The time is five o’clock. I am lying on the floor, in the dark, again. No phone, no television, just the sound of the outdoors creeping in from an open window. This is nice; this is peaceful.
Then six o’clock rolls around and I hear keys jingling in the door. I am thrilled, but also could use a few more minutes of silence. After 10 hour days in the office, you can’t blame me for wanting to savor the alone time. But the bubble we’ve created also takes me away from the daily annoyances, this is nice too.
There are so many things I value, both tangible and intangible creativity, family, friends, respect, safety, health, autonomy, but alone time probably tops the list. Much like food or water, my body and mind need alone time to survive. It might sound dramatic but it’s true; I turn into a dried cactus in a human bodysuit.
Prioritizing alone time is a precious resource you can give yourself, but it’s not always feasible. If you’re a parent, a partner, a sibling, or just someone with a hectic life, finding a few minutes to yourself can be hard. There have been times where I locked myself in a bathroom and listened to music on a toilet or in a bathtub, which isn’t appreciated when you only have one bathroom. Even in the office, as much as I don’t like the settings, the communal restroom stall or back stairwells turn into a cramped sanctuary. Alone time for me is an opportunity to decompress from everyday stimulation and stressors. A few minutes here and there can be enough to keep me going, but a real session requires a few hours to a couple of days. I will cancel plans if it means having an opportunity for alone time, I won’t be any fun if I am feeling overwhelmed and foggy.
However, I do feel like people think wanting alone time means you want to be isolated and that’s not always the case. There’s a big difference between alone time and loneliness, especially since one is self-governed and the other is a negative environmental response. Loneliness isn’t just too much of a good thing, it’s a triggered response from being isolated and unable to experience the connections that all humans need in one way or another. I am very anxious and experience bouts of depression, which over long periods become unbearable when I feel isolated. My thoughts and feelings swirl around my head and I can visualize them in the space around me, it’s very unpleasant. Sometimes because of our mental health, we isolate ourselves as a form of protection from/for other people, we don’t really want to be alone. Unfortunately, if this is a hard concept to understand, which it is for a lot of people, the phone calls, the invitations, and the general connections cease. The desire for peace and solitude does not equate to long-term isolation.
Everyone needs to shut off their brain, unplug, and unwind. Me writing this right now is a form of alone time that I thoroughly enjoy. Once I feel recharged, I can be a person again! I laugh more, I am friendlier, I feel more creative, I am better at solving problems, and I tend to sleep better. There isn’t a downside to taking a little time out for yourself. Read a book, color, cook, solve a puzzle, lie on the floor, do whatever brings you peace and joy. You’re brain and body will thank you for the TLC.