I NEVER HAVE ENOUGH TIME FOR ME
Last week I met two friends for dinner. Both guys are married, one with an eight-month-old at home, and the other just moved into a new home with his wife and they still have lots of unpacking to do. The three of us meet monthly for dinner and are pretty good about finding time to connect in spite of busy schedules and demanding lives. What makes these connections with friends special or unique? Americans are not good at finding “me time” to unwind and recuperate from our time on the wheel of life.
A recent survey of 2,000 Americans found that too much noise, current events, jobs, partners and kids are the top five things that prevent people from getting some R&R. Frequent stressors can quickly turn a day sour. Three in four people admitted that if they don’t have time to get in a good headspace with some “me time,” it negatively affects their mood. Almost three out of four wish they spent more time outside in order to relax, and one in five admit they don’t use their outdoor spaces enough. The research also found that three in ten don’t even have a place to relax in their own homes. People’s favorite “me time” locales included the bedroom (51 percent), backyard (31 percent) and coffee shops (21 percent), but others felt they need to get creative in order to escape with some time alone like their car, bathroom or movie theater.If I need to go to my car or bathroom to find alone time, something is definitely out of whack.
While my daughters are now grown, I remember when work days and weekends seemed like a never-ending maze of activities ranging from sports/dance practices, homework, birthday parties, play dates, etc. And this does not include the essentials like preparing meals, clean-up, baths and even folding laundry at 10 PM (for those of you with young children, suck it up, because it is a rite of passage).
In a Gallup poll, having young children also appears to be an important factor in Americans’ perceptions of time pressure. Sixty-one percent of those with children younger than 18 say they do not have enough time, while 42% of those without young children report the same. Women’s role in caring for children could factor into the wide gender disparity in time pressure among younger Americans. Sixty-one percent of women younger than age 50 report not having enough time, compared with 48% of younger men who say the same. There is almost no gender difference in perceived time pressure between men and women aged 50 and older.
Stop for a minute and think about why we don’t (notice I did not use “can’t”) find enough time for ourselves. What is the number one answer?? Well, it obvious, “I just don’t have enough time.” That is funny and sad, all at the same time. We get caught up in this story that tells us we just don’t have enough time to do the things that we enjoy like getting a massage, working out, taking a yoga class, reading a book, or just going for a walk on a nice day. Since we totally believe the message we tell ourselves, it becomes quite easy to not make the time to do the very things we enjoy and bring more balance in our day to day life. Perhaps it is time to consider other options!
As the research shows above, 75% of people who don’t find enough “me time” report negative effects on their mood. While the study did not discuss how their mood impacts their daily life, I will make a giant leap of faith and suggest they don’t perform as well at work, they are distracted, they are cranky with co-workers and family members, they aren’t focused on their family when they are at home or at an event, and I could go on and on. So, the result of not finding time to do the things that help your brain relax and allow you to find grounding, not only affects you, but others around you. I hope the light just went on, and now logic tells you that you can become a better person, husband, parent, brother/sister, co-worker, and overall human being by simply finding time, on a regular basis, to do some of the things that help you restore yourself.
It’s like Nike says, “Just Do It.” Perhaps begin with putting something on your calendar, whether it is getting together with friends for dinner or curling up and reading a book. It might sound silly scheduling something like reading a book, but when I think back to my days traveling for business, I recall hearing the same story from several young moms who were on business trips with me. It went like this, “After dinner, I just want to go back to my room, take a hot bath and read a book, since I can never find the time to do that when I am at home.” I never thought about it then (I was not mindfully aware as I am today), but if my spouse came me and asked for a night off, whether it be heading out with her girlfriends or simply staying home to bathe and read, for some simple self-nurture time, I can’t imagine saying no. But the research shows the 61% of women under 50 do not get enough time on their own to chill. Mom’s just don’t find the time for self-soothing activities and this needs to change for them and everyone else.
You have the power to make a list of the things you enjoy doing that will warm your soul. Just writing them down on a piece of paper will put a smile on your face—-I know this from experience. BTW, when you smile for more that 20 seconds, your brain emits dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins—a very happy and feel good cocktail. Now that you have your list, think about your schedule with work, family, other activities, and seek a time when you can commit to some “me time.” Perhaps you will need to coordinate the time with your spouse or partner, and then put the activity on YOUR schedule. Do it and you will feel better, more connected to life and just more alive—-unless your “me time” activity is golfing, which will most likely result in you feeling worse about yourself—just kidding! Make these moments happen and show yourself that you really love who you are. If you truly want to find the time, you will. Stop saying, “I should or I could,” and begin saying “I can or I will,” and you may discover a new power in you that seems to have faded away over the years—because you just became too busy.