Yesterday I woke up in a full-on pissy mood, which is super unusual for me as a bona fide morning person. I just wanted to grab a book, stay in bed, and read. And not talk to anybody. And not cook for anybody – all day long. And not do anything on my long “to do” list. I wasn’t sick. I wasn’t tired. But I felt like an over-tired, over-hungry toddler on the verge of a tantrum! My knickers weren’t even on yet and they were already in a knot!

But…but …but…[my inner boss resisting]…you have work to do. Emails to answer. Phone calls to make. Blogs to write. Magazine interviews to prepare for. You have editors counting on you. And you were planning to cook a really nice meal with Tracy today. So, I told myself, put on a gratitude attitude and get your ass in gear!

Then I started thinking – Why AM I feeling this way? What AM I hungry for? Where is this coming from??? A lot of the same questions I ask my patients (hmmm…Doctor, Heal Thyself!).

While I think of gratitude and happiness as verbs – things we have to be intentional about when we’re not feeling them – there are times when stepping back long enough to give our emotions a minute to tell their story can really pay off with insight.

So I did. I listened to my inner whiny self and realized that I just craved some down time. And since I am on an 8-week post-residency clinical sabbatical, I could do it. I was feeling torn between my responsibilities to others and doing what my soul was SCREAMING for – TAKING TIME FOR MYSELF. I felt like Oscar the Grouch, wanting to pull the garbage can lid – well, my covers – back over my head and hide from the world for a darned good reason.

Because it’s exactly what I needed to do – maybe not literally, but metaphorically.

I needed to give myself PERMISSION TO PAUSE. I’ve been being my usual high performance self. And between finishing residency, moving to a new home, getting 2 teenaged girls off to college and teaching herbal medicine classes all around the US and in Canada, I had not taken any time for replenishing.

Women are especially bad at taking time for ourselves. Mothers are even worse. We are natural givers and tenders. And doctors aren’t too good at hitting the pause button either. We are trained to keep going in the face of no sleep, emotional exhaustion, and constant external demands. Women, moms, and health care providers tend to give at the expense of ourselves. We all lead super busy lives that leave little time for self-care.

Running on empty doesn’t serve us – or those we care for. It makes us less effective in our work, less productive, and less happy. Running on empty leads us to feel conflicted, victimized, angry, exhausted, irritable, or some combination thereof. We’ve all had that whiney feeling of “There’s no time for me!” And as women, we often chalk this up to a selfish thought, and push on.

But the evidence is really there that if you are happier and more relaxed, you are actually better for everyone and at everything you do.

So yesterday I asked myself these 5 questions:

  • If I took some time for myself, what would be the best thing that could happen?
  • The worst thing?
  • How much time do I need, realistically, and how often, to feel recharged?
  • How am I going to create this time?
  • And what would I like to do with the time?

I came up with ten simple things that I could easily fit into my lifestyle that would get me back to center and keep my cup running over rather than almost empty. Most require 30 minutes to an hour, though some could even be a ten-minute power refresher. I figure only good can come from taking better care of myself, and that committing to time to pause for at least ten minutes daily, and up to an hour, 4 times a week, is optimal for me.

Here’s my “time to myself” top ten hits list:

  1. Take a walk with nowhere to go (short or long depending on the day), alone or with a pal, but walk in silence. Gardening is great too, weather permitting.
  2. Write in my journal – I can do it in a special place at home or get away to the local coffee shop. Focus on things for which I am grateful, appreciate in myself, or dream about.
  3. Take a hot bath (add a glass of wine and a book for extra luxury!) or a long shower – make it feel like I’m at a spa…
  4. Exercise (or at least do 10 sun salutations, some squats, lunges, and push-ups if time is short).
  5. Get a massage once in awhile.
  6. Have a cup of tea and read a book – especially non-fiction or inspirational – for an hour without interrupting myself to do anything else.
  7. Listen to music – and dance wildly to the point of sweating.
  8. Watch a favorite movie once a week without ever once opening up the computer to check email or other social media.
  9. Set a daily time for no electronics, social media, or work; consider meditation, visualization, making art, taking a nap, or laying in the grass and staring up at the sky – find creatures in the clouds.
  10. Prepare a special, wonderful meal each week and eat slowly, deliberately, with perfect attention to just the experience of the meal.

Here’s the thing, though. You have to value yourself and this time enough to make it NON-NEGOTIABLE TIME.

This means:

  • Getting clear about what “Me” time means to you and explaining this to the people in your life
  • Not letting your inner gremlin talk you out of your time to yourself
  • Doing a daily inventory of whether you are taking care of yourself and if you are not, how you need to
  • Respecting yourself enough to take care of yourself
  • Taking enough time to listen to yourself so you know what you desire/need

Taking “me time” isn’t selfish – it is self-respecting and healthy. It is something we can teach our children, spouses, colleagues, employees, and patients to do. It is about celebrating and respecting ourselves.

