The Power of Time For You

When did you last take some time out for yourself?   I mean really just for you – no phone, no reading over minutes from work, not sat at the computer checking emails… but relaxing, unwinding and nurturing you.  We women who do too much often find it difficult to justify taking time out from our busy days to do something for ourselves, unless of course we are being productive or can balance it with ticking another thing off our daily list at the same time!  So we keep going, keep striving, pushing, working, heaving, until we finally get into bed at the end of the day – and even then there’s still so much going on in our heads that we can’t fall asleep or we toss and turn and journey back and forth to the loo like a yo-yo.  Sound familiar?

Working as hard and long as we do juggling projects, managing deadlines, coping with the crises of getting our children into the ‘right’ school is exhausting.   Yet we keep striving for perfection and ignore our tiredness, not wanting to feel it through fear that once we become aware, we might not be able to get going again.  What we don’t realize is that while we stay hooked in a workaholic loop, our bodies struggle to keep up.  Struggle on the outside always means there’s struggle on the inside. Each hurry, flurry and moment spent rushing from one thing to the next causes a rush of adrenaline into our blood stream.  When the stress continues our adrenal cortex next secretes cortisol and DHEA hormones to help our bodies to function.

Whenever our brains sense prolonged stress, like staying up all night with a new baby or working until 2am on the computer to complete a report, increased levels of cortisol and DHEA are released.  Once we decide to get some rest these hormones begin to decline.  The release of cortisol and DHEA is good and healthy whenever it is triggered occasionally, but if we fail to allow ourselves the opportunity to get sufficient rest, repair and rejuvenation our vital organs are unable to replenish themselves and functional abilities begin to diminish.  Our adrenal glands literally begin to burn out and the excess amounts of cortisol and DHEA lead to several problems like insomnia, depression, fatigue, mood swings, loss of sex drive, weight gain, recurrent infections, muscle wasting, menstrual disorders, water retention and stomach cramps.

The release of adrenaline, cortisol and DHEA associated with keeping on the go and staying in the stress cycle can be addictive, which is why so many women keep doing too much – time and time again, even after wake up signs like health problems or accidents.   So how can we step out from the do, do, do and rush, rush, rush long enough to stop pushing ourselves and allow rejuvenation instead?

Firstly, begin to notice the illusion that we have to keep going, as if we are powerless to our to do lists and have no choice.  You always have a choice.  Allowing yourself to say no to taking on more responsibilities to cut things out from your life that no longer serve you.  To let go of things, people and commitments not contributing to your health, wealth or happiness.

Secondly, by listening to your body.  If you have a pain, a headache, a sense of fatigue acknowledge it – not by moaning about it to everyone around you, but by pausing for long enough to work out what it could be trying to tell you.  Before you pop a pill to ignore it, question whether it is some rest that you need instead.

Thirdly, by giving yourself permission to take 20 minutes out and settle yourself quietly.  Release any tension held in your body.  Focus on your breathing and allow your thoughts to take a holiday while you visualize yourself lying on a beach in the Bahamas or swimming in the sea.  After taking a break you are likely to notice that you feel much better and are able to return to whatever you were pushing yourself at with clearer focus, a sense of calm and increased competence.

By taking time out each day to replenish ourselves we connect with the peace at the core of our being, and are able to bring more of true selves to the people with whom we share our experiences of life.  The key is to do this little and often.  Giving your central nervous system the chance to rest for long enough to recover from the stresses and strains of everyday modern life.

It is also important to pamper yourself with little luxuries that make you feel special.  Think how the smell of fresh linen or the sense of a fluffy robe as you step out of the bath lifts your spirits and makes you feel good.  How much more relaxed and fun to be around would you be if you had lots of reminders that ‘you’re worth it’ each and every day?  From that kind of space it becomes easier to notice when you push too hard, catch yourself and ease of the gas.  Treating yourself is good for everyone else too.  The relaxed, happy vibe you’ll experience will be felt by those you work with, live with, share the train to work with – and it’s infectious!

Here are my 7 Secrets to Taking Time Out for Self-Care Success:

  1. Schedule ‘Me Time’ – We women who do too much can find it almost impossible to make time for ourselves, especially when this is a new concept, without planning the time into our diaries.  To help get you started on prioritizing self-care, schedule some ‘me time’ each day and treat the appointment as if it is one with your Dr or boss – that you absolutely can’t be late for! Be there, for your self.  N.B. This applies to men too, it’s just that women tend to be more aware of the endless struggle to keep up!
  2. Carve out Power-Hours – The more time you can give yourself the better. If you find it hard to let go of something sizeable that would usually take you about an hour at least once per week from your to do list, then get some help!  Arrange for a cleaner to come regularly and allow yourself that time to do something relaxing, fun or creatively indulgent – book a babysitter weekly so that you can take that bath or escape for a massage – hire a girl Friday to run your errands – or swap something you love doing with something a friend hates, like gardening for cooking or DIY tasks for dog walking.  Save money by block booking – e.g. cleaning companies will charge less if you have the same cleaner at the same time on a weekly basis, many beauticians offer discounts if you book sets of 5 or 10 massage sessions rather than just one at a time.  If you have an arrangement like this you’re more likely to stick to it and use it to!
  3. Rest, Repair, Rejuvenate – Do something loving and nurturing for yourself at least once per day.  This might mean taking a hot bath with luxurious salts and scented candles, treating yourself to flowers, lingering in bed an extra 10 minutes in the morning, sitting outside at lunch and soaking up the sun, listening to your favourite feel good music as you get ready for work, having a massage, taking a power-nap (try this in increments of 15mins for maximum effect – not for everyone) spending 30 minutes in your garden, taking a walk in the forest or along the beach, painting/drawing/working with clay or another similarly gentle creative activity, soaking your feet in a bowl of water at the end of the day or putting on a face mask before bed.
  4. Treat Yourself - Introduce a little pampering into your everyday routine, small treats that bring a little more pleasure and relaxation to your usual environment, tasks or chores… light a scented candle while working, drink high quality tea from a beautiful cup, wear your sexy underwear on a Wednesday just because you can, wash with the loveliest shower gel you can find, make yourself a fresh juice with squeezed oranges, scatter rose petals on your bed and frolic in them, drink your water from a fancy glass, indulge in the more expensive nutritious lunch on the menu, put fresh potpourri in your living room, get a lipstick you love and allow yourself to feel good wearing it, invest in a decent pillow and bedding that makes you feel like a queen…
  5. Honour Your Importance – whenever you notice your inner critic judging, being negative or beating you up, telling you that you’re not worthy of time out for self-care, take a few deep breaths and re-affirm to yourself “I am worth anything it takes to stay rested, happy and deeply tuned into the people I serve.” (Nancy Kline)
  6. Say No With Kindness – Become aware of the ways in which you give yourself and your energy away whilst running on empty, rather than serving from a place of plenty.  Choose to help yourself first, so that you can in turn give more.  Practice saying no to people and opportunities that have the potential to deplete your reserves, as and when they present themselves, rather than later when you end up burnt out!  Remember saying “No” to someone else means saying “Yes” to yourself and your health.  The cumulative effect of this is that you keep your tank full and are able to give more purposefully at a later stage.
  7. Celebrate Your Successes – give yourself credit for the things you get done each day, it’s often much easier to give ourselves a hard time for all the remaining things we need to get done, rather than to acknowledge what we have accomplished.  Celebrate your successes each day – especially the successes that come from saying no with kindness and taking time out to take stock, rest, replenish and re-energise! Give yourself a pat on the back and treat yourself to a little more self-care as a reward ;)

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