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Life had gotten out of control. In the span of two months, the following happened:
- Mr. Blographer had a back injury so bad we spent a day at the ER and it left him unable to move by himself for days. Limited mobility for at least a month, and lots of pain and trouble carrying on normal activities two months later.
- Mr. Blographer had a minor surgical procedure that left him unable to do much for a few days.
- A second trip to the emergency room for Little E who had a scary fall.
- Add in an almost 2-year-old, a dog, two cats and working my regular job.
Writing it out it doesn’t seem like all that much but living it proved to be another story. I was the primary caretaker for EVERYTHING. A role which I would gladly do again because I love my family, but one that is demanding and stressful at times. Yes, we had wonderful people who helped with chores, meals, watching Little E. I was/am grateful for a boss who was understanding and willing to let me have a flexible schedule.
But after those two months, I was BURNT OUT.
I was tired. I was stressed. Anxious. Struggling.
It dawned on me one day that I couldn’t remember the last time I had stopped to take any time for myself. Something that I’m usually a pretty big advocate of for myself and others. But of course in the thick of things the concept is easier said than done.
But it is precisely those moments that are the toughest when you need it most.
At the time I realized this, I was in the mindset that I didn’t have any time to take for myself (something I’m guessing some of you have also thought). People had to be cared for. Chores had to be done. Meals made. But I knew that for my own sanity and mental health, this needed to happen.
So, I created and started implementing a ’10 minutes a day’ rule, or in ‘normal’ terms, me time.
I started with taking 5 minutes in the mornings, and 5 minutes in the evening for myself, to do something I like to do.
This included, but was not limited to:
- Walking around my garden
- Light stretching (Youtube has great restorative/yin yoga videos)
- Going for a very short walk
- 2-minute guided meditations
- Drinking coffee/tea on my porch
This did NOT include:
- Anything on my to-do list
- Checking email
- Anything social media related (in fact, I didn’t even have my phone with me)
- Caring for anyone but myself
- Basically, anything I felt I ‘HAD’ to do
Why Start Small?
Have you ever read the book Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise? If not, I would HIGHLY recommend it. The idea behind a ‘Mini Habit’ is that you start with something so small it seems ridiculous. For example, the author, Stephen Guise wanted to start exercising more. He had tried all the motivational methods out there but was not able to get into the habit. One day, he decided to start with one push up. Just one. Nothing more, nothing less. Without going into too much detail (perhaps in another post), Guise made a goal from then on to do one push-up a day. Eventually, he worked his way up to more and more, and that turned into incorporating other exercises into his routine, and soon enough, he was exercising regularly!
The idea is to essentially trick your brain into getting started. In the push-up example, Guise knew he would do one push-up. It was almost more ridiculous not to do one push-up. Of course, some days he did more once he completed his ‘one’. The reason I started with 10 minutes is that it was a time limit that I felt was doable with how my life was going at that time and a time-frame that I would stick with. 5 minutes in the morning and evening almost seemed a ridiculously short amount of time to commit to self-care. But of course, like in the push-up example, there were days that I committed more time.
As soon as I started implementing this, I honestly noticed a difference. More importantly, I starting noticing on the days that I DIDN’T do it. Yes, even with just 5 minutes in the morning and in the evening. It started my mornings off on a calm and positive note, and the evenings ended the same way. That in itself made a lot of difference.
In conversation with family members and friends, they mention that they have trouble prioritizing time for themselves, and I think this is an issue for a lot of others out there too. Even though I sometimes need to be reminded as well, I do think it is extremely important, and the research showing the benefits are plentiful.
Don’t believe me? Check out a couple of examples below:
- Why Me Time Matters When it Comes to Your Happiness – (Includes a great infographic)
- 6 Reasons You Should Spend More Time Alone
- Why Self Care is so Important
Now that I have developed the habit, I look forward to my ‘10 minutes a day’, especially my time in the morning. I am a morning person and love waking up before everyone else when it is still quiet and calm. I love making my coffee, exercising, walking through my garden, or just relaxing with a book. As I said above, it really makes a big difference in my day. Of course, I have my mornings where I enjoy sleeping in, or staying in bed and reading or cuddling with my cat. And that is OK too!
Here are 5 steps to start implementing the ‘10 minutes a day’ rule into your routine and stick with it:
- Set time aside – Start with an amount of time that is realistic for you. As much as an hour in the morning and evening sounds amazing, that would not have been a realistic time for me and because of that, I probably wouldn’t have stuck with my ‘me’ time. Start with a small amount of time to allow yourself to get into the habit of doing it, and to start noticing the benefits. This way, you’re more likely to stick with it.
- Make a list – Write down a short list of activities you want to do during your ‘me’ time. That way if you’re tempted to use that time to clean, for example, you can quickly go back to your ‘me time’ list and get back on track.
- Buddy up – Tell a family member or friend who can help keep you accountable of your ‘10 minute a day goal’, or, bonus, do it with you! Ask this person to check in with you once a day, twice a week, whatever schedule you want. Have them ask you what activities you did, and how you felt/feel afterward.
- Add more time – Once you start getting into the habit, work on extending your time!
- Write it down – if you are someone who likes to journal, a good accountability method would be to write down how much time you spent, what you did, and how you felt afterward. If you’re ever in doubt about spending the time for yourself, you can look back and be reminded why you should!
Having ‘me’ time is so important, and something that seems to be somewhat rare these days. People feel guilty for doing it, or, like me, have a hard time taking ‘me’ time when there are so many other things to get done. But those things will be there, waiting, when you’re done with your ‘me’ time. I promise. But you will be in a much better place to tackle them.
All photographs in post © Ld Nature Photography | 2017 and cannot be used without written consent.
What types of activities do you like to do during your ‘me’ time? Do you have any tips for making sure you are able to take time for yourself? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!