Jump to section
Do you tend to get overwhelmed with everything going on in your life?
Whether it’s the responsibilities piling up at work, the chores you have to do at home, or the people in your life who need your attention, it can feel like you have too much on your mental load if you never get to step away from it all.
That’s why it’s important to learn how to take time for yourself.
So what does it really mean to take time for yourself? How can you achieve this without the entire world falling apart? Let’s explore why time alone is so important, plus 10 ways you can start setting time aside for yourself.
What does taking time to yourself mean?
To find time for yourself means to set time aside consciously. This time should be meant for you and you alone.
It’s not meant to be time alone to catch up on the chores on your to-do list. It’s also not supposed to be time spent with your partner.
Putting aside some time that’s truly for yourself means you get to spend time on your own doing what you want to do, not what anyone else thinks you should be doing. It’s a simple self-care practice yet difficult for many to implement.
People who take time for themselves may get the urge to be productive instead. But with time, you can practice the habit of truly taking time for yourself and just allowing yourself to exist without having to get anything done. Ultimately, taking time for yourself is a form of productivity.
Is it okay to take time for yourself?
There’s always a lot going on in anyone’s life. You’ll have work, chores, keeping up with friends, spending time with your partner, caring for children and pets, and so much more to think about.
But you’re allowed to take time alone that’s meant for you and only for you. It’s a vital step in taking care of yourself.
Remember that you don’t have to earn "me-time," either. You deserve to have this time, even if you feel like you haven’t accomplished as much as you should have. There may be some inner work and behavior changes you need to do to come to terms with this, and that’s okay.
In fact, taking time for yourself can help you do this inner work. So, the more you do it, the easier it’ll become.
Why is taking time for yourself important?
There are several reasons why you should incorporate taking time for yourself in your self-care plan.
First, these moments alone can give you time to process your thoughts and feelings. Plus, if you’re an introvert, alone time gives you a much-needed break to recharge your batteries before your next social interaction.
During your moments spent alone, you can also practice self-reflection and self-awareness. You can begin to understand yourself more. There’s no one else you need to perform for and no one you need to impress. This means you can just be yourself and observe what that feels like.
In these moments of solitude, you can also start to understand what type of self-care you need. You can experiment with different things you want to try and see what works best for you.
Research has shown that choosing to spend time alone can have benefits such as boosting self-esteem. People usually see themselves as lonely if they don’t choose to spend time alone. But making a conscious choice doesn’t usually feel lonely.
More research suggests that time alone can help you experience freedom, creativity, intimacy, and spirituality.
What is the best way to take time for yourself?
So how do you begin to take time for yourself, especially if you’re living a hectic lifestyle?
Here are 10 ways you can start taking time for yourself and enjoying the benefits of slowing down.
1. Express your needs
It’s no one else’s job to guess what you need. So, if you’re in dire need of free time alone for your mental health, it’s important to express that.
Let your friends and family know that you need to take time for yourself. Think of ways you can ask for their support to get that time if you’re struggling to figure it out.
For instance, you could get an accountability partner who also takes time for themselves.
2. Question your guilt
Do you feel guilty about taking time for yourself? Do you have mom guilt?
If so, explore that guilt. Don’t push it back. Questioning yourself about your guilt is a key part of performing inner work.
Ask yourself why you feel guilty for taking a little time for yourself. See what comes up, and address all of those reasons.
If it helps, you can also journal about it. Write down every reason behind the guilt. Then, dig deeper and ask yourself whether this reason is actually true.
For example, let’s say you feel guilty because your family needs you. While it may be true that your family needs you, will time for yourself truly prevent you from sustaining that need?
What do they really need from you? Couldn’t you be more helpful and supportive for your family if you were well-rested and were able to recharge by taking some time for yourself? And finally, what are some of your needs that perhaps your family could help you meet?
3. Learn how to say no
Your time is precious. It’s the most finite resource you have.
