This week I read a blog post by Jana Bakunina about ‘me time‘. She was prompted to write about it after reading a seemingly derogatory article about it. It got me thinking….I remember when I first had my children I was told “you need to have some time to yourself” or “take a little me time“. No! Not only did I not feel the need for me time, I found the concept alarmingly stressful. Why would I want to spend time away from my baby?! My baby whom I was breastfeeding and by that was reducing my blood pressure. My (troublesome in pregnancy) blood pressure, by the way, shot up to 176/125 (it should be 120/80) when my second son was in the neonatal unit while I was in a room a couple of hundred metres away – unable to get to him. It dropped down as soon as I was with him…..and feeding him. So time away from my babies has never been a concept I agree with nor encourage. It did become a problem when I had to drive home with foils in my hair once after my 8 month old refused to take a bottle….over-bleached hair by the way takes about a year to recover!
Now that my babies are not quite so tiny and that I like to perhaps sit and have a ponder about things at times I have to question whether I now need ‘me time’ or as the eloquent Jen commented: we all need time to ruminate, ponder and explore. Would I actually like to sit in a cafe and watch the world go by? Would I like to have a shower in peace and think about the horse riding lesson or the running route I am going to take that day? The answer is, guiltily, yes. Even as I write this my 3yo is in bed wriggling next to me and it is very distracting; the constant wriggling and moving and jumping and noise and pressure to act, react, create a Lego masterpiece or negotiate a war over a paratrooper doll.
In the name of research but really to ease my guilt over desiring a little clear-headed time I pulled out a book I often refer to for hypertension (high blood pressure). In it the author discusses stress and our reaction to it. He aptly points out that its impossible to avoid all of the stressors of life, but you can do something to lessen their effects on your physical, mental and emotional health. We all have a stress response and the antidote to this stress response is the relaxation response. Doing progressive relaxation has been proven to lower blood pressure.
I’ve practiced relaxation for hypnobirthing and for yoga and meditation and doing it at home just isn’t the same. I’ve had the kids start screaming at me, do a poo or want a drink/food/puzzle etc. So to get my 20 mins of health inducing, stress busting, blood pressure lowering time I need to chill out and breathe deeply for a consistent 20 minutes. Of course to be creative and have more independent thought we also need a consistent unbroken time frame to free our thoughts and move forward. Would JK have written Harry Potter had she had a warm house and not had to sit in a coffee house all day without distractions of housework?!
As Kate commented on Jana’s post: maybe referring to it as ‘me time’ makes it worse, makes us feel more guilt for taking it because we see it as just for us. If we considered the knock on effect of us feeling better and more rounded on our families and friends then it’s not quite so selfish after all!. If we considered the long term health benefits of 20 minutes a day of stress-relieving activity we might just be more willing to do it.
What do you think of “me time”?
Jana can be found here at Ladies who Impress.
Does mountain gazing count as ‘me time’?!