I've worked from home, alone, for over 14 years, so when COVID-19 caused schools to close at the end of March, and my husband had to stop going to the office, I no longer had the alone time I needed. I coped for several months taking time to myself when I could, but realised that I was feeling more and more stressed, wiped out, and unhappy as we were heading into winter. As an HSP (highly sensitive person) and a 100 percent introvert, constantly being around my family (even though I adore them!) and rarely having a free moment to clear my mind was so overwhelming and exhausting — I knew I needed to do something to take back my mental health.
I Exercised Alone For 1 Hour Every Morning
I had picked up running in the spring, but once it got cold and dark at the end of September, I felt superunmotivated. I ended up sleeping in instead for the next month, thinking extra sleep is always a good thing, but I instantly noticed how my mood shifted for the worse. I was worried about my mental health and knew seeing a therapist could be a good option, but with the pandemic, I wasn't up for researching the perfect person, only to meet over Zoom.
Then Ergatta sent me a water rower to test out, and I committed to rowing 10,000 meters every day for one month. I needed this goal to get me back on track with exercise. I would get up and row from 5:20 to 6:20 a.m, so I'd have about 10 minutes to stretch before waking the kids up at 6:30 a.m. I had no idea how much that consistent daily morning ritual would positively affect my mental health. This was the first time I took time for me every single morning and realised that it was that daily hour alone that was the key to lifting my mood and helping me cope with everyday stress.
The Benefits of Alone Time in the Morning
I've gotten up early every morning for two months now to spend time alone, and the benefits are so huge, that it's inspiring me to keep going. That one hour of uninterrupted time gives me a chance to think and breathe without distractions. I get to do something to take care of me, instead of always taking care of everyone else. It's a glorious feeling to not have anything to think about, no responsibilities, no one asking me for anything — I can just focus on my needs and my wants.
I absolutely love and am so grateful to be a mother, but a lot of the time, parenting can feel like you're treading water with your nose barely above the surface. This hour alone every morning makes me feel like I can breathe again. It feels like therapy to me, a release of emotions, and I always feel better at the end of that hour. It makes me a more grateful and joyful person (I got my sense of humour back!), a more patient parent, and a more loving partner.
Being alone first thing ensures that I'll get that essential time every single day. It also sets my day up for success because I can make a mental to-do list and feel prepared. I also feel like the meditative movement and deep breathing releases all those feel-good hormones that puts me in a happy, energetic mood. I feel better able to cope when I walk upstairs to the rest of the house buzzing chaotically as they're frantically getting ready for school. Minor issues used to put me over the edge or on the verge of tears, but now I just laugh and handle it like a champ. Our mornings just feel calmer all around. If you're a parent who deals with superstressful mornings, you can understand what a miracle this is.
That 1 Hour Is Nonnegotiable
I realised that the consistency of doing it every single day was the difference. I have always exercised regularly, four to five days a week, and experienced the benefits, but knowing how it feels to do it seven days a week has convinced me how essential it is.
After that first month, I tried being more lenient about that morning alone time and skipping it if I wanted to stay up late, but if I did, I noticed it big time! I was cranky, low-energy, quick to yell, and just felt all-around blah. It just reiterated how important it is not to miss it, and I always think of that when my husband says to sleep in or take a rest day. I know I need this time for my mental health. It's nonnegotiable.
Sometimes 1 Hour Alone Isn't Enough
As an HSP, I've learned that loud noises or music, busy schedules, and being around people constantly just overwhelms me, so sometimes that one hour of proactive alone time isn't enough. I can sense that when I start to feel easily irritated, snap at my kids or husband, or just feel annoyed by little things. That's when I take my dogs for a walk outside (being quiet in nature is so soothing), or do some mediative Zentangle drawing or knitting, or I play guitar and sing. When I don't have much time or can't get tons of time to myself, I'll go to the bathroom and just close my eyes for a few minutes — even that can help!
Self-Care Is Essential to Your Mental Health
I'm so grateful that I discovered what makes me feel better, that it's free, and it's something I have some control over. There are so many self-care practices, but you just need to find the one that speaks to you and ensure it's something you can do consistently in order to have the best effect.