‘Me Time’ When Coping with Chronic Illness, Part II

older woman knittingIn Part I, we agreed that many of us have a hard time saying no to others, leaving little “me time” for ourselves. We also determined that too much stress can exacerbate medical problems such as high blood pressure, pain and inflammation, and headaches/migraines. It can also increase anxiety and depressive symptoms. So even though it can be difficult to take time for ourselves, it is a necessity.

The first step to finding “me time” is to prioritize our daily tasks so we can free up some time to take care of ourselves. You can find those steps here.

Now that we’ve prioritized our responsibilities and have delegated some of them, what’s next? What is “me time”? What does that look like? “Me time” varies from person to person, and this is the fun part: figuring out what you love to do and what recharges your batteries. I like to break “me time” into five categories:

  1. Relaxing and soothing: These activities are calming. Do you like to read? Does a warm bubble bath soothe and relax achy muscles? Can a massage work out the kinks? Have you tried deep breathing or meditation exercises? Look for relaxing activities that rejuvenate your body and mind.
  2. Distracting and fun: Just like it sounds, these activities are entertaining. Examples are solving word/number games, watching funny movies, putting together puzzles, and crafting (knitting, crocheting, drawing, etc.). Hobbies and interests such as these help keep your hands busy and your mind off your worries.
  3. Expending energy: In other words, get moving! Exercise helps lift mood and energizes the body. I know this can be difficult when you’re in pain, so do what you can and don’t overdo it. Exercise includes walking, going to a fitness class, riding a bike, or doing yoga. Anything active works to clear your mind as long as your body is in motion.
  4. Mastery: This means doing hobbies you’re good at. Examples would be cooking/baking, drawing, playing an instrument, knitting, etc. These kinds of activities reinforce our strengths and help raise self-esteem. Of what are you a master?
  5. Social: Sometimes “me time” includes being social … the enjoyable kind of social. This may be meeting your sister to get your nails painted, going bowling with a friend, or going to a movie with your spouse. Make sure it’s not overwhelming your schedule but instead is an energizing social activity.

To find your most effective “me time,” start by brainstorming a few ideas in each category and then continue to add activities. I also suggest you try something new by picking up a new hobby or interest. There’s nothing more distracting and rewarding than learning a new skill!

Whether you’re mastering an old talent or trying something new, “me time” will be more rewarding when it’s time spent doing something you enjoy. By prioritizing and enjoying some well-deserved “me time,” we can recuperate and recharge body and mind.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Andrea M. Risi, LPC, therapist in Denver, Colorado

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • shyla

    shyla

    March 27th, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    All of these things seem like fantastic way to take your mind off of what could be facing you, but how do you then find that balance between having too much “me” time and the fight ahead of you against your disease? Or do you think that this is a time when it is ok to just take that time off and focus on the things that truly make you a little happier?

  • solomon

    solomon

    March 27th, 2014 at 5:26 PM

    everyone deserves a little fun every now and then
    you have to find some distracting fun things to take your mind off of the yucky stuff that is otherwise going to take up all of your time
    go hiking if you can, go ride a bike, go to the park, go play with your kids, do something that you really enjoy and do it all day long!
    don’t worry about the time and focus on what feels good for a change

  • MelG

    MelG

    March 28th, 2014 at 3:40 AM

    Yeah, free up that time and make yourself a priority. If you don’t do it then no one else will!

  • Yuri

    Yuri

    March 28th, 2014 at 2:43 PM

    Sounds like a great time for a spa day to me! ;)

  • Garrett

    Garrett

    March 28th, 2014 at 5:32 PM

    Reading this helps me realize just how lucky I am to have my health. I have a very good friend who thought that he had it all, great wife, wonderful kids, awesome job, and then it all came crashing down when he got a diagnosis of stage 3 cancer. Where do you go with that? I think that he tries to put it all in perspective and take the time that he has enjoying it with his family but then he knows there are loose ends that he needs to get tied up for them just in case he doesn’t make it through this so there is this sense of guilt when he does want to take a little quiet time, because he feels this need to stay driven and keep going .We all try to remind him that there might not be this time later to enjoy his family so to please do these things now, but how do you do that when there is this fear on his part about all that he could be leaving behind?

  • cheryl C

    cheryl C

    March 29th, 2014 at 4:53 AM

    ME time can be good but I don’t think that this is the time that you need to isolate yourself from your loved ones either!

    You are going to need them right now and if you think about it you are going to be their life line and they will need and want to be around you too!

    I do think that during times like this the temptation can be great to go off and do your own thing because you are afraid and scared, but look, don’t forget about the people who are important to you in life because you need them and they want to be there for you.

    They will give you the time that you need but they will also give you other things too that eventually you are going to need help with.

  • Jillian

    Jillian

    March 30th, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    Going for a good swim is always a tiem when I can relax, so if you have the energy I would say that this would be something good that you could try. It doesn’t put a whole oot of stress on the bones and joints and it can actually be pretty relaxing to spend that time in the water and swim with the energy of the water. It helps to stay active even when you don’t feel being active because it actually it helps to give you more energy than what you probably started out with!

  • Andrea M. Risi, LPC

    Andrea M. Risi, LPC

    March 30th, 2014 at 5:59 PM

    You’ve all made excellent points! There is a fine balance between “Me Time” and spending time with those we love. Some people have difficulty saying no to others and in turn, don’t take time to focus on their own health…which of course doesn’t help anyone.

    Take some “Me Time” now and then to recharge your batteries ;)

  • Andrea M. Risi, LPC

    Andrea M. Risi, LPC

    March 30th, 2014 at 6:19 PM

    Garrett –

    I want to address your concern for your friend separately. First, I’m sure it’s difficult for you to watch him go through this! Many people feel helpless in your situation or don’t know how to help.

    I hope your friend is receiving counseling, and if not, perhaps that is something you would feel comfortable suggesting to him. Coping with a terminal illness is devastating in many ways…the more support he can find, the better.

  • Selma

    Selma

    March 31st, 2014 at 3:49 AM

    There are no easy answers here.

    You know all the right things to do and say when it is happening to someone else but is a whole other ball game when it is happening to you.

    Sometimes there are no distractions that are large enough to take your mind off of these sorts of worries and fears.

  • Louis

    Louis

    April 1st, 2014 at 3:50 AM

    I love just having a silly movie day to take my worries away for a little while!

  • CoLtOn

    CoLtOn

    April 3rd, 2014 at 4:28 PM

    I want to take this time for me, but then I sort of feel guilty, like I am ignoring the people who are doing the most for me too.

    I want to spend all of my quality time that I have left with them because I don’t know what I have left and they are the people who I wnat to remember and I want them to remember being with me, not that I wanted to spend time alone doing things alone.

  • Andrea M. Risi

    Andrea M. Risi

    April 4th, 2014 at 9:40 AM

    There are no easy answers, as Selma stated. I understand when you’re the one dealing with a chronic illness, you may feel guilty or selfish by taking time for yourself. It is definitely a balance between “Me Time” and quality time with loved ones.

    My suggestion is to talk with your family and friends about these feelings and find a healthy balance that works for you.

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