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Why Grown-Ups Need Time-Outs Too

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.


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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22 Responses to Why Grown-Ups Need Time-Outs Too

  1. Karen August 21, 2012 at 7:19 am #

    Spot-on, Z!

    I can relate to every word you wrote here, and as always, you explain it so clearly.

    Time-outs are SO valuable, I’ve found, when I can circumvent my conscientiousness long enough to experience them. Like you, I really have to schedule them or they just don’t happen.

    I feel the stress just flow away when my feller, Mark, and I simply watch our favorite comedies or funny movies on TV. We have a ritual where I rub his “dogs” (feet) with lotion and then he massages my shoulders while I sit on the floor in front of him. Ahhhhh. Add some chuckles and belly laughs evoked by our favorite shows, such as “Suburgatory,” “The Middle,” or “Modern Family,” and it’s such a simple time of renewal. Renting the movie “The Campaign” with Will Ferrell will be on our agenda once it’s available on U-verse.

    • Z Egloff August 21, 2012 at 11:22 am #

      Hi Karen,

      I love Modern Family! I’ve recently discovered it. I had a friend who recommended it when it first came out, but I thought – sitcom, laugh track, no way. Turns out there’s no laugh track, and I love it. Indeed, yesterday was my Monday off and I watched 3 episodes in a row. Bliss!

      I love your description of you and Mark, chilling and enjoying each other’s company. It sounds wonderful! I’m grateful to both you and Jo for supplying some beautiful descriptions of Time Outs. I need all the encouragement I can get! :)


  2. Steve August 21, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    So, yesterday I printed out an item I needed for a meeting last night. I immediately could not find what I had just printed, so I printed it out again! I immediately could not find that. I ultimately went without. I’m thinking this idea of taking a time-out is sounding like a really, really good idea. :-) It seems our body, or our mind or spirit does tell us when we’re overdue, Thanks

    • Z Egloff August 21, 2012 at 11:18 am #

      Hi Steve!

      Yes, I can relate to your story. Many times I have had similar occurences.

      Yesterday was my Monday afternoon off. I’ve done about four of these now. I spent the time reading and watching my favorite TV shows. When it came time to meditate, my mind was full of creative ideas. Later, I realized that this was probably due to the time off. Not that I’m taking time off to get ideas for the blog, but still. It’s cool to see that pausing is regenerating.

      Thanks for your comment! :)


  3. Jo Lauer August 21, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    Sitting in my lawn chair in my front yard watching redwood boughs sway overhead, letting my eyes gaze at the stunning colors of my potted begonias, listening to my neighbor on the other side of the fence rehearse classical piano, reading Z’s marvelous and inspiring blog, curling up on the couch and losing myself in a book, adding on an extra five minutes to just stand under a warm shower and feel the tension melt away…cheap thrills, but they work for me. Thanks for the reminder. I’m going to go stare at a tree now . . .

    • Z Egloff August 21, 2012 at 11:15 am #

      Hi Jo,

      Wow. I feel calmer just reading this!

      I think we all need to encourage each other to chill more often. And descriptions like this are a perfect reminder. Instead of ads that promote the benefits of bigger, faster, better, we need more reminders of slower, easier, freer.

      Thank you, Jo! :)


  4. Janet August 21, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    Hi Z,

    One afternoon a week? Oh dear, not nearly enough downtime, at least not for me. You’re right–if I don’t actually take “my time” I spend more time goofing off when I have a lot on my plate–like right now, there is a term paper sitting half table…not that reading your blog is goofing off, exactly!

    • Z Egloff August 21, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

      Hi Janet,

      I think that reading my blog is a VERY important component of preparing for your paper! Probably the best thing you could do! 😉

      One afternoon a week is all I can swing right now, but I’m preparing the way to take a whole day off, starting in about a month. I can’t wait!

      Have fun with that paper. . . .


  5. JoAnn Newton August 21, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    Hi Z!

    I am also an introvert that shows up doing LIFE in a big way! You explained it so well (again!) about needing down time – no commitments, no responsiblities, being alone and just doing whatever I want! At this point, I schedule Tuesday & Friday evenings “off”, and that works out pretty well, but it is just not enough time for me. My goal is to have one full day a week OFF ( I try for Wednesdays), but still haven’t been successful with that. How do we get the world to change to an 8 day week?

