Answer me honestly, aren’t there times when you’d just love to hang a little sign around your neck that says, Stay the hell away from me…I just need some alone time. Maybe even one that has little blinky lights on it for extra emphasis.
Of course there are. I feel that way on most days (at least a little). And there’s absolutely nothing wrong or selfish or sinful about feeling that way.
The fact is, as much as we’re all social creatures who love to interact with the people around us (most of those people, anyway), we’re also human, and every once in a while, we just need to be left alone. We need space or time or distance from, well, everybody. And needing that doesn’t make us antisocial or withdrawn or unfriendly, it just means we need a mental time-out. Because sometimes it’s just nice to not have to talk to anyone or answer questions or be present. To just be left alone. To shut down.
Even the folks at Psychology Today agree that there are big-time benefits to solitude. They say, and I’m quoting now, that spending time alone is actually super healthy. (Amazing the things you find out when you do research.)
According to them, they say that carving out a little Me Time is a smart idea because:
- It allows us to reboot and lets our brains unwind
- It helps improve our concentration and productivity
- It gives us the chance to get to know ourselves
- It helps us to think deeply
- It helps us learn to cope with our problems more effectively
- It enhances the quality of our relationships with other people
For a lot of us, though, surrendering to that idea is tough. I mean, giving ourselves the license to just step away from everything and everyone and hide in that closet with that bag of Hot Cheetos isn’t an easy thing to do. (What?! They help me relax.)
Because the more we have on our plate, like jobs and spouses and kids, the trickier it is for us to steal any time for ourselves. And the guiltier we feel for stealing it. (Damn you, conscience!)
Actually, most of us just can’t handle the guilt once it starts to seep in. We start thinking about that big PowerPoint presentation or the salad for the PTO lunch or the overdue cable bill or our daughter’s absurdly puppy-like eyes that are just begging us to drive her to the mall. And that’s when we give up our quiet time without so much as a fight.
Because if you’re like me, you always feel like you’re supposed to be using your time wisely and purposefully. That’s just how our parent brains function. That you should be bagging up lunches for someone. But that’s on me. That’s my issue. That’s something I continuously try to work through.
The reality is, though, once our To-Do Lists are checked off, there are forty more bullets that pop up in their place. Because in case you hadn’t noticed, life is like that Wac-A-Mole game at the cheesy carnival where we just keep pounding the crap out of everything that keeps popping up around us.
Which is exactly why it’s so important that we prioritize a little quiet time just for us. Even a small chunk of Us Time that doesn’t include anyone else. Because if we take on too much too consistently and we never spend any time off the hamster wheel, then we become an insufferable [insert a proper name that starts with D and rhymes with brick] ____.
See, if you’re a human with a pulse, with a job and maybe a family, then you tend to hoard stuff in your head on a daily basis—like job stress and financial stress and kid stress. And that stress inevitably morphs into a bad mood. So we need to step away from the piles and piles of mental junk we carry around with us and inhale some fresh clean air.
Call it an emotional furlough—a tiny blip of time when we don’t have to engage with anybody—when we can be alone in our own heads. We need that, even if we’re doing absolutely nothing while we’re up there.
Maybe we unplug for a half hour every day, go for a walk, and leave our phones behind. Or if that’s too extreme, maybe we just wake up a little earlier every day and that becomes our quiet time. Or maybe we actually create a category in our calendar that’s called Time Out and we officially block off time for ourselves each week.
It doesn’t matter what our solitude looks like or where we find it as long as we make it happen. Right now, though, I’ve gotta go. It’s eleven-forty-five at night and I think everyone in my house is asleep. Need to capitalize on this quiet moment while I have the chance. Or at least until I fall asleep drooling on myself on the couch.
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn/. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.