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Whether you can only sneak away for 1 minute or 1 hour, there are ways to claim that time as a moment for you.
These days, time for yourself may be close to nonexistent. Yet, to be fully present for your kids, you should, as the saying goes, put your own oxygen mask on first. Ideally, we’d all have time to engage in meaningful hobbies or at least get a solid break to check out every now and then.
But right now, you may have to steal whatever time you can get for yourself — even while you’re taking care of your kids all day (and potentially trying to work, too). Here are some ideas for self-care no matter how tight you are on time.
Light a candle
Candlelight makes everything feel a little more soothing. Stick a candle near your kitchen sink and on your bathroom counter. That way, when you’re making meals, doing dishes, showering, or just sneaking away to pee, you can have a brief moment of Zen.
Practice box breathing
Box breathing is an easy-to-learn technique proven to help people de-stress. Basically, you exhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, inhale for 4 seconds, and then hold your breath for 4 seconds, slowing your blood pressure and helping you feel calm. This app can help guide you and remind you to take a minute to do it each day.
Do whatever you need to do to LOL — watch silly cat videos, look at memes, find a clip from your favorite comedian. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughing can relieve stress and even boost your immune system.
Take your vitamins
A daily multivitamin gives your body the nutrients it needs and helps you feel like you’re really taking care of yourself.
If the state of the world — or your household — is taking a toll on your stress level, look into taking a magnesium supplement, which can help with anxiety.
The options from Natural Vitality are great, as you can take them as a pill, gummy, or mixed into a drink. (Of course, clear any supplements you want to take with your doctor first.)
Grab your partner or kid and give them a big squeeze. Hugging just feels good. And we could all use some of that. Plus, it may have some benefits.
Drink a glass of water
Staying hydrated has mental and physical benefits. Plus, drinking water helps you from feeling over-caffeinated or mindlessly grabbing a handful of your kid’s Goldfish crackers.
Taking this minute for yourself can give you a necessary pause to be mindful of what you want to put into your body.
Text a loved one
Check in with your partner, a friend, or family member who always brightens your day. Send a funny picture from your week, an inspiring quote, or something fun that’ll make them smile.
Amp up your showering routine
Blend a smoothie
Give your body some fuel and nourishment by mixing fruit, some greens, and protein powder so you’re not starving and hangry when it’s mealtime. Make extra to sip on throughout the day or share with your kids.
Listen to your favorite song
Take a break from Sesame Street to listen to something you actually want to hear. Pop in your earbuds while you’re cleaning up toys or making lunches, and pump yourself up with your favorite jam.
Sit in the sun
Sunlight is a natural mood-booster. When you can steal a few minutes, grab yourself (and your coffee), and sit outside to literally bask in the sun.
Maybe your sticky counters are giving you anxiety. Or perhaps your spider-web-ridden porch irks you every time you pass it. Grab a sponge, broom, or whatever have you, and feel the sweet sense of accomplishment that cleaning something often brings.
Play a game
Whether you play Candy Crush on your phone or dive into the world of Animal Crossing, gaming can challenge your brain while giving your mind a virtual vacation. Play with friends or family to make the experience social.
Get your heart rate going
Moving your body will do wonders for your mental state. Not sure what to do exactly? Download an app that provides workouts of various lengths (Peloton and The Sculpt Society are two great ones) to easily fit in a mini sweat sesh.
Put a face mask on
No, not that kind of face mask. Give your skin spa-caliber treatment by putting on a mask that you don’t need to wash off immediately.
That way, you can technically wear one while feeding your kids lunch and then remove it without missing a bite. Check out the bamboo sheet masks by Edible Beauty for a super hydrating, botanical experience.
Checking in with your breathing and clearing your mind can help you reset on even the most stressful days. Search YouTube for free guided videos or download an app like Headspace if you’re ready to commit to the practice.
Feeling your feet on the ground can make you feel more, well, grounded. Walking outside on grass or dirt is even considered therapeutic.
That said, your kitchen floor or bedroom carpet will do just fine. Feel your toes on whatever material they’re on, and center yourself with your connection to the ground in the present moment.
Write in a journal
Getting your thoughts on paper can have a restorative effect on your mental state. Write about what you’re grateful for, what you’re struggling with right now, and your hopes for the future — or whatever comes to mind.
Do your nails
Soak your toes, moisturize, and give yourself an excuse to put your feet up. Indulge in this little beautification moment, and you’ll feel rejuvenated, even if you’re only cutting and filing your nails. (If you do your nails with your kids, check out Sophi polishes, which don’t smell or contain any harsh chemicals.)
Make yourself a meal
When you’re strapped for time, it’s easy to just grab a bar and call it a lunch. However, if you have a window of free time, make yourself something you actually want to eat (or if you really want to splurge, pick up something you’re craving from your favorite local restaurant). Eating real food will give you a mental and physical pick-me-up.
Declutter a room
Some people feel invigorated by clearing a space. This makes sense, as being around clutter can make you feel more stressed.
Grab an empty box and pick up everything that doesn’t belong in a given room, then go around your home and put all those things in their place. Think of it as a reverse scavenger hunt, and get your family in on the task if organizing isn’t something you like to do solo.
Watch something indulgent
Put on your favorite reality TV series, a documentary you’ve been waiting to dig into, or your favorite sitcom. Whatever it is, choose something that will lighten your mood.
Read a book for fun
Instead of scrolling social media or reading the news when you have some downtime, do something better for your brain (and spirit) by reading a great book. If you’re having a hard time finding something, check out “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle for a powerful journey about selfhood.
Take a power nap
You may have been advised to sleep while the baby sleeps, and many parents know all too well how unrealistic that can be. (Hello, laundry doesn’t do itself.)
Nevertheless, taking a quick nap — regardless of whether you still have a baby who does the same — can reset your day and give you some much-needed rest. Even if you just lie in bed for 20–30 minutes, you’ll at least feel some relief.
Listen to an inspiring podcast
Even if your “free” hour is spent cleaning the house or pushing a stroller during nap time, you can multitask in a soulful way. Try Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us or Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations for insightful, thought-provoking topics and interviews.
Really go all out here. Pour a glass of wine, if you so choose. Take a bath with frills (bath bombs, bath salts, bubble bath — you get the idea), and give yourself permission to soak it all in, literally. Let your partner earn some brownie points by giving you a much-needed foot massage afterward.
Do an online yoga class
Get into your body and out of your head by moving, stretching, and flowing. If you can’t get an hour to yourself, get the family involved and do a class together. (Kids of all ages will love this Chi mat that turns yoga into a game.)
Spend time with a friend
Do a socially distanced hang with a pal so you can bond, vent, and feel somewhat normal again. If you can’t meet up with someone IRL, spend some time writing a letter to your closest pal and telling them how much they mean to you.
Bake something delicious
Whether you whip up brownies from scratch or pop open a premade can of cinnamon buns, the act of creating something in the oven will brighten your day, as well as everyone else’s in your household (that is, if you decide to share).
Go for a walk
Maybe you go on a hike. Maybe you walk to your local coffee shop and treat yourself to a caffeinated drink that you didn’t have to make yourself. Getting out of the house and getting some new scenery can be a big mental boost.
Natasha Burton is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Livestrong, Woman’s Day, and many other lifestyle publications. She’s the author of What’s My Type?: 100+ Quizzes to Help You Find Yourself ― and Your Match!, 101 Quizzes for Couples, 101 Quizzes for BFFs, 101 Quizzes for Brides and Grooms, and the co-author of “The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags.” When she’s not writing, she’s fully immersed in #momlife with her toddler and preschooler.