time to rest” meant to the respondent. Survey results demonstrated that “spending time on my own” was the fourth most popular answer following reading, sleeping, and being in nature.
What Are The Benefits of Me Time?
1. Stress Relief
A 2017 study found that people who were proactive about spending time alone experienced stress relief and relaxation. Solitary time alleviates concerns about pleasing others and provides an opportunity to engage in restful activities such as reading, journaling, and meditating. Time without distractions allows your mind to clear out and restore its focus.
2. Time for Reflection
“Me time” allows you to develop your sense of self and cultivate an increased awareness of your values and interests without the distraction of others’ influence over you. Solitude enables you to focus on your own experience of and reactions to situations and circumstances. In turn, when your responses are authentic and grounded in your values, your self-confidence has the space to grow and expand.
Additionally, “me time” creates space for you to practice gratitude, whether through a journal, written note to a friend or loved one, or silent reflection. Many people use their me time as an opportunity to set goals and develop plans to reach their goals.
3. Strengthen Relationships
“Me time” creates an opportunity for focused reflection and an honest self-assessment. On one hand, this time alone allows you to evaluate on a deeper level how you are feeling about the relationship and whether any changes need to be made. On the other hand, “me time” allows you the time and space to pursue your own interests and reconnect with who you are independent from the relationship.
4. Explore Creativity
When outside stimuli are turned down and interruptions from friends, coworkers and family are not an issue, many people find that they are able to think more creatively. It is in times of solitude that new ideas are given voice, whether through art, writing, music, or academic expression, to name a few.
5. Strengthen Mental Health
Without the crutch offered by your support group, “me time” forces you to develop your resilience as you work out problems on your own.
How Do You Spend Your “Me Time”?
1. Breathing and Focus
Focusing on your breath is a powerful way to re-establish your mind-body connection when you only have a few minutes. Consciously taking deep breaths in and out allows your body to turn off any stress that has been subconsciously stimulated. This resets your body and mind away from “flight or fight” mode and towards “rest and digest”.
As you take breaths, focus on different parts of your body. This reestablishes the mind-body connection and restores your spirit.
In fact, establishing a consistent meditation practice will yield positive long-term results such as enhanced memory and ability to focus.
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Taking a break from technology is easier than many people make it out to be – it just takes planning. Turn off all notifications on your phone and make sure that a designated person knows how to reach you if an emergency arises. Then, relax. Take the opportunity to indulge in a nap or write in a journal, focusing on that activity alone while maintaining a posture of self-acceptance and self-love.
Ideally, you will have set aside an hour or more for uninterrupted quiet time. Pick up a physical book (not on a device) – feel and appreciate the process through which it was constructed. Notice the pages, the weight of it, the font, and the binding. Restoring yourself to things that have weight and mass (not binary code) can be energizing on its own.
3. Get Creative
Many people work in roles that do not have room for creativity, whether due to corporate policy, safety, or regulation. Thus, a great way to spend your “me time” is to indulge in pastimes that you might not have engaged in since your childhood, such as painting, playing a musical instrument, throwing pottery, writing fiction, or making crafts.
4. Indulge In a Hobby
Engage in a hobby that brings you joy, whether it’s gardening or shopping, or even window-shopping. It can be reinvigorating to browse catalogs related to your hobby or to do research related to your interests.
Similarly, browse adult education classes online, whether through university or a certificate program. You may choose to take an online class whereby you can develop a new hobby or learn a new language.
5. Call An Old Friend
Getting in touch with someone important to you can give you a boost and remind you of shared good times and support. Make plans to get together in person.
6. Treat Yourself
Treat yourself to a solo date in which you take as good care of yourself as you would if you were to be with a friend. Put on comfortable clothing, turn off all distractions from devices, and snuggle up to watch your favorite TV program or movie. Order in food and have a special, out-of-the-ordinary beverage.
Similarly, you may choose to take yourself out on the town. Spend an afternoon at the movies, or spend a few lazy hours at a coffee shop indulging in a book or creative activity.
7. Chip Away At a Goal
If you have a plan for the year or a bucket list, spend time making progress on your goal. Do research, make phone calls, or otherwise make meaningful, enjoyable, and fulfilling progress towards your dreams.
8. Upgrade Your Personal Care
Challenge yourself to spend two hours on self-care. Create a spa experience at home – take a bath, paint your nails, and indulge in aromatherapy products. As you enjoy the environment you have created, take long, deep breaths and envision the warm water washing away any tensions or negativity you may be holding onto.
9. Clear Your Head Through Mindless Activity
Pick up an adult coloring book and turn on some instrumental music. Sitting idly can evoke stress for some people – if that sounds like you, engage in a low-key home project, such as cleaning out a closet or wiping down cabinets. Ticking something off your list and making headway can be a form of self-care if it helps you to feel cared for.
This can be as simple as going for a walk around the block, taking a virtual yoga class at home, or going to the gym for an upbeat Zumba class.
How To Find “Me Time”
1. Set Your Intention
Before you engage in the tactical process of finding “me time”, you must first set an intention of following through on any plans that you make. This sounds basic, but the easiest person to cancel plans with is ourselves.
Think of it this way: if a friend says she wants to get together with you but never shows up at the designated time, the message is clear: you are not high on her priority list. Similarly, if you plan to carve out “me time” but then repeatedly bail, “me time” is not high on your list of priorities.
2. Schedule It
Set a calendar appointment with yourself each week just like you would with a doctor or dentist or work appointment. Rename the alarm on your phone “me time” so that when it goes off, you are reminded of your intention and follow through.
3. Be Disciplined
If you are having difficulty setting aside “me time”, go to bed or wake up 20 min earlier. Then, make it count. If you set aside “me time” only to spend it doing tasks that drain your energy or steal your joy, you have not accomplished what you set out to do. Make your plan, then stick to it.
Take an honest look at your responsibilities and your resources. If you are unable to find time for yourself, you may need to delegate certain tasks to others. If you are able to do so financially, invest in services like grocery delivery or house cleaning.
If you have children, book a standing babysitter. Find someone who will keep your kids for you every week or every other week on a certain evening. If you have a spouse, you can each use this time to do something that you each want to do – it doesn’t have to be together!
5. Check Your Email at Designated Times
This tip may seem out of place, but hear me out because it’s a game-changer!
If you are in a position of autonomy at work and are expected to focus your time on big-picture tasks, there is no need for you to check your email constantly. Instead, pause your inbox so that you only receive emails at dedicated times of the day. You will still be able to work within your inbox and send messages out – a “pause” simply delays the flood in and reduces feelings of overwhelm at the same time.
You will work more efficiently this way and will be surprised just how quickly you can go through your emails when you are not interrupting your work with every email that comes in.
Take the time today to schedule your “me time”. You cannot pour from an empty cup, so fill yours up today!