How To Make Time For Yourself Even In The Most Chaotic Life
On Monday night, a few of us were talking about the battles and barriers we face when it comes to making time for ourselves.
We live jam-packed lives.
With careers that are so often all-consuming, and always demanding more, more, more hours.
Commitments like picking up the kids from here, there and everywhere.
And that’s not even taking into account … the food shop, picking up petrol, going to the hairdressers, the mountain of washing, stopping by the pharmacy to pick up and then drop off your neighbours prescription, cleaning the house, walking the dog, the ironing… phew! The list goes on.
And then with whatever time is left we also want to create precious moments with family, friends, your bestie, the new guy your dating (or old one!), and your cat.
Trying to squeeze in time for yourself to do anything that doesn’t involve crashing and dozing on the couch can feel impossible.
Where do you find the energy?!? It’s exhausting. All you want to do when you get in from work, is get in your pjs and eat your tea watching whatever new drama is on the telly.
I get it.
It’s a tough battle.
Particularly the demanding work bit. I found that bit the hardest to resolve.
Many moons ago, when I was at university I was living an immensely busy and chaotic life. I was at uni full time, and also worked in the Boots head office as an Assistant Buyer full time too. I organised my lectures and seminars to run for 3 weeks solid of 9-6pm, once every term. And all my exams, exam prep, essays, assignments and dissertations I did in my evenings and weekends around my work life.
To say I found it stressful was an unstatement.
I often worked til 6pm or 7pm (and later if we had a busy project going on). Which meant by the time I got home and had my tea, it was getting on into the evening. Picking up my books and writing assignments often felt like the last thing I wanted to do.
Pretty much every night, I’d study into the wee hours. Then be back up and out by 7 or 8am.
After about 7 months at this intensity, the cracks were starting to show. I missed my family. I felt like I had no fun in my life. I was hitting burnout. (Looking back, frankly I’m surprised I made it that long!)
I finally hit breaking point, and in a blub of tears and snot. I took a few days off and dragged myself on to the train back to my mum and dads house.
I remember so clearly the pressure I felt about “wasting” time. Any “spare” time, I felt I had to be studying. And I grew this huge complex about relaxing, letting my hair down and switching off. On the train home, I sat at a table seat, reading a textbook about accountancy. Couldn’t “waste” those precious 2 hours!
When the train stopped, I woke up, face-planting the textbook, pen still poised in hand.
Lifting my head, I had a string of saliva between my book and my lip (glamorous!). I peered round the carriage (of course it was full) to see a lot of sympathetic faces glaring back at me.
During my “nap”, I’d missed my stop too. Which meant I had to get off at the next station to then switch trains and go back again. Fearing I’d see a ticket inspector in case he didn’t believe me and I’d get whacked with a fine I definitely could not afford. And feeling guilty that I’d kept my dad waiting at the station for 40 minutes.
When I finally arrived at Burton station, dad was there with open arms, not quite ready for the emotional wreck I’d become since I’d last seen him. Once home, mum and dad sat me down, worried about how thin I was, how colourless my skin had become, asking things like “are you eating properly Becky?”
Seeing how worried they were, and feeling as deflated as I did. I knew then I needed to make changes. I couldn’t go on like this.
It was at this trip home that my mum told me the “cup story”. It was the first time I’d heard it, but I’ve heard it many times since.
She says, imagine your energy, your love, your life is water in a cup. And you want to help people and give your best and by doing so you’re giving some of your water to others (aka your energy, your love and your life). And this is amazing, but it’ll start to diminish your supply.
If you don’t focus on refilling that cup back up, soon enough you’ll be left with no energy, no love and no life. You feel you’ve hit rock bottom. Literally empty.
She demonstrated this with actually cups too – with each cup I was pouring my water into, representing all my commitments in my life. She’s so cute, love her!
I asked her, how can I fill my cup back up?
She said, you fill it back up with anything that brings you joy and that gives you energy.
How you do that is unique to you.
For mum it’s reading or taking a bath, or something quiet that makes her feel calm and relaxed. For my dad, he likes to be creative, so he finds joy in painting, in stone masonry, or for going on a long walks in the countryside with the dog.
After this conversation, some 10 years ago now, I still check in with myself about what gives me joy, what energises me, and what fills me up.
Sometimes I still hit the question of “how on earth do I find the time to do it?” But I’ve learnt, that if I don’t make the time. It comes at a big cost. To me, to my work, to my colleagues, to my boss, to my family, my friends, my partner. For me, being depleted, is living a life half-lived.
You are important. You bring joy and inspiration and laughter and intelligence and charisma and happiness to so many. Just by being your wonderful, awesome self.
Remember to re-energise.
Take a moment now to think about what fills you with joy. What gives you energy?
And make a decision, right now, to make more time for yourself to do that.
Leave work on time (or early if you can!), say no to things you don’t want to do, spend less time on socials. The power is within you. You’ve totally got this.
Now what are you going to do with that hour, 2 hours, 4 hours a week that you’ve given to yourself? How are you going to enjoy it? What can you do more of that fills you up, and makes you feel alive, and makes you feel like you?
Make the time. Because your life depends on it. Because you are SO worth it!
Of course, you know the thing that fills me up with energy the most – POLE!!! Oh yes! I love it.
But other things I carve out the time for, that are now non-negotiable, they have to be in my life, include:
- reading (or listening to a book on audible)
- going to the sea or a forest or something in nature at least once a month. More regs if possible
- pamper time – this is things like giving myself a proper nice face mask (Lush products are some of my faves!)
I’d love to know what insight you’re taking away from this. Did you feel inspired to carve out time for you? What are you going to do with your time that energises you? Leave a comment below and let me know.
Much love, strength and energy!