Why we need alone time

As we go to work day in and day out, five days a week, follow our routines in the morning and in the evening, eat, sleep, commute, repeat, come Friday night, we find ourselves not only exhausted, but hollow. We’ve spent the last five days surrounded by people and weighted down by responsibilities. We’ve dedicated all our spare thoughts to our oncoming projects and all our “spare” time to making dinner and being with our children or loved ones. We’ve been focused, but mostly occupied. Then, on the weekend, we relax, or take the time to work on other things. But come Sunday evening, and the routine is on again.

It doesn’t matter what job we do. Some jobs, of course, are more people oriented than others. If you work from home, you don’t have to deal with being in front of people all the time. And if you’re self-employed, you don’t even have to deal with a boss. But still, you’re never alone. If you’re dedicated to your job, you’re always connected to the world, even if only by the thin thread of e-mails and phone calls.

Human contact is very important. That’s why one of the best ways to get centered after a work week is to turn off the Internet and spend time with our family and friends. The warmth of human contact is crucial to feel yourself feel again.

But I’ve found that it’s not enough. Because when you come home to someone, you’re not the only one there. It might be obvious, but it’s something easily forgotten. The other person has too had a full day of interacting with the world. Or the other person might have spent the day working from home and forgotten how it may feel to take the subway at rush hour. Whatever the case, your expectations of the night ahead might not be the same ones. In the best case scenario, you’ll come home to a cooked meal. In the worst case, you’ll end up in a fight because your desire to just curl up in bed won’t be met appropriately. Relationships are all about compromise, true, and it is also important to make time for your relationship, not just for the other person, but for the connection you share, so that it doesn’t go sour.

And that’s why alone time is crucial. To put things into perspective. To stop worrying. To breathe deep and think straight. And just to get away for a few hours. You might read a book, a novel that is so skillfully plotted and written that you’ll be able to forget about everything else. You might take a bubble bath and do your nails, while listening to your favorite music. You might watch a couple episodes of your favorite TV-show. Or paint. Or write. Any activity that soothes you and won’t be interrupted for a few hours counts as alone time. Any activity that is just yours, not shared, but the importance of which is well acknowledged by your family members, so that they now that, for instance, on Fridays, from 6 to 9 pm, “mommy/daddy”, “girlfriend/boyfriend”, “wife/husband” are not to be bothered.

Before this ideal state is reached though, the important thing is to be aware of both your own needs and of the other person’s daily experience. This awareness can be hard to attain, and that’s why talking is important. But talking mustn’t take place when you’re on the verge of exploding. Talking must take place when you’re both fed, warm, and had a good night’s sleep.

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