Being a foxy single gal has beaucoup perks (hellooo, full control over the DVR), but it can be difficult to juggle dates, nights out with friends, and your demanding job — and still take time for yourself. True “balance” probably doesn’t exist for anyone (not even Angelina), but you can get darn close by using a few tricks to ensure your personal “pie” of hot dates, girls’ nights, and you time is always cut into thirds.
Stop binge dating
If you’re newly single, it can be tempting to hit the dating websites or the bars and pack your schedule with new hottie after new hottie. Although unlimited options are nice, rapid-fire dating can be draining. “Make sure that dating does not become your full time job, no matter how eager you are to meet someone,” says Jodi Lipper, co-author of How to Live Like a Hot Chick. “Decide on a number of dates per week or month that feels right, and don’t feel bad saying no if you’re too busy! If a guy is really into you, he’ll be more than willing to wait a little to see you. Space out your dates so that you look forward to each one as a special treat instead of dreading them.”
Pencil in time to chill
A friend of mine recently told me that she always takes Friday nights for herself, no matter what, so she can recharge from the week and feel rarin’ to go by Saturday. Or, twist your calendar to make it work for you: “Take a look at your schedule, whether it’s on your computer or your phone, and look at how much space there is. Make sure your calendar is only 75 percent full — and there’s 25 percent empty space to be by yourself,” says Christine Hassler, life coach and author of 20 Something, 20 Everything.
Be your own primary care physician
During weeks when your schedule is packed, take a deep breath, focus, and use the rush of air as a “flashlight,” Hassler says. “See what your body is trying to tell you,” she says. “Maybe there are parts of you that feel tired or feel depleted — not just physically, but emotionally. Use your body as a feedback mechanism. If you stop and do that, you might hear that you need to slow down.” Hey, if it works for U.S. soldiers, it can work for you: A recent University of Pennsylvania study found that highly stressed, soon-to-be-deployed Marines who practiced mindfulness by focusing on their breathing (among other things) saw improvement in their mood and memory.
Learn how to say no
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to turn down offers from needy friends succinctly and politely. “Women tend to think that no is not a complete sentence,” Hassler says. “We’ll either justify or explain or both. It’s okay to say, ‘No, thank you’ or ‘No.'”
If you still feel you need to soften the blow, try killing your BFF with kindness. “Lead with a positive compliment,” says Beverly Engel, author of The Nice Girl Syndrome. “Something like, ‘I value our friendship so much. But I’m finding that I’ve been neglecting myself and I really need to devote more time to taking care of me.’ Then finish with, ‘I know you understand what this is like.””
Savor right now
Rather than drowning in the dating pool, try viewing being single as its own thrill ride rather than a launching pad to your next relationship. If you’re always looking for the next guy, “That isn’t true singlehood,” Hassler says, “and you end up carrying what you didn’t heal from that relationship to the next one.” Instead, take this opportunity to find out what makes you tick, just like you’d get to know a new guy or a new girlfriend. “Make sure that you’re dating yourself,” Hassler says. “Take yourself to the movies. Take yourself to dinner. Don’t ‘save’ things for when you’re with someone.” If picking a movie you want to see without someone else whining about it isn’t incentive enough, a study out of Ohio State University published this year found that people who said they knew themselves well reported more positive dating experiences than those who didn’t.