Making ‘me’ time this Valentines Day

February 14th is here again and love is in the air.

Valentine’s Day often splits opinion; considered either a time to show your love and affection for others or another chance for retailers to take your hard-earned money! Whether you’re a die-hard romantic, a cynic or single, you can’t argue that a little bit of love makes the world go round and taking the time to tell someone how much you love them is certainly no bad thing.
However, what about taking some time for yourself?

It’s no secret that we are living increasingly busy lives.

Stress, anxiety and poor mental health is an everyday reality for thousands of people and a growing issue for employers and society as a whole. A 2017 government report found that poor mental health has an annual cost to employers of between £33 billion and £42 billion.

‘Career burnout’ is becoming an ever-more present scenario, especially for those who have reached the top of their game.

And it seems that working women are particularly susceptible to stress; females in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed men (19.8% vs 10.9%).

Could it be that in our attempts to ‘have it all’, we’re putting ourselves at increased risk? In trying to keep our families cared for, our homes immaculate, our relationships intact and our careers on track, we’re juggling so many balls at the same time that it’s a constant drain.

So what steps can you take to invest in yourself – reducing the strain on your time and the pressure on your already stretched resources?

The need to move onto the next thing is inherent in some of us – so we find ourselves always striving to achieve and do more. So when you’ve worked hard to make it to a certain level in your job or field, yet you’re still not happy, this can lead to feelings of despair. Sometimes, it can take a ‘wake-up call’ to realise that what you thought you wanted to achieve isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If this sounds familiar, don’t rush into any decisions; take some time to talk to those around you that you trust and put together a step-by-step plan that will help you achieve the ultimate goal – happiness.

Seek out support
We all need someone to reassure us and fall back on if we need – it’s human nature. If your employer isn’t supportive (or you’re your own boss!), look for others who may be able to offer the support you need from a professional perspective, such as a mentor or a peer. Having a solid support network in your personal life is vital too – and be sure not to take help from friends or family for granted.

Work out where your time is ‘going’
You’ll often read that it’s important to ‘make time’ for yourself through the course of a week. But if you’re already stretched to the limit and burning the candles at both ends, this can seem like an impossibility. Try keeping a detailed diary for a few weeks and analyse it afterwards, highlighting the areas where your time ‘disappears’ the most. Once you’ve done this, find a way to relieve this pressure on your time. At work, this might mean getting an extra pair of hands with a PA, virtual assistant or administrator. At home, you might look to get in some help, or else delegate jobs better within the household. Once you’ve been able to free up some time, be sure to spend it doing something you love or benefit from.

Make wiser choices
You can’t add extra hours to a day, but it is possible to spend the time you have more effectively. You can choose to spend 15 minutes on your way to work catching up on social media, or else you could choose to spend this time practicing meditation or mindfulness.

Learning to recognise say ‘no’ to things that aren’t a good use of your time is a skill that doesn’t come naturally but can be developed.

So as well as demonstrating your love for your nearest and dearest this Valentine’s Day, how about giving yourself a little bit more ‘me time’? We all take our mental health for granted when things are going well, but anyone who’s suffered from stress or anxiety will tell you that it really is worth spending time and effort investing in.