While this busy world of ours may make it seem like you have to go go go 24/7, it's important to keep in mind the benefits of spending time alone, slowing down, and taking care of your mental health. If you don't ever allow yourself down time — to relax, read, wear sweatpants, and do your own thing — you will get burnt out. And that's not going to do you any favors.
Taking a day off, scheduling a vacation, or canceling a few plans may feel like an impossibility, but you need to make it a priority — just like you do everything else. "Alone time is the key to restoring balance in our lives," author and life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. "If you haven't been practicing being alone in your own thoughts for more than 30 minutes a day, it's time. It will totally refocus your life."
Taking some personal time is also essential when it comes to staying focused and actually getting sh*t done. "The body and brain need time to shut down and unwind in order to function at their full potential," says NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. "Alone time allows you to work through problems free from distractions, whether it is technology or people." She tells me that, once you allow yourself that day (or week) off, you'll likely be even more productive when you return to your busy life. Read on for some signs it may be time to do just that.
1. Everything's Been Annoying You Lately
When you're way overdue for a day off, it may become difficult to regulate your emotions. And that's when agitation can set in. "We start to feel annoyed and triggered by small things that wouldn't normally bother us and our patience for others dwindles," Rogers says. "Whenever you start to feel agitated, take a second and ask yourself what you've been up to over the past week." If you've been way too busy, it may explain a lot.
2. You Feel Totally Overwhelmed By Everyday Tasks
If you're starting to feel overwhelmed by the smallest of tasks, take note. "If it takes excessive energy for you to complete just the tiniest task — cleaning the kitchen, sending that last email, or starting a smaller project — this is a sign that you've been going at it for far too long," Rogers says. When that happens, it may be time to spend an evening alone, all for the sake of that mental health.
3. You Feel Totally Uninspired
When you don't give yourself time to veg and do your own thing, you can enter into the dangerous territory of "not giving a f*ck," Rogers tells me. If this sounds familiar, "take some time off for yourself immediately," she says. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so it's lovely to take a much needed break to rejuvenate [your] interest."
4. You Don't Seem To Care About Anything
It doesn't matter what it is — your friends, your family, your job, your to-do list — you've totally stopped caring about it all. While this may be a sign of other things, like depression, therapist Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC tells me it might also be a sign that you need some time off. "Taking care of you by having a 'day off' to recharge your batteries is essential for your mental health," she says. "It's OK to have some days where you do exactly what you want to do and reconnect with yourself."
5. You Make Plans And Then Break Them
Have you become the world's biggest flake? If so, it not simply be a sudden case of introversion. "Saying 'yes' to too many things and then backing out is a sign that you may need to take a 'mental health day' to reset your priorities," Derichs says. Once you do, you'll feel clearer and ready to hang out with your friends. (For real this time.)
6. You've Been Feeling Pretty Cranky
If you've been cranky as of late, don't let it go unchecked. "Taking some time alone gives you the opportunity to go over those times when you had a 'knee jerk' reaction to someone or something and look at the ways you would have liked to respond," Derichs says. And, taking a few days to just "do you" can help you feel more refreshed, and thus less likely to snap back.
7. You No Longer Know What You Want
As mentioned above, taking time to yourself is an important way to stay in tune with yourself. So if you feel like you've lost touch with your interests, it may be worth figuring out why. "Take some time to give what is really important to you some serious thought," Derichs says. Once you've stepped away for awhile, life may feel a lot more clear.
8. You Are Totally Drained
If you can't seem to perk yourself up, despite drinking coffee and getting plenty of sleep, you might be in dire need of a mental health day. As Hershenson tells me, this feeling is a direct result of a way-too-draining lifestyle. And that ain't good.
9. Resentment Has Become Your MO
When you aren't protecting your mental health by taking time off, it can feel like the whole world has set out to bring you down. And you might even catch yourself feeling resentful towards others. "If you find yourself dreading going to work or getting jealous about hearing of others' vacations, it's a sign you need time off to rest," Hershenson says.
10. Your Anxiety Has Gotten Way Worse
Extra anxiety is another sign to watch out for. As Hershenson tells me, a lack of alone time can cause you to become way too stressed out, which can make anxiety worse — even for people who don't necessarily struggle with the disorder. Either way, this is not a point you want to push yourself to.
11. People Are Calling You Out For Being Forgetful
If you can't seem to remember where you put your keys, or your coworkers have been calling you "scatterbrained," take it as a sign. As Hershenson says, "Making mistakes at work or losing items constantly ... [is] a sign that you have too much going on in your life and need a mental and physical break."
It can be difficult to find (or make) the time, but downtime should be a priority in your life. It may take some effort, but it's all worth it for the sake of your mental health.
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