Finding time for yourself can be hard in our fast paced existence. You may still remember how slow time was passing by when you were a child. A day seemed to take so long from morning to evening, a week seemed almost endless! A month or even a year was something in very distant future, something you would not bother thinking about.
Growing up our perception of time changes. We grow up and we grow busier, time seems to fly, years passing one after the other. If we´re busy studying and working – and trying to enjoy life – time is just one big bubbled rush from one event, one meeting, one job to the next. With maturity obligations become more and more while time gets less and less. Sooner or later almost everyone reaches the adult spiral of busyness which is hard to escape. Times becomes valuable, the sentence “Sorry, I don´t have time today” will be said more often than you might like to. The need to structure and plan your time well will grow, as will the nostalgia when looking back on how much time you had when you were younger.
Busy bee of society
It´s good to keep yourself busy, at least that´s what society tells us. A busy person is a good person. A busy person is a productive person. A busy person is contributing to society. But what is a very busy person contributing? A lot of stress? A lot of negative energy due to not feeling balanced and happy which spreads onto their surroundings? Why should this be anyones goal if it obviously makes us sick to be as productive as society wants us to be?
If we follow the “idea of a great member of society” how would this person look like? Probably well educated, working themselves up on the career ladder, juggling a lot of responsibilities at once and never wasting their time with unnecessary things. Unnecessary things like self-care, like taking time for yourself. It seems almost not acceptable to cancel a meeting because you want time for yourself. But if you cannot take care of yourself – how would you work without eventually coming to a point where you don´t want – or can´t – anymore?
Personal busy bee experiences
For myself, I realized that at some point you need to slow down. Right now, life threw me back into University after summer, engaging in three separate studies at the time while working, doing voluntary work, sports classes and some personal projects. In short: there´s a lot going on and it´s not only fun stuff. So far, so good.
I have a very tight schedule, wake up early and come home late. It shocked me when I realized that I don´t even have time to cook anymore on most days – something I loved doing in the past. With preparing meals this can be solved, however, this is only one example of things I loved and used to do which don´t find space in my timetable any longer. I now have to plan my time very well. In all the chaos of exams, academic papers, group works, volunteering and working to gain a living I quickly got caught up in a spiral that stressed me constantly. There would never be a day where nothing needed to be done. Finishing one task I already had five more projects on my table waiting to being done. There was no way out of the spiral – are at least not any time soon.
I would wake up in the morning and head either to work or to university. Then spend my whole day at university working on papers, come home around midnight, sleep, repeat. I basically have been doing this for about two months now. As I said, in the beginning I was obviously stressed and everyone noticed. A lot of people kept asking me “Are you stressed? What´s going on?”, which stressed me even more. Endless days of running from one place to another while also trying to fit in some free time of meeting friends and seeing my family. Everything was so overwhelming and came down on me at once. But I didn´t want to admit it. I am usually that kind of person who thinks “Oh, it´s not that bad, I can handle it” and then wants to add even more work to their plate. However, at some point I had to admit to myself that I wouldn´t be able to do everything I had planned. It was getting too much and it was affecting me drastically, with my stress level being up all the time.
Change your words to change the way you feel
I knew that I had to drastically change my way of thinking. Seeing all these obligations I just saw a big pile of “I still have to do this”, and “I must do this and that” in front of me. That was when I started to question myself: who am I to complain? First of all, I put all that work on myself voluntarily (not entirely, but a big part of it). I could have decided to prolong my studies, no one was forcing me to finish and squeeze the remaining parts into such a short amount of time. I could be less engaged in doing voluntary work, I could leave some of my sports classes out. The only thing I really had to do was to work as I have to live and to pay rent.
So I asked myself about my motivations to do all these things. Why did I put such a huge workload on myself that I was almost tumbling under the weight? The answer was right in front of me, crystal-clear: I first had to change my language. I had chosen this workload voluntarily and while yes, it was and still is a lot, it is still mainly composed of things I actually and genuinely want to do. Sure, I have many obligations, but I don´t have to do anything. I am able to do them. I am able to study, I am able to engage in a lot of different activities I desire. It is a privilege being able to study which might be normal in my country, but in other parts of the world it is certainly not.
Once I started to change my language, my way of thinking also slowly started to change. I soon started to feel more free, liberated as I did acknowledge my obligations as a privilege and not as a mere annoying pile of work. I started to try changing my language when talking to other and also when talking to myself in my head. Soon I didn´t feel the pressure anymore. I still have a lot to do, but it doesn´t stress me out to the point other people are asking if I am still okay.
Take time for yourself
I also noticed how important taking time for myself is for my mental wellbeing. Especially yoga and meditation helped me a lot to calm down and centering myself again. If I don´t have time for yoga, I miss it instantly and daily practice is one of my top priorities. I realized once more that I just need this practice to come back to myself. When feeling my body I start feeling myself, my mind and my soul again. I feel how everything falls back into balance, how stress is left far, far behind in my brain. I just go with the flow of my body which also thanks me a lot for exercising after many hours of sitting and writing in the library.
Meditation does the same and brings me back to myself once again. This is a time when I can leave all obligations at the back of my head, clearing some space in my mind focusing my attention on myself and my inner world. We all need some practices that balance us in life. We all have to have a counterbalance to our obligations.
What also balances me are people I know very well and whom I love and my home environment where I just feel I belong to at this moment and point in time. At home I rarely work – because there´s not much space to do so, but also because I want to keep my home a place I like and I can relax. Working and living in the same place would not work for me as I need another space to calm down and be free to do whatever I like. Separating work with connecting it to university and my home with just being my home have been one of them most important things to making sure I am able to relax fully after a long day.
So don´t let the stress get to you. Find some counter strategies and pay attention to your words – also when talking to yourself. Words have so much power which is often underestimated. But with this power you can change your whole attitude. Find a counterbalance for yourself. This might be yoga, but also walks in nature, listening to music, or basically anything you enjoy doing. Find something that balances you and gives you the feeling of inner peace.