Agitation, chronic stress, and fatigue could be signs that you need to schedule some time for yourself.

“Me time,” “self-care,” and “solitude” are all terms that could potentially describe the act of spending time with no one but yourself. Solitude, whether you’re physically alone or mentally separate from those around you, can have a restorative effect on mental health. You could be showing signs you need alone time without even knowing it.

There’s a difference between time alone and loneliness. Alone time is a healthy way to recharge, destress, and recenter yourself. Loneliness is unwanted mental or physical isolation that can negatively impact mental and physical health, sleep, and cognitive abilities. However, lack of alone time can affect your mental health, too.

Life is a balancing act where the scales can easily get tipped off center. Once you recognize the signs of overwhelm and stress that accompany a lack of alone time, you can regularly schedule some solitude to recenter and bring balance back into your life.

Signs and symptoms of psychological stress may indicate that you could use time to yourself. These signs include:

  1. Getting easily irritated, agitated, and angry at usually insignificant things. If you’re losing your temper over most things or find yourself irritated at everything your boss, partner, bartender, or anyone else says, you could use time to yourself.
  2. You’re tired or fatigued. Even if you’re getting a full night of sleep, you might not be mentally or physically resting as much as you need. Alone time can quiet your mind, give you time for introspection, and separate you from things that are zapping your energy.
  3. Things don’t seem as fun to you anymore. Is everything feeling boring or too much to handle? You could be giving too much of yourself to others, leaving you no room to enjoy where you are and what you’re doing.
  4. You’re in a hurry all the time. If you’re rushing from one place or project to the next, your brain isn’t getting enough downtime. Whether you’re trying to meet someone else’s expectations or unrealistic ones of your own, your brain and body need time to slow down.
  5. Your stress levels never seem to go down. The demands on your time and attention may not give your adrenaline a chance to simmer to a slow boil. Chronic stress contributes to premature aging, insulin resistance, poor mental health, and many other conditions.

What happens when you don’t get enough alone time?

Lack of alone time opens the door for the effects of long-term stress to chip away at your health. Anxiety and depression can take hold. As your mental health declines, your physical health can follow, with stress linked to everything from heart disease to skin disorders.

Lack of alone time can also affect your performance, particularly if you rely on creativity. Like many aspects of life, creativity relies on a balance of social interaction, where you’re inspired by others, and time alone to reflect and develop your sense of artistic identity.

You, no matter your occupation, gender, or social status, need time to do the things that are important to you.

When you’re alone, there’s no social pressure to conform or expectations of others to fulfill. It’s a time to let down your guard and be less self-conscious. Alone time encourages independence and helps build confidence in your ability to be alone, act alone, and find enjoyment alone.

The solitude you find, whether it’s physical or mental distance, lets you relax and relieve tension. In a 2019 literature review, it was found that when people are alone without a specific task or choose a sedentary task like reading, they tend to self-reflect.

Self-reflection gives you a chance to listen to your thoughts and feelings without distraction.

Additionally, the review found that time spent alone reduces high emotional states, both positive and negative. It creates a centering and regulating of emotions, fostering a sense of peace.

Alone time also gives you a chance to problem solve without interruption. Sometimes when we have a problem, we kick it down the road because we don’t believe we have the time or mental energy to address the issue. Solitude lets you prioritize and think creatively about possible solutions.

Do you need alone time in a relationship?

A 2022 study found that “aloneliness,” a term that describes dissatisfaction with lack of alone time can lead to more angry or aggressive behavior toward your partner. So yes, everyone needs alone time.

However, some people need more time alone than others. Conflict in relationships can occur because one partner desires more or less time together than the other.

Partners may need to compromise on the amount of time they spend together to ensure they find a balance of intimacy and independence that works for both of them.

There’s nothing wrong with spending your alone doing nothing. No TV. No social media. No reading. In fact, people who spend 15 minutes a day with no specific task may experience less emotional fluctuation.

There’s also evidence that people benefit from staying off of social media from time to time. Social media keeps you connected and keeps the social pressure on, which is one of the things you’re trying to relieve during alone time. Try giving yourself a break from scrolling through social media for a few hours.

Choose activities that you find relaxing. You could:

  • read a book
  • meditate
  • spend time doing a hobby
  • take a walk
  • go for a hike
  • sit quietly and listen to music
  • accomplish a long-desired task like cleaning a drawer or closet
  • journal
  • float in a pool
  • lay in a hammock

The goal of your alone time is to calm your mind and body. If the activity does that, it’s a great option for you.

Lack of time alone can leave some feeling irritable, stressed, or angry. When you begin to feel this way, consider taking a pause on your regular routine and take a moment to breathe and recharge.

For many, alone time is a great opportunity for self-reflection and self-discovery. It can also rejuvenate you by balancing your emotions and letting your body physically relax. Not only does this practice help improve your well-being, but it can also improve your relationships with others.

You can spend alone time doing anything that relaxes and recenters you. For some, that’s hiking a new trail or sitting in the park. For others, it’s drinking iced tea and reading a book. And then, when you come back from your time alone, you can face daily challenges and stress as your best self.