To honor my need to hit the pause button and just replenish, I went on a long walk this morning without any guilt for not getting any work done. I was just a human being, not a human doing. My oldest daughter and my husband joined me. We talked only about the beauty around us and the amazing things we saw – like a porcupine and a moss-covered stone wall glistening with hanging icicles (see pix).

I returned home refreshed, energized, peaceful, and happy. Since I was in major undernourishment mode, I am capping the day off with a lovely dinner and a glass of wine in front of the fireplace.

I’m committed to making more time for respecting my need to replenish. I know it won’t be easy. I’m a busy beaver sort of girl with a tendency to stray into high performance, self-ignoring mode.

Do you need Permission to Pause? How can you fit in non-negotiable “self-nourishing time” in a few times over the next 2 weeks? What are you going to do with it? What are your obstacles and how can you overcome them?

Let’s share our stories in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you!

Here’s to nourishing ourselves!

Love,

40 Comments

  1. Hi Dr. Aviva,
    You really hit an important place in my mindset which is to be realistic in taking time for yourselves to “Smell the Roses” so to speak. I know social and work related networking on the computer and in person can really eat away at our available down time so it was a fantastic idea to just try to fit as many as possible of the tens to do for myself list in perweek w/ out preassure.
    It is a pleasure to learn with you as well.
    In peace, love and gratitude-
    Victoria Spencer Smith

  2. Such a timely post — was talking to another mom of a toddler this afternoon and we were both talking about our longing for more time for ourselves. I can always find an excuse not to but I will join you in the 14 day challenge — starting tonight! Thanks for the inspiration, I needed it at exactly this moment..

  3. This email blog could not have come at a better time. I woke up feeling the same way yesterday. Groggy…which is not normal for me. I usually wake up fresh and a good hour before the rest of my family of five to get stuff done or have me time…loving the silence of the sunrise.
    Definitely in on the 14 day challenge.
    Thanks for sharing your ten nourishing me time to dos…would love more tips.
    Green blessings,
    Jen

  4. This sounds like something I really need to do- I was just telling friends that I can’t seem to get the hang of saying “no” to anyone. I’m willing to give it a try with this challenge, though. My obstacles: I homeschool seven children, work four hours a day (from home) and I live in a tiny house where it’s difficult to find a place that isn’t already inhabited by SOMEONE or other. I’m going to go grab my journal and jot down some ideas for overcoming these! Thanks, Aviva, you’re an inspiration.

  5. I really need this challenge. I was suddenly divorced in 2010 and my ex said he no longer in live with me and never talked to me again. I had to sell my house for nothing and he cleaned me out when I was not home. I moved to a small place by the beach and Hurricane Irene hit. I was displaced and had to replace everything. Thinking it was freak weather, I stayed as being across from the water and listening to the waves put me to sleep is nice. Hurricane Sandy destroyed my home again and I had to move temporarily north of my home and job. Tonight I drove 3 hours to get home from work through the snow from a nor’easter. I work 3 jobs and am enrolled in the women’s health program. Trying to rebuild my life. I also train in martial arts daily. Tonight, I just felt like crying. I am normally very grateful. I need a break though. I need this. Thank you!

  6. I needed this. Today I felt the same way; unlike you I did not recognize my need until part way through the afternoon. Then I look the rest of the day off – read, had a cup of tea, and then went out to dinner with my honey. 🙂 I feel much better.

  7. Listen to soft inspiration music, clean historical romance books, reruns of good old
    fashion shows, such as The Big Valley, Little House on the Praire, etc.

    Very uplifting inspirational teaching. Drinking herbal teas and learning more how to
    increase your knowledge of self healthcare in a very natural way.
    These things are very refreshing, restorative and replenishing to me.

    Sylvia

  8. Aviva, this is so inline with the post I’m sending out tomorrow on my blog. If its alright with you I’d love to share this challenge with my readers.
    Btw – received my course material and am absolutely in love with it!! Super excited!

  9. How very timely! I had a small melt down yesterday due to not caring for self. I spend all of my time teaching, caring for and nurturing others. I will print this list and I will take your suggestions starting immediately. I will love and care for myself as I do for others. Thank you for taking the time to remind us fellow light workers of the importance of self love.

