Solitude and self-care have become a commodity. Markets are trying to sell us face-packs that can restore blemishes on our skin and mental imbalance. Ridiculously expensive “silent retreats” with their life-changing testimonials drive us to believe this is what we need to live a better life. There’s a special tea you should drink during your “me time.” This overpriced bath salt will help you get a life-altering meditative bath.
I often wondered if solitude and self-care are just a capitalistic fad with no gains for me. It sounded like something only pseudo-spiritual gurus would advise. I detested spending time alone and considered it a waste of my time. The real truth was introspection was terrifying. Spending time alone with my thoughts sent a shiver down my spine. I turned many stones to never run out of company.
But all of it had to change when I moved for college and began to live with my extended family. They had demanding jobs that didn’t allow them to come home before dinner. And my classes were lax – I could manage to get good grades by only going twice a week. This bound me to spend my days alone in a quiet two-bedroom flat.
This time, there was no running away from my thoughts. You can only watch so much TV to drown out the noise of your own brain, you know? But in a few months, my loneliness converted to solitude. It wasn’t easy. I was often lonely. I had to sit and make peace with my own self, tackle the monster of my self-reflection, and gain a forced self-awareness that only solitude can bring about.
Now, I guard my time alone with a fierce force. It is non-negotiable and necessary to maintain my sanity. And it is no surprise that I am happier than I had ever been before. Company is still frequent, but I have the audacity (and craving) to shut my door.
“If you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself.” – Dalai Lama
It is not just that solitude helps you increase concentration, productivity, and self-awareness. I believe it is a radical act of self-care. Finding time alone with the stimulation of the technology devices we have amidst us is challenging. It is not only out of comfort-zones, so many times it is also out of reach. How much easier it is to just keep texting, watching, emailing when you’re alone rather than just being with yourself and not doing anything? I get it. I have been there – it gets hard to prioritize “me time” when there’s so much on your plate.
Here are 3 ways you can create time alone – even if you have a jam-packed calendar:
1. Weekend Disconnect
I set time aside each day to turn off my phone, my laptop, and my brain. But I know it is not possible on some days. Life can be demanding. Work gets too much, or my family needs attention. The way out is to make time on the weekends to disconnect. It might be only one day, but that day would be non-negotiable. It is much easier to find time once a day in the week to disconnect rather than to find time every day. This time is for you to unplug. No notifications, no work, no distractions. You can do anything you like with this time – wander around the block, nap, write, paint, etc. You create a space of silence where you can hear yourself.
2. Get Up For You
Getting up early is a goldmine of getting things done. Instead of getting up earlier only when there’s a big presentation at work, get up earlier for yourself. Just half an hour to yourself every morning can do miracles. You can also sleep a little later to carve out this time, but I’d recommend the early mornings rather than the late nights. Don’t check your phone, laptop, or emails at this time. Completely unplug. If some nagging problem’s solution comes to you at this hour, I wouldn’t be surprised. Solitude does wonders for all kinds of inner and outer dragons.
“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.” – Jean Shinoda Bolen
3. Schedule Pockets of Alone Time
If none of the above work for you, mark some time in your calendar just for yourself. Schedule it without guilt or embarrassment of not doing something rather “productive.” This time alone is the most productive use of your time. Trust it.
I maintain a schedule of going to the park alone after lunch every day. It is only 20 minutes, but my brain feels brand new after coming back. And you don’t need to go anywhere to carve this me-time, just ask everyone not to disturb you unless it’s an emergency. There’ll be none 99% of the days.
If you are having an incredibly hectic day, couple your me-time with lunchtime. Don’t spend it checking emails, running errands, or deepening networks on LinkedIn. Spend it with yourself. Eat alone without phones or screens.
At the end of the day, you’ll be grateful that you made some time for solitude. Negotiating a mindless task for spending time alone is the barter in which not only you win – your relationships prosper, your work improves, and you become a better version of yourself. So, do it, have the courage to shut the door.