Never underestimate the importance of making time for yourself. Whether you have a handful of minutes or an hour, these 10 ideas for quick escapes can uncrink your neck, reverse your frown, and calm your nerves. Go on, give yourself permission to ignore the dishes in the sink and treat yourself to a little rest and relaxation.
- Just breathe – 10 minutes. You don't need to be into yoga and meditation to enjoy the calming effect of deep breathing. Sit comfortably and place one palm on your stomach. Breathe in deeply until you feel your stomach expand. Then exhale until your stomach falls. Concentrate on the rise and fall of your breath for 10 minutes. If your thoughts wander, pull them back to your breathing.
- Go out for a walk – 10-60 minutes. There's nothing like some sunshine, blue skies, and green growing things to boost your mood. If you only have ten minutes, take a stroll around the block. Got an hour? Head to your nearest open space or beach. If you keep packaged snacks, water, and a blanket in your car, you can take off on impromptu trips right after dropping off the kids.
- Take a bath – 30-60 minutes. If the only baths in your recent history have included rubber ducks and bubblegum scented bubbles, it's time to indulge in the grown-up version. Mix up a soothing facial masque or scrub while the bath is filling, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the steaming water, and settle in with a good book or magazine.
- Pet Fluffy or Fido – 10 minutes. Studies show that living with pets lowers blood pressure and anxiety. Compared to your kids and spouse, your furry friend is a wonderfully undemanding companion. There's something downright therapeutic about a contented purr or the thump of a happy tail.
- Get lost in a book – 30-60 minutes. Has it been a while since you read a book without illustrations and cute critters? E-readers and books on CD make it easier than ever to enjoy books on the go, but there's still nothing quite like curling up on the couch with a good book.
- Have lunch with a girlfriend – 30-60 minutes. Some days, you desperately need to have a conversation with another adult that doesn't involve toilet training, booster shots, playgroup drama. Maintaining your friendships keeps you sane and lets you stay in touch with the world outside your family. Call up a friend and go out on a lunch date. No sippy cups allowed!
- Make a pot of tea – 15-30 minutes. It's hard to be stressed when your hands are cupped around a steaming cup of fragrant tea. If you don't want the caffeine, choose an herbal tea like chamomile or peppermint. Boil water the old fashioned way, steep to your liking, and enjoy.
- Take a nap – 15-60 minutes. Naptime isn't just for kids – or at least it shouldn't be. Even a quick 15 minute power nap can help you recharge after a busy morning or sleepless night. Many parents get much less than 8 hours of sleep every night, so squeezing a nap in during the day is a terrific idea.
- Turn your favorite music up and sing along – 10-30 minutes. Let's be honest – your kids' favorite CDs drive you crazy, and the theme songs from their cartoons get stuck on perpetual replay in your head. Take back your head space by putting on your music and rocking out.
- Reclaim a hobby – 30-60 minutes. Before you had kids, you probably had interests and hobbies that you put aside to care for your family. Now that the kids are in school for part of the day, why not use the time to reclaim an old hobby? Take the bike out for a spin, pull out your easel, or dust off your camera. And if you'd like to get out of the house, connecting with people who share your interests can offer you a community outside your family.
Staying sane within your busy life has never been more important. After all, happy parents mean happy kids!