An Hour of Power
Find 60 extra minutes in your day to do something for
Good news! We've found an extra hour for you today. Now,
you tell us: How do you want to spend it? Catching up on laundry?
At work? Grocery shopping? Sorry, we won't even allow those. We'll
only give you the hour if you agree to spend the time on
Some might think the idea is frivolous, but doing something for
yourself, experts say, is critical to good health.
"Me time is time you dedicate to focusing on yourself," says
Allison Schwartz, M.A., a life coach to clients all over the
country. "It is an occasion to renew and recharge your physical and
mental energy. All too often people tend to forget that their
energy is not infinite; it does run out, and for that reason it is
important to take care of your body and well-being."
Many of us-women especially-put others first, often neglecting
our own needs entirely. But that doesn't necessarily make life any
better for us or those around us.
"Putting the needs of others ahead of your own interferes with
your ability to take time for yourself," Schwartz says. "By doing
so, you forget that if you do not take care of yourself, you will
not be able to take care of others."
Finding the Time
But even if you agree to spend the hour on yourself, how do you
find the time in the first place? Here are seven simple ways.
1. Schedule it. "When you fill up your calendar, take time
for you," says Eve Wood, M.D., clinical associate professor of
Medicine at the University of Arizona Program in Integrative
Medicine and author of 10 Steps to Take Charge of Your Emotional
Life (2007, Hay House Inc.). Before you schedule meetings and your
kids' dental appointments for the month, schedule a Swedish Massage or coffee
date for yourself-and keep it.
2. Make little things count. Everyone needs different kinds
and amounts of me time. When you can't take long stretches of time,
consider maximizing moments. Take 10 minutes every lunch hour to
meditate, for example. "Even in those moments when you're in
traffic or folding laundry, you can do cleansing breaths and think
about what you're grateful for," Wood says. "Or between meetings,
do a couple of stretches."
3. Leave your space. Whether it's a coffee shop or another
city, explore different surroundings. Take a solo lunch hour with a
good book or your iPod somewhere your co-workers don't frequent.
Ask your spouse to watch the kids for a few hours while you retreat
to the local park for some quiet time-and maybe a nap.
4. Turn off the phone. Sometimes the feeling that your life
isn't your own stems from constant availability via cell phones,
laptop computers and BlackBerrys. So, agree to a daily moratorium
on cellular gadgets. Even a couple of hours when you aren't
accessible-even if you have tasks to accomplish- can give you the
illusion of me time.
5. Take a mental health day. Kids are at school, your
spouse is at work. Call in sick-for a mental health day, take an
art class, do anything-but don't clean the house. The next day,
you'll be refreshed and ready to dive back into your work and home
6. Just say no. If you keep saying yes-to run the school
bake sale or to participate in every charity walk-you'll very
quickly run out of time in your day. Turn down some requests
and-voilà!-you've discovered time.
7. Take the easy way out sometimes. If you don't enjoy
cooking, don't make everything from scratch for Saturday's dinner
party. Buy platters from a restaurant, or make it potluck. Don't
force yourself to write individual notes in every single holiday
card this year. (Heck, don't even send holiday cards at all this
year!) Order your groceries online and have them delivered every
now and then.
Know When to Stop
There are ways to get the time you need-but first you need to make
sure you make yourself a priority. And remember, me time is not
about constant self-indulgence.
"Health is about balance," Wood says. "Can you eat too many
desserts? Yes. Can you exercise too much? Sure. Can we overdo just
about anything? The answer is yes. If we become too
self-preoccupied, then we can get out of balance. A big piece of
wellness is balance-giving and taking. If it's all about taking,
that makes for an empty life."
You know better than anyone that your life is far from empty.
It's quite full. Just make sure one of the things filling it up is
you. -Stephanie Conner