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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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…
- Exercise (or at least do 10 sun salutations, some squats, lunges, and push-ups if time is short).
- Get a massage once in awhile.
- Have a cup of tea and read a book – especially non-fiction or inspirational – for an hour without interrupting myself to do anything else.
- Listen to music – and dance wildly to the point of sweating.
- Watch a favorite movie once a week without ever once opening up the computer to check email or other social media.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!