    Big blessings, JoAnn

    • Z Egloff August 21, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

      Hi JoAnn,

      I was just saying to Melissa yesterday that this whole ‘day off’ thing goes against a lot of what we see around us – i.e. the push to be busy and do more and do it better/faster/quicker. And yet I claim and affirm that it’s totally possible to take time to chill.

      I really appreciate hearing about your schedule, and that you want to take a whole day. As I was just commenting to Janet, that is my plan as well. I’m currently clearing out other things in order to make that happen. AND I know from past experience that I’m going to need to be extremely committed to my plan in order to make it happen.

      I claim and accept for you a WHOLE day off too. And so it is!! :)


  6. squirrel August 21, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    hi z,

    i’m totally introverted as well. i’m still learning how to take “me” time, and getting much better at it. i got home from santa cruz last night and instead of dealing with the multitude of email that had amassed in my inbox while i was away, i ate dinner and watched the x-files. today i took care of email and did a couple of things that i couldn’t put off any longer, but for the most part, i vegged.

    i’ve made a conscious decision not to bite off more than i can chew this year, and i’m good with that. i no longer feel the need to be the “i’m available for you 24 hours a day so just call me” person anymore. something about self-love. if i’m not up for it, i’m not doing it. no more 126 hour work weeks for me! like that.

    i do, on occasion, goof off when i should be focusing. but it doesn’t happen as often as it used to.

    i also de-stress by chatting with a friend periodically if i need a sounding board, but aside from that, i spend the time with me. :)

    thanks, z, for your awesome blog!

    • Z Egloff August 22, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

      Hi Squirrel,

      That’s awesome that you’re making to chill. WAY important!

      And good for you for changing your priorities and making more time for YOU. Saying goodbye to the 24/7 availability and the 126 hour work week sounds liberating. Yay!

      In my case, my body seems to be the best indicator of what I need to do. Well, that and my mind. If I’m not in the mood to do something, or if it feels upstream, I simply don’t do it. Unless I have to, for some reason, and then I do. 😉

      Happy Chillin’ to YOU!


  7. Marcy August 21, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    Our culture encourages and admires the go, go, go mentality. Over the years, I’ve become more comfortable in answering the question “what are you doing this weekend?” with “nothing!” I’ve created my life so that I only need to work part time. I’m blessed to enjoy 4 days off in a row nearly every week. I allow myself rest days – PJ days of delicious indulgence. It IS good for the soul. I’ve often thought about opening up a storefront business that would be a place where folks could come to NAP. There are so many studies that support the value of rest, sleep, relaxation. Let’s start a trend ZZ…!!

    • Z Egloff August 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

      Hi Marcy,

      Yes!! I love it – a Nap Shoppe. Awesome idea!

      I also like that you point out that allowing time for rest often means going against cultural norms, including being willing to be vocal about valuing relaxation and time off. I’m always encouraged by others who are making time for rest – so thank you for your comment!

      Nap On!


  8. Donna August 23, 2012 at 6:54 am #

    Darling One. More Wisdom from the Z Sister! Thank you. Thank you for letting myself see myself more clearly. I am definitely an Introvert that appears an Extrovert. I find too that I need to practice the time out because especially now that I’ve taken on another role as my Mother’s Caretaker… I’m “always” on…. so that even when I really don’t have tasks to do… I have to remind my body/emotions… okay this is Time Off time… She’s taken care of… now it’s Your Time… it’s hard to get all my personalitlies to realize we really can take this time to do nothing (which IS my favorite thing to “do”)
    love you

    • Z Egloff August 23, 2012 at 10:21 am #

      Hi Donna!

      I’m glad that this post spoke to you. And I totally support you in taking “YOU” time. Yeah!! Especially being in a role like caretaker for your mom – you definitely need and deserve that time to refuel and recharge. It’s also awesome that you love doing nothing. Even though my soul craves such activity – or lack of activity, I still find it hard to just . . . do . . . nothing. I’m inspired by your expert enjoyment of this “doing.” :)

      Love love,


  9. Angel August 23, 2012 at 9:08 pm #

    ha z love ya!
    my problem as the selfish person and my little brat comes out
    to play. i think I have been taking to many times outs reading up
    my hill in the back yard and have not enjoy leaving, so for me
    is i do to many time outs and have not got back to my singing,
    och! i know my soul needs that for it needs to sore,
    here is knowing we all find our balance.

    love Angel

    • Z Egloff August 27, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

      Hi Angel,

      Balance is the key, that’s for sure. And only you know what that balance is for you. Certainly finding things that feed your soul are the most important thing you can do!

      Love back atcha!



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