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Finding Special Time for You

Why It Is Important To Make Time For Yourself

Your spouse. Your children. Your parents. Your job. Have you ever felt as though you have no time for yourself?

What if you had a "golden hour" – just one hour – once a day or even once a week, in which you do nothing but nurture yourself? Sound impossible? Read on to discover why you need to carve out this special time.

Why You Need It

With all their other obligations, too many women simply don't take the time to nurture themselves. "Women are taught that their first priority is to take care of others before they take care of themselves," says Dr. Venetta Campbell, professor of psychology at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles, Calif. "We don't give ourselves permission to be number one."

Leslie Levine, author of Ice Cream for Breakfast: If You Follow All the Rules, You Miss Half the Fun (McGraw-Hill, 2001), agrees. "A lot of people think that because they are so busy, they can't take time for themselves," she says. But it's because we're so busy that we need a golden hour. "It's one easy way of practicing self-care."

Make the Time

Of course, as any busy woman knows, finding a golden hour isn't always easy. You need to be aggressive in carving out some special time for yourself. "I don't find time," says Colleen McGargal of Detroit, Mich., a stay-at-home mom of an infant and a toddler. "I make the time."

McGargal has the right idea, says Campbell, who advises making an appointment with yourself. "And don't put it off until tomorrow," she says. Pretend you're going to the dentist. After all, if you had a dental checkup scheduled, you wouldn't decide five minutes before that you couldn't spare the time until the next day. "Treat your appointment with yourself just as you would treat an appointment with someone else."

If you can't find any time to schedule for yourself, you may need to take a look at your activities and priorities, says Campbell, who also runs Vetony Enterprises, a stress consultation firm in Los Angeles, Calif. She recommends keeping track of everything you do for one week. When the week is over, review your schedule. Odds are you will find some activities that could be eliminated, postponed or delegated to someone else. Keep in mind that it's OK to share the workload, both at home and at work. "You're not the only one who can do things," she says.

And when you start taking time for yourself, remember that you can do it gradually. If you can't take an hour every day, start with an hour each week or 10 minutes each day. You may enjoy it so much that you'll find a way to devote more time to yourself.

Find a Place

Your golden hour is not going to be very relaxing if you spend it surrounded by your kids, a mountain of laundry and a briefcase full of work. "It's good to find a different place – one where you don't normally spend time," advises Levine. But although a different venue is important, it's not always necessary to leave home.

Linda Dupie of Richmond, Va., retreats to her basement when she needs time alone. "All of my favorite things are there, like my stereo, books and big comfy chair," she says.

Delmtria Millener of Dallas, Texas, treats herself to a golden hour every day, and doesn't have to go any farther than her own bathroom. "Every day, I go in the bathroom, and soak in a relaxing bath while I read my book," she says. "My candles are always lit and I always have a glass of tea on hand." Millener also makes sure to use every minute she schedules for herself. "I have a timer in there so that I know exactly when all my time has lapsed."

If you can't find a calm and relaxing spot in your house, then get out. Browse through the library or bookstore. Take a walk. Find a bench in the park and read or write in your journal. The possibilities are endless.

Enjoy the Moment

Now that you have the time and the place, what should you do with your golden hour? Anything you want! "To nurture yourself, identify what you enjoy doing on your own, and make that a priority no matter what," says Kay Allenbaugh, author of the best-selling series Chocolate for a Woman's Soul.

"Sometimes there's great value in doing absolutely nothing," Levine says. So feel free to do nothing more than flop in a chair, put your feet up and daydream.

Lose the Guilt

Guilt. It seems to go hand-in-hand with being a woman, especially when it comes to taking time for yourself. After all, if a woman is doing something for herself, that means she isn't doing something for her spouse, her children or her boss, right? Wrong, Allenbaugh says. "Taking care of yourself should never create guilt. Guilt is merely a waste of valuable time that could be spent renewing yourself and nurturing others. By taking care of yourself, you will teach your family how to do the same for themselves. You and they will benefit by having a balanced life that includes play, work, school, family time, exercise, spiritual quiet time, and time to give back to others."

Millener has eventually learned to give up her guilt completely. "I used to feel guilty when I first started making time for myself, but I got used to pampering myself," she says. "Now it doesn't bother me one bit."

Reap the Benefits

Once you start taking time for yourself, you'll wonder how you ever got along without it. "The 'me' time is important because it balances me," says Dupie. "I am able to let go of frustrations and just be me – not the mother, wife, writer or businesswoman. This time enables me to be a better person to those who are important in my life."

Campbell agrees. "You will enhance your overall well-being. When you look forward to your time, then your other activities seem more manageable," she says.

This has definitely been the case for McGargal. "I really think that after my daughter's birth, having regular time off has helped me to avoid the post-partum depression that I suffered after my first baby," she says. "It's easier to deal with the frustration of sleepless nights, dirty diapers and a jealous toddler when I know I'll have some time off."

Having time to herself has also benefited Dupie in her everyday life. After she returns from her golden hour, she says, "I feel like I can tackle anything life throws my way."

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