photo: Jennifer Woodard Maderazo on flickr

When was the last time you had a time-out?

And by time-out, I don’t mean someone ordered you to go to your room for fifteen minutes and think about why you felt the need to steal your sister’s teddy bear.

Although if it would benefit you to do this, by all means, go for it!

By time-out, I mean time that is dedicated only for you. To do whatever you want.

photo: Taber Andrew Bain on flickr

What a concept, eh?

When I was working for Sonoma County, I would occasionally get sick. Given that I’m extremely conscientious about my health and take really good care of myself, my version of “sick” wasn’t so bad. It usually consisted of experiencing low energy and not being in the mood to do anything.

Except stay home and watch TV.

photo: mitch huang on flickr

Over time, I came to see that getting “sick” was my body’s way of taking a time-out. A time-out I wasn’t allowing in any other way.

I wish I could say I learned from this pattern and started proactively taking time-outs so my body didn’t have to do it for me.

Right.

Unfortunately, this whole time-out business is one I still haven’t mastered.

You know I how usually write these posts about some lesson I’ve learned, a process I’ve been through that ended with a big “ah ha” where I live happily ever after?

photo: AForestFrolic on flickr

Yeah, well. The time-out issue doesn’t have a happily ever after. At least, not yet.

I claim and affirm it will. The projected happy outcome is one of the reasons I’m writing this post.

Here’s the deal:

My body recently did the “sick” thing again. Which was yet another reminder to me that I’m not proactively scheduling time for myself.

I’m an introvert, which means I refuel by being alone. Many people mistake me for an extrovert because I love people and I’m very chatty when I’m around them.

photo: Karen Fry

The definition of an extrovert is someone who refuels by being around people. That’s definitely not me. I need to spend time by myself, in peace and quiet, to recharge my batteries.

Which, again, is something I often neglect to do.

In my most recent round of “sick,” as I was laying on my bed, enjoying a novel I purchased months ago and was finally reading, I realized something:

The key component of my time-out is that I get to do whatever I want. That I have no obligations to anyone or anything.

This is an extremely liberating concept, and it’s a key component of the refueling.

As I stated above, I’m conscientious. This conscientiousness translates into many days and many hours trying to keep on top of many obligations.

Time-outs are a way to liberate myself from these obligations. A way to pause and breathe.

I love my life, and I love most of the things that fill my days. Indeed, this is one of the reasons I forget to take time-outs. I’m having fun fulfilling all my obligations!

But I still need to pause. And breathe.

photo: Petteri Sulonen on flickr

My most recent round of “sick” was a reminder to me that I’m not doing this enough. My body was telling me what my mind was refusing to admit.

So I came up with a plan: One afternoon a week off.

I’ve come up with this plan before, but I didn’t stick to it. Mostly because I would keep rescheduling my time-out day and then never take it. This time, I’m taking Monday afternoons off, so I can’t delay it.

Like parents giving their kids a time-out, I’m realizing I have to take it seriously if it’s going to work.

photo: Clemens v. Vogelsang

And I’ve got lots of incentive:

Not getting “sick,” for one. And committing to my time-outs on this blog, so I’m more accountable.

My past experience with giving myself time-outs is they allow me to be more productive. If I’m not scheduling time-outs, I’m more likely to goof off when I’m supposed to be getting things done. Like getting “sick,” goofing off is my subconscious way of taking time-off when I’m not allowing it for myself.

So here’s to time-outs!

Here’s to taking time to do whatever the heck we want! Whether it’s extroverted time-out hanging with our friends, or introverted time-out spent reading or watching movies, we all deserve time to refresh and replenish!

photo: Daniel N. Reid on flickr

Update: Since writing this post, I’ve been taking a day off, once a week, for several years. I am happy to report that it’s going very well! I don’t get sick nearly as often, and I’m more chill than ever. Yay! 

How do you take a time-out? And what are some of the benefits?

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