Posted by: crustynomad | February 17, 2008

Taking Time Out

The following article was first published on the helium.com writers website.

You can view some of my other articles here.

Taking time out can be a touchy subject. How do you feel when you step-off life’s magic roundabout? Do you feel guilty, relieved, selfish, happy? Daily life can be all-consuming as we rush from one appointment to the next doing chores and visiting friends or taking the children to after-school clubs or parties. With so much going on it’s a wonder we ever have the opportunity to take time out for ourselves.

The sad reality is that when we do have the opportunity to take a breather many of us choose to do it in a way that does not serve us particularly well. As an an example I will provide one that parents will recognize.

Imagine the scene: You were up late because you didn’t hear the alarm – could it be that you were overtired? You quickly get up to get the kids ready and because they’ve woken up with a start you find that they are more than a little irritable. You make a rushed breakfast while asking the children to get themselves ready for school but little Jimmy can’t find his shoes and Mary has spilt her oatmeal on her skirt.

You all jump in the car and there’s a fight as to who sits where and once you get to school you realize that you left the packed lunches at home. In retrieving them you have made yourself late for work causing more stress which sets the tone for the day.

Once the day is through and the kids are finally asleep you just flop down in front of…you’ve guess it, the TV!

You didn’t have time for a proper meal so you send out for a take away or tuck-in to whatever is in the cupboards, which could consist of sugary snacks, potato chips or soda. Exhaustion has set in and you don’t feel up to getting the kids stuff ready for tomorrow – you’ll do it in the morning…and so repeating the process.

Time out in the above example is poor quality rest and ultimately has a detrimental long-term effect as you constantly fire-fight life events, moving from one crisis to another.

If you personally feel you cannot take time out you need to stop and seriously think about how you run your life. There really is no excuse for not having ‘me’ time. If you feel overwhelmed by your schedule you need look at what you can do to change it.

Are all your appointments absolutely necessary? Do they truly benefit you as a person or do you just feel it’s an obligation and that you should do them out of duty. Remember that by being a little more choosy you are focusing on the tasks that of more value to you. We all have the power to decide what it is we want to do and if we don’t want to do it we really can opt out.

We are on this planet for but a short time. Why should what we do be purely for the benefit of others unless that is what we truly want. For some, giving to others less fortunate is their release and a means of giving something back but if it’s only to act as a taxi for friends or babysit to suit another’s lifestyle there is a strong likelihood that you will begin to harbor some resentment towards those people and yourself.

For me, taking time out can be achieved on a daily basis in a number of little ways that keep me fresh. It’s taking an aimless walk and then getting a later bus home in the evening. I listen to relaxing music, I read a book that inspires, I day dream. It is my perception of the journey that helps me wind down.

I just blot out everything around me. I turn off my mobile phone – the world will not stop if I am out of reach for half-an-hour and this just reasserts my independence. For that short time, nothing else exists in the world except me.

I choose how I react to any given situation. If the person in the queue in front of me holds me up and means I’m left standing in the rain, that’s frustrating but only a problem if I allow it to be. It is my reaction to whatever I’m faced with that determines my stress levels so if I let things like that bother me my time out time is affected – I won’t let that happen.

If you are part of a family you need to set and agree some ground rules as to what taking time out means. It has to be balanced, fair and of benefit to you and those around you. No-one should resent looking after the children alone for a night if it means you can go out with the boys or take a day walking in the hills on another day.

Wanting time out away from the family does not make you a bad person. It is not selfish it is a reward for yourself and does not mean you love your family any less. You just have to love yourself if you want to feel at ease with life.

Sometimes we just have to say that we are going for a walk and just go. If we start a debate we can give in and feel resentment, not with our partner necessarily, but more likely with ourselves because we gave in.

The key is recognizing when this is appropriate however. If you walk out on a stressful situation, what are you leaving behind? Is it fair to do so? If not, you may have to face up that the problem that caused this reaction began long before the current situation arose. Analyze what you could have done, learn from it to minimize the risk of it re-occurring in the future.

Taking time out is only useful if it’s not laced with guilt and a feeling of selfishness. If you have those emotions it will not be beneficial to your rest and re-cooperation.

There is a well-known proverb that goes: “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.”

If you are a martyr and say yes to everything you really should look to reverse this and say: “Do for myself as I do for others”. If you do it truthfully and without guilt, you will reclaim your life.

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