I’m going to work to commit every Thursday evening to writing about self-care – what it is, how you can achieve it, and how we can become better together. As this series progresses, feel free to chime in with your thoughts, questions and concerns. View the series in its entirety. You are now viewing part 9.

As an emotional eater in recovery, I need my “me time.”

I’m a mom, a wife, a trainer with clients, a blogger with an audience, a neighbor, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a writer, a businesswoman, all of that. These are all the things I am to others.

What am I to myself? And when do I set aside time to be whatever I am to myself?

Hindsight is always 20/20 – you can always look back and see where you went wrong and what you should’ve done differently, but growth from it all can only happen if you’re willing to do the heavy lifting. Are you willing to look back and acknowledge where you went wrong, or are you more comfortable pretending it never happened, plainly waiting for it to happen again?

In the midst of all of the drama I was going through in April and May, a large part of the reason why I relapsed the way I did was because I didn’t take any “me time” in the midst of it all – it was just day after day after day, week after week, month after month of no time to myself, no time to decompress. Even where time with the girlfriends can be consider me time, time to live and laugh and share common experiences with others, I didn’t have any of that, either.

As a recovering emotional eater, it always has been and will be essential to my mental and emotional well-being to have some time to sort out my thoughts… or simply time to just not think or take everything so seriously, at all. My yoga practice – that to which I attribute much of my success – completely collapsed in that time frame. I wasn’t training, I wasn’t practicing yoga, I could barely leave my house. It was a collapse waiting to happen.

“Me time” is essential. You need time to think about your day and process what has happened and how it affected you emotionally. When your boss made that passive aggressive remark regarding your performance, what did you do in response? Did you snap because you haven’t had your morning donut, and you were in withdrawal? Did you cry? When your child smeared poop on the walls, did you immediately reach for a glass of wine, and it isn’t even 9AM yet?

“Me time” is reflection time. It is correction time. It’s the time where you say to yourself, “Self, I need to really think about how I responded to this negative experience, and I need to find a better way.” Sometimes, it’s even your time to think about how to follow up to responding poorly to something that happened, something that you did.

“Me time” is your opportunity to decompress. When you’re hit with stressor after stressor after stressor with no opportunity to breathe in-between, it feels like an emotional pile-on. And, I don’t know about you, but I don’t handle being at the bottom of a pile-on very well. Not only do I begin to lash out, but I also begin to self-harm in ways that aren’t always food.

You need to give yourself time to relax. Ten minutes in the morning, or a stolen moment or two at your desk, or maybe even an hour or so for your workout can make a world of difference. Maybe you need to meditate, or sit and think about nothing at all. Maybe you need to lift something heavy, because the feeling of dropping it makes you feel like you’re also dropping old, heavy, painful baggage. Maybe five minutes with your headphones in bouncing in your seat to your favorite song will take you away and give you the chance to calm down before you drop kick your co-worker (or spouse) out the window.

What? I can’t be the only person who’s been angry enough to consider drop kicking another human being. Not like I’ve ever done it, or anything.

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We all decompress differently, but decompressing must be done. This is how I realized that my yoga practice truly saved me. It might’ve done wonders for my body and my flexibility but most importantly, it was a half an hour of my day, every day, where I focused on nothing but me: my body, how I felt, how I was performing, hot I was breathing, how amazed I was at my competence, how scared I was of falling, how shocked I was that my body could do these things, and how excited I was to give it another shot the next go-round.

For that half-hour, I wasn’t thinking about bills. I wasn’t think about my daughter. I wasn’t thinking about work, or school, or my boyfriend, or any of it. It was me. Just me. It felt strange…but it felt amazing. I realize, in writing this, that I don’t do this anymore, and it’s to my detriment. For someone whose progress hinges on correcting bad habits, failing to address those habits at all isn’t particularly smart.

My training used to be my me time, but then I had to stop that. My regular morning runs were my me time, but I had to stop that, too. My yoga practice, my cooking time, my reading time, all of it… gone. All my time was centered around supporting my family during a crisis period. My time was no longer my own, not even 10 minutes, and I suffered greatly for it. I relapsed, for the first time since I’d quit my habit.

Hindsight is always 20/20. I know better now.

Next week: The value of community.