Experts say we need “me time” – but is that really the case?

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Stylist Team
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Me Time; do you love or hate it? Two Stylist writers go head to head and explain their very differing opinions on getting solitary. 

Editorial assistant Moya Lothian-McLean embraces Me Time.

I have only recently started to crack the concept of Me Time. Don’t misunderstand me, I’ve always been good at doing very little – especially after rolling in at some ungodly hour the night before. Give me a day to waste and I will run with it. Be idle, you say? Buddy, I can polish off a series of The Handmaid’s Tale in one weekend. You want laziness? I give you an entire day without visiting the bathroom. A tub of Ben & Jerry’s ordered from Uber Eats.

But briefly morphing into 
a slug is not Me Time. As a 2015 study by Birkbeck University found, to effectively recharge your batteries Me Time must
be “high-quality”, meaning the participant has to feel as if they’ve been enriched by the experience. Quantity, the researchers discovered, doesn’t matter. The magic of Me Time is in the calibre.

And there is magic in it. When I do Me Time correctly – without the twin distractions of my phone and laptop – it knits together the frayed edges of my nerves in a way nothing else, bar a financially irresponsible mini-break, manages. Me Time doesn’t 
have to be a solo endeavour but that’s what works best in my case: total disconnection from the digital (difficult when grappling with a tech addiction). It is tough, especially when living in a city, to snatch a sliver of time that is fully your own.

Which means when I do get round to Me Time, I’m off grid. There’s functional Me Time – exercising for 30 minutes, five days a week to sweat out stress – and morning Me Time, walking to work via the canal in defiance of Google Maps’ insistence that the road-heavy route is quicker. 

There’s creative Me Time: reading a book and finding myself fired up about the joy of good words arranged just right on a page. And life-admin Me Time, when I sort out essential things like bills, meal prep and having enough clean underwear without a crotch hole for the week. Sunday Me Time is the best, though: a long meandering stroll to nowhere in particular.

I forgo headphones and plug into the world around me. Sundays
 in London are languid, one of 
the few times the city slows its pace. My walk is like letting out a breath I’ve been holding all week. Me Time doesn’t mean doing sweet FA. I’d urge everyone to press F5 on themselves. I can guarantee you’ll feel better for it. 

“I forgo headphones and plug into the world around me”

Five ways I do Me Time 

  • Boating I recently rediscovered the pleasure of taking a row boat for a spin, à la Ratty and Mole. My rowing skills are limited to circles, but they’re very relaxing circles.
  • Saturday steak Every Saturday I try to treat myself 
to a rump steak from Sainsbury’s and serve it blue.
  • Shower singing True nirvana is being sprayed with hot jets of water while belting out Amy Winehouse.
  • Thinking Yes, our brains are always ticking away but during Me Time I let my mind wander and give my imagination free rein.
  • Going to a green space You can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the knowledge that nature cures all ills out of the girl. I’m partial to willow trees in particular. 

Deputy editor Gemma Crisp equates 
Me Time to alone time

Let it be known: I am not here for Me Time. The very concept of swaddling yourself in your own company, withdrawing from the world with no plans but to potter about aimlessly gives me the fear. When left to my own devices for an extended period of time (say, an entire afternoon) without anything to do, I start moping like a five-year-old who’s the only one not invited to the biggest birthday party of the year. 

My mood plummets, negative thoughts come unbidden to my mind and my eyes fill with tears for no good reason. I feel hopeless – even though I’m aware of exactly why and that it’s temporary. 

Introspection is not my friend. As soon as I’m no longer flying solo, it’s all change. During the months I once worked from home, I swear my husband dreaded walking through the door at the end of the day, where he’d be greeted by a frenzied human puppy, scrabbling at his legs, threatening to pee on his shoes in excitement that someone – anyone – was home.

I used to put my extreme dislike of Me Time down to being a twin. Spending eight months in the womb with my sister – therefore not experiencing any Me Time until we were born ahead of schedule, wrapped
 in foil and placed in separate incubators – surely had an in-utero neural programming effect? 

That’s until I discovered she loves Me Time. Bloody loves it. So that theory went in the bin. I may loathe my own company and having an empty schedule but don’t make the mistake of assuming that means I dislike myself. I think I do a pretty OK job of being a decent human being. It’s just that I really like having other people around.

I don’t need to talk to them – I’m fine with sitting on the couch, descending into a wormhole 
of Wild Wild Country – as long as there’s someone else in the vicinity (ideally the same room).

I don’t even have to know them
– I’m perfectly happy sitting at
 a bar researching my upcoming trip to the Amalfi coast, accompanied by a Campari spritz and 73 strangers. So I guess I do have my own version of Me Time – it just always requires a plus one and a to-do list. 

“It’s just that I really like having other people around”

Five ways I avoid Me Time

  • Booking myself up I don’t have a free weekend until mid-August – I’m a big planner when it comes to concerts, catch-ups, exhibitions, day trips… anything to avoid mooching around the house.
  • Skype sessions I live on
 the other side of the world from my family and don’t see them very often so a Skype session can easily chew up two to three hours (my record is three and
 a half hours with my twin sister).
  • Travel obsession When you go on as many mini-breaks as 
I do (at least one a month), there’s always something to research or book – flights, accommodation, restaurants, museums, bars…
  • Surrounding myself with strangers Whether it’s my local brunch spot or my favourite
 bar in Paris, being around the chatter of other people helps me feel less alone.
  • Reading a book If I have exhausted all other options, I’ll transport myself into someone else’s life with a novel – most recently, it was The Leavers by Lisa Ko. 

Images: Getty