Finding the Joy and Importance of Quiet Time

There have been two distinct times in my life when my yoga practice felt best. Each time I got on my mat I felt present and relaxed. The first was when the world shut down in 2020. The second time is now. I have been trying to figure out what has inspired this change in me. I have felt a shift over the past few weeks that brought about a feeling of ease and contentment during time spent with just myself.

Kristen Mary Carolan sitting by the water meditating in Miami.

This morning I woke up and made banana pancakes for my husband and me. After our breakfast, he started work for the day, so I made my way back to our bedroom to get dressed. I put on my favorite workout outfit, grabbed my mat, headphones, and water bottle, and went outside to get my body moving. Quickly after starting, I began to sweat. I could feel my hands getting slippery on the mat below me, and each breeze felt exhilarating. I felt amazing! I practiced for about 45 minutes before finally resting, lying on my mat, breathing in the air. The perfect start to my day!

What is strange about this is that if I had gone outside to practice my yoga six months ago I would have lasted five minutes. I would have practiced for five minutes before taking a break to check my texts, scroll through Instagram, or maybe even roll up my mat and head back home. Even on my best day, in perfect conditions, the idea of 45 minutes of alone time, removed from anything else, would have been absurd.

I constantly had it in the back of my mind that someone was texting me while I had put my phone away to go for a walk or that everyone was out spending time together while I was in bed reading a good book. It wasn’t until that feeling was gone that I realized how much anxiety I had over missing out on things. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy alone time. The problem was that I viewed my alone time as unproductive. I worried I was wasting my time while I could have been out spending time with people or doing something “more important”. That’s a pretty scary way to think about it.

Let me elaborate on why this is not the way to approach your alone time.

First, let’s identify what we are really afraid of when we feel we are missing out on something. For me, it is usually that I am afraid that my friends or family are bonding and creating memories that I am not a part of. As a result, my connection with them won’t be as strong. If I skip taking time to do the things that make me feel refreshed I won’t miss out on anything.

petite knit seaside set baby sweater

I invite you to talk this out with someone, journal about it, or maybe think about it while you go for a walk. What are you so afraid of? What do you worry about missing when you take time to recharge? What stops you from retreating to your room to listen to your favorite podcast or escaping for the afternoon to go for a bike ride?

Is it that you feel like you are missing out on important moments? Do you always feel like there is too much to do and not enough time? Are you feeling so overwhelmed that you feel it’s impossible to enjoy downtime and maybe the quiet time even brings up some negative emotions?

Taking time for yourself should be a priority. If there is one thing that I have learned from my recent weeks of awesome yoga practices is that it has improved the quality of my day every time and it has also made me more pleasant to be around. Taking time for myself allows me to check in with where I am at and see if anything has to change. This downtime also allows me to better myself by choosing rejuvenating tasks that allow me to take care of my mind and body.

Last year my sister went to her junior prom. She looked amazing and was so excited as I drove her to a friend’s house to take pictures. I remember feeling so happy for her yet so drained at the same time. I had a hundred things on my mind and I’m sure I hadn’t taken a moment to slow down on my own in days, maybe weeks. I felt so much guilt that I couldn’t be fully present for her.

If you are not willing to make this change for yourself because you still feel like there are far more important things to do, do it for the people that you care about. I am a much better wife to my husband when I wake up feeling refreshed. I am a better big sister when I have taken time for myself and can be fully present for my siblings when they experience all of the great moments that life has to offer. I am a better pediatric occupational therapist and can do more for the kids I treat when I don’t feel burnt out going to work each day.

If prioritizing your you-time still feels like too big of a task, here are three tips to help you get started.

  1. Keep your favorite you-time tasks accessible. I keep my knitting project on a tray in my living room. You can try keeping your sneakers and headphones by the door so that you are always ready for a walk or keep your favorite book by your bedside for when you have a few moments to pick it up. If I kept my yoga mat in a bag in the back of my closet I probably wouldn’t be on it very often
  1. Set a dedicated time for yourself each day and work it into your schedule. Just five minutes of quiet time is way better than none. Follow the same five minute stretching video each morning, dance to your favorite song in your kitchen before you start making dinner, or read a few pages each night before going to sleep.
  2. Keep track of how you feel after you recharge. When I read old journal entries where I mentioned years ago how amazing it felt to go for a long walk, it is often the perfect motivation for me to start prioritizing myself again.

All the best, Kristen Mary Carolan

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