You’re allowed to say no to doing things you don’t feel like doing with your limited time. While it’s important to make compromises in your relationships, it’s also important not to say ‘yes’ to everything.
If this is something you struggle with, start small before you tackle a big topic. Practice saying no to smaller things people ask from you. For instance, you could say no when someone requires your attention immediately while you were actually headed for a shower.
Unless someone has an emergency, you don’t need to be at everyone’s beck and call at all times. And even in the case of an emergency, you don’t always have to be everyone’s savior. Learn to fill your cup before pouring from it.
4. Block out me-time each week (or every two weeks)
If you have children, a partner, or other crucial responsibilities, claim a block of time every week to have time for yourself away from your everyday life and busy schedule.
Your partner should do the same. Every caretaker should get undisputed time for themselves so that they can recharge and come back fresh.
If it’s not possible to get this time for yourself every week, try every two weeks instead. Alternate weeks with your partner or with the other people you’re sharing responsibility with.
If you don’t have a partner, reach out to people close to you. These people could be friends, family, or other important people in your life.
5. Set boundaries at work
Your employer is important to you since they provide you with a job. But you are just as important to them, if not more.
With that in mind, set realistic boundaries with your employer. They usually set boundaries with their employees, and this should go both ways. For instance, you can set a limit by leaving on time instead of staying late almost every day. Such boundaries can help you achieve a healthy work-life balance and get that much-needed time alone.
Let your manager know how they can support you. For instance, if you’re a working parent, tell them what you need to ensure your family is taken care of. This isn’t just good for you — you’ll be a better asset to your employer if you can rest easy while you’re at work.
6. Implement an exercise routine
Find a form of physical exercise that you enjoy. This can be a great way to spend time with yourself. An exercise routine can greatly improve your physical health and well-being.
If you have children, look into finding a gym that has a daycare. That will make it easier to ensure you get enough time alone while you exercise.
If you prefer to work out from home, look into virtual workouts that you can do from anywhere.
7. Take a solo lunch break
But sometimes, you may need alone time more than bonding time. Don’t feel guilty about taking your lunch break alone from time to time.
Find a quiet spot in your office with a packed lunch. Alternatively, walk to a quiet cafe or restaurant nearby.
You could also head home if you live close to your place of work.
8. Make a date with yourself
A date doesn’t have to be with other people. Make a point to mark a date with yourself in your calendar, just like you would if you had a date with a loved one.
Respect the commitment to the date. If you respect others enough to show up, then you should respect yourself just as much.
During your date, try activities you’ve always wanted to try. No one else can disagree with you.
9. Try doing nothing
You don’t always have to be doing something productive. In fact, you don’t always have to be doing anything at all.
While planning a date with yourself can be a great way to experiment with something new, you can also give yourself the time and space to do nothing.
Doing nothing also means staying off your phone or television. Try putting away the screens and social media to enjoy a distraction-free moment with yourself. Make yourself a cup of coffee. Take deep breaths. Smile.
10. Find ways to be alone together with loved ones
It’s possible to spend time together with your loved ones, but on your own. In this way, everyone can be alone but still feel surrounded by those they love.
For example, you can plan an hour of quiet reading time for everyone in your household. You can put on soothing background music, light a candle, and sit close by to someone else.
Taking time for yourself while touching your partner can have many benefits, like reducing cortisol levels. So time alone doesn’t always have to be completely alone.
Learn how to take time for yourself and put yourself back on your list of priorities
If you’re used to putting everyone else first, it can be difficult to take time for yourself in the beginning. But as you practice this skill, it’ll become more and more comfortable for you.
At BetterUp, our coaches support people on their unique journies and help them develop the skills and mindsets to reach their goals. Whether you need help carving out this time for yourself or you want to help your team keep performing at their best, request a free demo or schedule a free session to see how a BetterUp coach can help you.
Vice President of Alliance Solutions