It's good to talk - but it's also good to be alone
Intimate relationships, we’re told, are what life is all about, what keeps us happy and healthy. And it’s true there’s no substitute for the strength we draw and the pleasure we get from friends and loved ones. But rushing from our jobs to pick up the kids and tend to homes, friends and partners, it’s easy to neglect the most important person in our lives – ourselves.
Time on our own for relaxation and reflection is vital for recharging our batteries. Far from being selfish, if you’re rested and refreshed, you can then give your best to the people in your life without feeling resentful or drained by them. Research shows that insufficient quiet time alone is a significant cause of stress as well as slowing down recovery from illnesses and emotional crises such as bereavement and divorce.
Those of us who say, “I don’t have the time to sit about – the family/my friends/business/Church/ need me” are not doing ourselves or our loved ones any favours. Everyone loses out when we end up flat on our backs with a stress-related illness – possibly even a heart attack. If we don’t choose to take time out of our busy schedule, then our body will assert itself to make sure we get the rest we need.
Only when we’re alone can we truly be ourselves. We don’t have to worry about pleasing others or fret about how we look. It’s easy to lose sight of who we are: individuals with our own unique talents, likes and dislikes, needs and feelings. Thinking, reflecting and creativity need space and alone time.
So don’t wait for others to grant you time off, or for gaps to magically appear in your schedule. Make time for yourself a priority, and switch off those gadgets! Take at least half an hour a day to stroll in the park, sit in the garden, listen to music, play with a pet, muse over a favourite photo or picture – anything you can do alone slowly and peacefully.
If, reading this, you find yourself thinking, “That’s all well and good, but I really don’t have any free time,” it may be because you’ve learnt over the years, possibly as far back as childhood, that others come first and your needs go to the bottom of the list – and often get forgotten altogether.
Working with a counsellor can help you learn to express your needs and wants assertively, without guilt. This is about recognising and believing you’re a worthwhile person who has the right to enjoy your life, while also appreciating that these statements apply equally to others. It can mean learning skills for effective communication and negotiation.
Perhaps you have no problem getting time by yourself, but it feels so uncomfortable that you avoid being alone with your thoughts. I’ll tackle this subject in a forthcoming article.