  10. Aviva,
    So glad that you took the time to re-nourish yourself today! With your busy schedule, you need to take the time to do this more often.
    Barb 🙂

  11. I woke up the very same way today as well…..so many of us Wombman are in synce, feeling over whelmed with all the STUFF on our plates and how to eat it and store it in a fridge that is already full! I am greatfull for so much in my life but I need to check myself before burning out from seizing opportunities that are plentyfull right now. I am up for your challenge and it helps having others joining in. I can’t wait for ME time……Sun salutations 5 at least every morning, a shower every other day, and three times a week a bike ride to the end of the road and back. This may not sound like much to some but it is oh so much to me. I’m currently figuring out moving, just got married, honeymooned with a toddler, starting a new business while maintaining another. THANK YOU!

  12. Aviva, it is always wonderful to hear from a person such as yourself guiding us through a practice of healing with nature and the “living” world around… reminding us of what we are as human beings, we are alive with electricty and energy that is like no other entity the need to be nourished and replenished. I am well into my fifties and learned the hard way to slow down, adrenal exhaust ( a 21st century “syndrome” some say) was my lesson in knowing that the emails for my job would get answered, the phone calls returned , but only if I was healthy first!
    I now sit in my back yard and listen to all the different birds and watch their slow but diligent habits even if it is only for 10 minutes, enjoying all the bird songs…I am up for the challenge!

  13. Thank you for this post, it is truly God sent! I told my husband today that if I could enjoy a cup of coffee (without reheating it 4 times) without interruption I would be much happier. I need to practice leaving the guilt behind me and do something for myself. I will take your challenge, in fact I am going to put my son in bed and turn the TV off and make some tea and do some meditating. Good luck to all who are trying this, you deserve it! Enjoy.

  14. I kept asking myself today “where is the pause button?” I used to always wish for my super power to be able to pause life. For everyone else to stop so I can sit and take a breather. Now I have a ten month old who is going all the time and I found myself getting irritable today, just needing to find that pause button. Serendipity to find this email in my inbox today! Thank you! What got me back on track today was taking a long shower and then going for a walk while my baby napped in the Ergo.

  15. Beautiful blog as usual. My first thought upon reading it is that if I could I would transport you to Breitenbush hot springs in Detroit Oregon (2 hours from Portland). It is a heavenly place to restore and heal. Perhaps one day you will make it there- I think it would give you exactly what you need. If you should happen to go there, perhaps the stars will align and I will be there as well (I go a few times a year for much-needed full body nourishment). Best to you and thanks for the inspiration you so generously share with the world. Sincerely , Erika Siegel ND, LAc

  16. I’m fitting it in after the others have gone to bed. I’m going to use it for art, journeying, DIY spa treatments and just relaxing. My irst obstacle is the enormous amount of work I have to do to rebuild my site, which often makes me end up on Facebook doing nothing. The way to overcome this is to turn the computer off. My second obstacle is my spoiled saboteur of a husband. That obstacle is a bit more unpredictable and harder to overcome.

  17. Aviva, I’m so inspired by these suggestions. In particular, I’m going to adopt your suggestion to refrain from email and social media one day per week. My dependence on these outlets has crept up over the years. I sense that they may be an escape of some sort. Instead, I’ll walk in Kew Gardens and engage in as much reflective activity as my day allows (between practicing herbal medicine!)

    Many, many thanks as ever, Deb McDonnell x

  18. Aviva, I’m so inspired by these suggestions. In particular, I’m going to adopt your suggestion to refrain from email and social media one day per week. My dependence on these outlets has crept up over the years. I sense that they may be an escape of some sort. Instead, I’ll walk in Kew Gardens and engage in as much reflective activity as my day allows (between practicing herbal medicine!)

    Many, many thanks as ever, Deb McDonnell x

  19. wow! Thanks for writing this, especially today! This is something I struggle with a lot. I feel like I’m busy from the time I get up until time for bed or i crash in the chair while watching something with my family. I think I keep moving because I have so much to do but sometimes feel like I haven’t really accomplished anything besides keeping busy! I thought you were talking about me! I’m linking this to my blog for others to read!

  20. Aviva,

    I hope my box of Birth Song Botanicals arrives soon! It sounds like you would enjoy a few drops of the “Nurtured Mother” or “Children’s Tranquility” tincture, along with a cup or two of “Comfor-Tea” and a nice long “Children’s Healing Herb Bath” filled with fragrant lavender and thyme.

    This is my gift to you as a way fo saying, “thank you, for your human being and doing”. It brings a smile to my heart knowing that you will enjoy drinking these herbal teas, taking long herbal baths and tasting the tinctures!

