I need some space. I can’t handle people right now. All I want to do is curl up with a cup of coffee and a nice book. Just give me an empty room and a few hours, and I’ll be okay… We’ve all been there.
Introverted or extroverted, we all experience a similar struggle of needing time for ourselves. Let’s face it, people are burdensome and annoying. After the throes of work, family, and all those other obligations, you don’t want to spend what little spare time you have left being around more people. By this point their very presence annoys you, even if they’re just sitting quietly beside you.
It’s okay to feel this. You’re not a sardonic jerk. You’re not really a hateful person – you just wish people would disappear. This simply proves you’re still human, that you have yet to be turned into another cog in the machine.
We know we need time together with people. We are, after all, a social species. Socializing and being around others is very important. What is as important, though, is time spent away from others. “Alone time” often invokes the idea of taking a time-out from, or pausing, reality. In truth, rather than taking away from productivity, time to one’s self enriches that individual as much as time with others does. In fact, there’s a dynamic effect between the two, with each strengthening the other. Time with people makes time alone better and more effective, as time alone causes time with others to be all the more sweet.
In a world where we run little risk of being around people too little, it is immensely important that we take time for ourselves, to be alone, to focus on something that isn’t related to the person next to you or on the other end of the phone. The human body is an incredibly durable specimen, but each has its threshold. There’s only so much stimulus each of us can take before we start to overflow.
Overstimulation, along with work that doesn’t align with our values, is a major player in both burn-out and general fatigue. You’re familiar with the process. Too much is going on at one time, you become overwhelmed, you start to shut down. By this point your mind and body are both telling you to take some time to yourself. You need time alone to process the world around you, to let it sink in so you can conquer your next tasks. We need alone time to function.
Additionally, we need time to ourselves for introspection. After we process the world around us, we need to process our own disheveled minds. It is, after all, only with inspection that anything can be improved upon. This might mean trying to understand why it is we do what we do, understanding our personal faith, or gleaning what to add to a bucket list. It is important to set aside time for introspection to help us combat the challenges of today. It is as important to continually realign our behaviors with our values and goals.
We also need to take a step back from the daily grind to allow ourselves time for hobbies. Reading, writing, exercising, coaching, making music, painting, hiking, swimming, hammocking – whatever it is that truly rejuvenates you, you ought to make time for. Whenever we’re overstimulated we begin to shut down, and whenever we partake in what rejuvenates us we reboot, ready to take on the world.
Do yourself a favor and start allocating time each day for you. Maybe you need to wake up a little earlier, but I guarantee the benefits will more than make up for that little bit of lost shuteye.
Kenneth D. Burke