Last year, I began a new ritual for myself. It wasn’t one that involved candle lighting and invocations to forces beyond our ken although some might not put that past me, to be honest, given my fascination with the paranormal, but something far more plain vanilla.

I began taking time out for myself. Every single day. And it was a huge window of time, it began at 9 pm and ended at midnight. I didn’t turn into a pumpkin by midnight, but my eyes do tend to glaze over and I tend to fall asleep. What do I do during these three hours I take out for myself every single day, after the day’s work is done, dinner done and dispensed with, the kitchen cleared, the to-do list for the next day done? I read and I watch. Simple enough, one would think, to find time for oneself to read and to watch, but it was a battle to get here, to be honest. It was a small battle to be fought in my head but an important one. To begin with, it was the overlay of guilt that presumed I was not important enough to take time out to do the things I wanted to do. Through the day, I was doing what was expected of me, at work, as a mother, wife, daughter in law, as a writer.

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Putting myself first doesn’t come naturally to me. I think I speak for a lot of women when I say, we are conditioned to put ourselves last. Over the years, we have been fed this garbage of the self-sacrificing woman as the ideal and we set ourselves lofty unreachable targets. Selfishness becomes a crime when it could be simply just putting ourselves first in a world that insists that we put ourselves last.

What does shifting this mindset entail? For one, confronting the guilt at being, well, selfish, and telling ourselves it is okay to be so. We’ve all been there. We’ve all grappled with this. We’ve all put ourselves last on our very own lists, and by doing so told the world that it is okay to put us last too. If we are going to be women seizing the day, and holding up half the sky and promoting gender equality at the workspace, the first thing we need to be doing is to consciously and carefully learn to put ourselves first.

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Tough to do, but with a little practice you’ll get there. Here are some tips that helped me carve out a chunk of my time for myself.

1] Tell yourself that you are important. I realised I was running myself ragged doing one million things in a day and nothing was feeding the most important part of me, the creator and the writer. I needed to keep inputting stuff if I needed to find an output that gave me creative satisfaction. Which is when I decided I needed to read for a certain amount of time every day and watch for a certain amount of time every day. This time is sacred to me, I call it my refuelling time. I can only create when I have enough churn in me, and this gives me material for churn.

If we are going to be women seizing the day, and holding up half the sky and promoting gender equality at the workspace, the first thing we need to be doing is to consciously and carefully learn to put ourselves first.

2] Stop finding other things to do. Everything can wait. When you have set time aside for yourself, let the world know that it is your time and you will not be disturbed. If you treat this as a non negotiable, they will too.

3] Ditch the guilt. You owe it to yourself to not be constantly doing stuff for others. After all, if you don’t treat yourself as important enough to put on priority, what message are you giving your children? Think about it.

4] Prioritize. Make lists. Get work out of the way before you settle down to your me-time. That way you will feel you have earned it and deserve it, without the rankling of a task yet to be completed niggling away in your head.

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5] Schedule a realistic chunk of time for yourself every day. Pencil it in if you have to. Set reminders on your phone. Physical reminders make it official. An alarm sounding when you need to do stuff for yourself tells you that you are serious about this.

6] Take time out for non essentials. Standing by the window and admiring a sunset? Walking through the park just to take in the flowers and the feel of the grass under your feet. Think of these as essential to your well being. These little windows help you not just claim me time, no matter how tiny the chunk, but also do a fair bit towards de-stressing you. Your me-time is essential towards helping you prevent burnout, something a lot of us in high pressured urban situations deal with.

I must confess it took me some time to reach the sanguinity of “Don’t call me unless there’s blood” but I’m there now and no one will dare.

7] Learn to deal with the resistance. Family will not always be supportive. They have always had undisputed claim to your time and you have been guilty of letting them think they did. Kids will keep intruding, spouses will keep butting in, something that needs your attention right now will happen. I must confess it took me some time to reach the sanguinity of “Don’t call me unless there’s blood” but I’m there now and no one will dare.

8] Do what YOU want to do in your me time. Exercise. Take an online class. Paint. Read. Meditate. Vegetate in front of the television. Cook for pleasure. Walk. Call a friend. Write a diary. Don’t do something you think you should be doing, do something that gives you pleasure and something you do for yourself. Last year, I got back to painting watercolours. For ten-fifteen minutes every day at the end of the workday, I would pull out my sheets of paper, my brushes and my palette, and just paint. It gave me profound joy. Somewhere in the chaos of the every day, I stopped. Also, I found it getting pressured. People giving their opinions on what they think I should be painting, my own inner critic ruthlessly telling me I would never be any good. I paint now, but nothing goes up on social media. I paint for myself. It feels good. My own little time to create in colour. Like my own time to create in words when I write. At the end of the day, the biggest lesson I have learnt is that I need to do things that bring me joy and satisfy my creative urge. And I can only do that by being immensely ‘selfish’ as the world says. I call it “self care.”

Picture credits: Shape Magazine

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Kiran Manral is Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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