No matter what your everyday life looks like right now, you have the opportunity to practice transformative self care. All you need is some quality time, which is the pinnacle of self-care regardless of whether you’ve got a little, some, or a lot of it on your hands.
Here’s how you can get the most out of your me time with self care ideas custom-tailored to how much time you have at your disposal.
You’ve Got 10 Minutes
The Guardian recently cited an alarming study that embodies just how little precious time women end up having to themselves in and out of the home, concluding that mothers tend to have just 10 uninterrupted minutes for their own leisure. Regardless of whether you are a mother, that finding should give you the chills, as that gratuitous lack of quality “me time” is partly the result of a societal division of labor that functions at the expense of women.
Anyway, if you’re at a point in your life where you feel cannot get more than 10-minute stretches of time to yourself, make it your goal to claim those 10 minutes with something foundational in self-care like a meditation practice — it’s going to give you the most bang for your buck. A Harvard neuroscientist likened meditation to exercise for your brain, explaining to the Washington Post all of the ways that it literally changes how your brain looks in scans, growing an area that is tied to mind wandering and self-relevance.
The best way to build up a solid meditation practice is to have the time and means to take a class or workshop introducing you to a tradition, whether its pared-back mindfulness, a moving meditation like yoga or qigong, or straight up breathwork. Taking a class on how to meditate gives you the opportunity to ask a teacher questions and will help speed you through any self-doubts you have about your capacity to meditate. If you’re not in a position to make this initial investment, your next best bet is to go ahead and subscribe to a good meditation app to be your sole guide.
You’ve Got 30 Minutes
Half an hour is so versatile for self-care! It’s long enough for you to get lost in something, but not so long that it becomes a commitment that takes over your morning, afternoon, or evening. Do something that makes you feel good, and be as present as you can while doing it. Exercise. Read a book. Put on a face mask, make some tea, and then stare out the window. Take a nap.
Whatever you do, really claim your 30 minutes and acknowledge every time that it’s a gift that you’re giving yourself (because you’re amazing). That might mean setting this time up as a daily ritual that you do first thing in the morning or last thing at night, or simply hollering out “ME TIME!” to your household before shamelessly closing the bedroom door behind you.
You’ve Got 3 Days
If you can afford the time and expense of taking periodic, weeklong vacations throughout the year, then you’re living the dream. But the more universally accessible “long weekend” is actually plenty of time for us to fit in a quality getaway. NBC News cited a recent survey that found that most people are looking to totally unplug from their regular routine and daily time-sucks of social media/news feeds/inboxes when taking time off from work. It’s a good instinct; after all, having to stay plugged into something like work during a vacation can curb the benefits that you’d normally reap while taking time off.
Jonathan Alpert, a psychotherapist, explained to NBC that while taking a traditional 7-10 day vacation has measurable benefits to our wellbeing, it can be a challenge to sustain a “true escape” from our everyday lives when we’re away for such a long stretch of time — so, in that context, three days is plenty of time to disconnect. “When you only take a couple days away, you’re setting yourself up for success,” said Alpert, who pointed out that it’s easier to stick to a goal of disconnecting for shorter stretches of time. Essentially, three days getaways (even staycations!) encourage us to get in regular doses of quality time off, if we’re not able to afford quantity — and maybe even more efficiently than longer vacations.