    Much gratitude,
    Maria

  21. Hi Lovelies,
    These are such moving and inspiring comments! I just want to rent an inn for all of use here in the Berkshires to do a retreat this weekend! I’m thinking hot tubs, wine or tea, massages, journaling time, and telling stories at the end of the day about our adventures in self-care (with special laughs about the saboteurs in our lives– selves included!). In thinking through how to share the daily adventures of the challenge with each other, seems like facebook is the place to do it. So me up with me at http://www.facebook.com/AvivaRommMD

    I’ll post with recipes for self-care, herbs for adrenal fatigue, and will share my own “haps and mishaps” over the next 2 weeks. I’m looking forward to hearing about yours, too! I am actually lucky to have 12 days with no kids at home so that should tell me whether I can really make myself a priority! Here’s a great quote to start us off: “Radical self care: because you are too important to be at the bottom of the list!” <3 <3 <3 Aviva

  22. Wow! Thank you for the reminder. It’s amazing how things always come when they are most needed. To take time for myself, . . . sigh, . . . very much needed. I’m a mama of two, a 1 year old and a 3 1/2 year old. We moved recently and since not hooked up a TV. In the evenings, after my little ones got o sleep, I have cashed in my TV shows for a book. I haven’t read a book all the way through since before my daughter was born. I sleep better and my brain is more functional! It’s amazing how the little things really aren’t that little. Thanks for the inspiration! I love your blog and your books!

  23. This is so very on time for me. I have struggled with this for so long now. I work a full time job with a nasty commute (about 3.5 hours door to door round trip), run a business on the side with a good friend of mine, and am a wife and a mama to two (soon to be three) kiddos. I walk around on too little sleep all the time stressing over all the things on my to-do list that I just never seem to get to. I feel guilty sometimes about the things I don’t get done, but I’m so tired from everything I am doing that when I do catch a bit of free time, I end up vegging out in front of the tv or on social media and then feel like a lazy bum for not using that time to be more productive…sigh. So, needless to say, I really need to learn how to take better care of myself and to stop allowing the saboteurs (myself included) to keep guilting me into neglecting my needs. I’m in on this challenge and will be keeping up on FB, cuz I’ll need constant motivation to keep it going. Thanks so much for this timely message!

  24. Thanks for this, Aviva! What great timing, I woke up that way two days ago and was blaming it on the lack of sunlight since the time change, but I actually now think it’s because I’ve been in “high performance, self-ignoring mode”, as you so aptly put it! Thanks for the challenge… after all the massages I give all week, I realize I am way past due for receiving one myself!

  25. Wow! I have been feeling the same way lately; can’t even stand myself right now. 🙁
    I will be taking a small break also and implementing some of your suggestions.

    Thanks! 🙂

  26. Dear Dr.Aviva
    I don’t know if you remember me But you helped me bring a beautiful life into this world almost 11 years ago. My daughter Angelica. I am so grateful for you and happy to be back in touch. I pause every morning with a spiritual book and green tea.It starts my day with inspirition and energy.
    Much love
    Nicole Richards

    and

  27. I will definitely except the 14 day challenge but I already have to figure out how to do it for I will be going to a health training next week. We will be driving 24 hours non-stop to get there. I will be got about a week. I will have to be creative. I want to make this work not just now but as part of my life!

  28. This is perfect timing…I was just talking with a woman friend about the importance of self-care just a few hours ago and how I have been really trying to focus on me-time the past few weeks. And…..IT FEELS SO GOOD. I’ve been able to really see myself and love myself in a deeper way, with a lot less judgement. It is hard when you have family and clients to support, but how can they really get benefit if I am coming from a depleted state? It’s definitely about LIVING A LIFE OF EASE. And, letting go of getting everything done. It’s okay if the laundry sits or the dishes aren’t done…it’s more important to nourish myself….

  29. This is exactly what I needed this week, thank you. I am trying to focus on this in my life and you have given me some practical tools to get it done!! I super appreciate you.

  30. This is great! For me having farm animals forces me to get outside every morning, be out in nature, and appreciate the simple things. I just wrote a blog article about it 🙂 It is so true that continually pushing is bad for us. I’m always afraid that if I stop I will lose my momentum, but when I ‘refresh’ I usually only lose momentum on things that weren’t that important anyway.

  31. Just give yourself permission to slow down and enjoy the day is hard sometimes. Great advice about giving ourselves permission, that’s the hard part. The rest is easy. Love this article. Thanks for writing it.

  32. Loved this post!
    Just today I took a break from my computer work and danced my heart open for just a couple songs. It was my time to be with me. To dance with myself and undress my heart, set myself free. Such a great practice of which I will be committing to at least 5 more times in the next 2 weeks.
    With love, samantha

  33. Keeping the sabbath has made a big difference in my overall well being. It’s one day a week where I focus on rest, relaxation, worship and together time with loved ones. I will try to designate a cut of time for media in the evening also. Great ideas.

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