Putting Yourself on a Time Out

Do you have a naughty chair or mat somewhere in your house for your children? Or someplace they have to go to “think” about what they have done? How about for yourself?

Even though I live alone, I have found that I need a designated place in my house where I can go take a “time out” on a regular basis to recharge, relax, focus, and reconnect with myself. You’d think that living alone that part would be easy, but I have just as much going on in my head about things that need to be done and conversations I wish I’d had as a working mom with four kids might have. The issue isn’t whether you have more stress than me, the issue is, are you helping yourself or hurting yourself by relentlessly maintaining a harried and hectic pace?

Dr. Daniel G. Amen is a brain function researcher in California. His work proves that the brain is the center of it all – a fit body, good health, strong families, satisfying relationships, and financial success. But we don’t take care of our brains – we put ourselves last on the list. And we do so at great unseen risk to ourselves and our health.

The need for us to take a time out isn’t limited to once a day, or once a week, and it isn’t completely satisfied by “girls’ night out.”

Think about incorporating time outs for yourself in different ways and on a variety of levels. First, you really need to incorporate short time outs throughout the day at home and at work. We can’t race around all day and expect to catch up with ourselves later in a healthy way.

A recent study commissioned by the Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance company found that the impact of sitting at a high-stress desk job all day resulted in a 40% increase in the risk of heart disease. People who have high stress and low control over their lives are essentially a ticking time bomb. So, if you are in an office all day, think of how to take mini-breaks that will refresh your brain.

If you are a stay-at-home mom and have a frantic schedule shuttling kids everywhere and getting all the housework done, think about how you can incorporate little deep-breathing breaks throughout your day. You’re most likely not getting enough sleep so you have to turn down the volume and take in some deep breaths to help your body and brain survive that depletion.

You also need to start your day the right way – take a few moments before you even get out of bed to breathe deeply, feel your heart beating, think about the day ahead and focus on only one major task that MUST be done today. And this is also a good time to give thanks – you’ve got a fresh new day to make a difference in your life and in someone else’s life. Starting the day with gratitude will have a profound effect on your mental and emotional health.

Now, in addition to the multiple mini-breaks you build into your day, you also need to take some longer periods of time. You need a place in your home that is for you only – and you need to use it several times a week (at the very least, once a week) to center yourself and ask yourself tough questions. Limit the distractions – no phone, no TV, no Internet. I suggest your journal – write down all the things you are grateful for, the things in your life you love, the things you want to work on and then ask yourself hard questions about whether you have any blockages that will prevent those life changes from happening. Your answers will come to you as you just sit and allow them. If you have trouble with this, get a guided discovery journal to help you. But be clear with yourself and your family – this is YOUR time. Schedule it, honor it, use it.

And you need to work in social time outs. Plan evenings out with just your spouse. The kids will survive with a babysitter. Plan evenings out with girlfriends who make you feel good about yourself and will do more than complain about their husbands or gossip about people you know. If you don’t have those kinds of friends, spend some time reflecting on that!

Then there is the BIG one ? soul searching retreats. Do you have at least one time a year built into your calendar where you can leave daily life behind completely and focus on the big picture? If you’ve never done that, start researching some options. They don’t have to be expensive, they don’t even have to be far away. But the opportunity to remove yourself from your environment and explore yourself in a new place is such a gift to yourself and your family. Make it happen!

The key to any time out is that it must be about YOU. Does that sound selfish? Well, go back to the age-old example of the oxygen masks on airplanes. You put yours on first and then help your children. Believe that you deserve this time and know that it will make you a better person, a better spouse, a better mother, a better friend.

In her book Simple Abundance, Sarah Ban Breathnacht talks about restoring a sense of rhythm to your life. Since she wrote that book, the Internet has exploded, cell phones are in everyone’s hands and are mobile computers. People text rather than talk and get belligerent if you don’t respond immediately. Adopt an attitude that the phone and the computer are there for your convenience, not so that everyone else can find you at their convenience. Unplug and recharge for a better body, a better mind and a better life – restore a rhythm to your soul with your time outs.

Copyright (c) 2011 Kim Schuld