As a mother who is tuned in to her baby’s or child’s needs, and seeks to meet those needs in a prompt and loving manner, it is easy to put yourself last. Raising a child is an act of devotion, and it is so common to forget that taking care of yourself is an important step in nurturing your children. Stress, tension, and lack of focus can make mothering to your best potential a difficult task. It is essential to take time to relax and refresh. After pouring our hearts, souls, time, and patience into little ones we all deserve a nice hour-long massage and an uninterrupted four-hour nap. For most of us, there just isn’t time or resources to enjoy these kinds of relaxation. But these ten mini-refreshers can help you stay grounded, focused, and refreshed so that you can parent at your best. I know how important downtime is to a parent, so you’ll pleased to know that these refreshers are broken down into manageable 10 minute sessions (leaving plenty of time to attend to laundry, cleaning, and your to-do list). Every mom or dad can find 10 minutes in his or her day. Especially when my son was a newborn, my husband was hungry for opportunities to help out. So the next time your kids are at school, or napping, or your partner is available for 10 minutes, try one of these stress-busters.
- Hot shower. Ok, I’m a mom to a 8 month old, and let’s be honest: I shower a lot less than I used to. And when I do shower I rush through it so I can get back to breastfeeding, laundry, and playtime. Instead of a rushed requirement a shower can be blissful. Try taking a nice hot shower with your favorite scent of body wash. I often do this in the evening right after my little guy goes down for the night. A nice hot shower is like a little mini miracle. I turn off the bathroom lights, light a few candles and leisurely wash my hair and just soak in the hot water. Lift your hair up and let the hot water flow on your neck (one area that is sure to be tense).
- Mini-meditation (or as I like to call it: purposeful daydreaming). I never meditated before I was a mother. I know many men and women who have mastered the art of meditation. I am not one of those people. But I have mastered a little mini-meditation technique that seriously refreshes my mind, body, and soul. If you’re like me you are a walking talking to-do list. You can come up with 5 things you should do/need to do/ will do tomorrow at the drop of a hat. You can estimate how many loads of dirty laundry you have at any given moment, and you know how many plates are in the dishwasher. So give your mind a little break and try this: find somewhere comfortable that is not your bed. I alternate between a cozy armchair in my study and stretched out on the couch. Actively daydream about something pleasant. I sometimes pretend I am stretched out on the beach at my favorite vacation spot (instead of my in-need-of-a-cleaning sofa). Sometimes I imagine that I am lounging on a cloud traveling over the sea. I’ve imagined myself as the heroine of whatever novel I am reading. Let your mind wander, but don’t let yourself come back to reality. As soon as you start thinking about what to make for dinner or that appointment tomorrow actively start your daydream again. After 10 minutes or so stand up, stretch, and get back to reality with a refreshed mind.
- Picture perfect. Most of us have photos stored on our computer, or in an album or scrapbook. If you’re like me those photos just sit there waiting and don’t get appreciated very often. Sit down for 10 minutes and start going through an album or file of photos. Any photos will do. Look at each picture. I mean really look at it. Notice the foreground and background. Note what people are wearing. Imagine what the weather was like that day. Remember what you were doing before the photo was taken. Feel the emotions of the photo. Take your time with each photo. To be honest, I sometimes only get through 1 or 2 photos at a time. Letting your mind focus on something besides the lists and runny noses and work schedules you’re dealing with right now is like a breath of fresh air. I especially enjoy looking at photos from when my husband and I were dating.
- Foot soak. I am on my feet 90% of the day. My feet are tired and neglected. I used to have more time for my feet, but now they are lucky to get a good scrub as I rush through my shower. Take your 10 minutes to do a little pampering of your feet and your whole body will be affected. Simply pour hot water (as hot as you can stand) into some kind of container (bath tub, large Tupperware, bucket, etc.) Add in about a half-cup of Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender, ylang ylang, or even kitchen vanilla. Grab some reading material and start soaking! If you’re feeling really adventurous you could trade 5-minute foot massages with your partner/sister/bff.
- Communicate. As mothers we put our kids and partners first, everyone else second. It is easy to fall out of touch. It is easy to go 2 weeks without talking to your best friend who you used to talk to every day. Friends and family members are such a great source of rejuvenation and joy that we can’t overlook them. Go through your contact list. Call a loved one you haven’t talked to in awhile. Write an e-mail. Write a letter. Get in touch.
- Take a walk. Obviously, this one has to be when your partner or other trusted adult is willing to watch your little one(s) for 10 minutes. Just go out the door and walk for 5 minutes, then turn around and walk home. Walk around the block, walk up the street, just get out and walk! I don’t even worry about putting on sneakers. My flip-flops and I take a leisurely stroll around the block. The fresh air and solitude will do you good, I promise.
- Watch them sleep. After you children are in bed for the night (or even for a nap) sneak up on them and just quietly observe their sleep. From babies to older children, there is just something peaceful and restoring about watching your little one snooze. Notice their breathing. You can say a little prayer for them, or think about how much they’ve grown. I often like to take a little snapshot in my mind, and try to remember my son exactly as he is right at that moment: what new tasks he’s accomplished, what makes him laugh, and how adorable he is, even asleep. To be honest, I rarely remember every detail but it helps me to appreciate him more and to really be present in these moments that go by too quickly.
- Self-massage. Lie down in a comfortable spot and give yourself a little ten minute relaxing massage. I often focus on my neck and shoulders and the space in between my eyebrows (for some reason I carry a lot of tension there). I also like to massage my scalp or sometimes my hands. You can rub your feet or legs too. Just give yourself 10 minutes of whatever kind of massage feels good. Release some tension and come back to center.
- Appreciate. Take 10 minutes and write a short note to someone who means a lot to you. I have written a mini love letter to my husband, and a note of appreciation to our fabulous neighbors. Just think of someone who has helped you or made you feel loved. Write them a heartfelt note about why you love them, how they made you feel, how much they are appreciated, etc. For my husband I often tape it to the bathroom mirror so he will see it. You could also drop it in the mail, or stick it to your neighbors’ front door. Thinking positive and loving thoughts can be a wonderful way to unwind, and letting the people you love know you’re thinking of them will give them a boost too!
- Stretch. Whether you are a seasoned stretcher or yoga lover, or if you haven’t stretched since high school PE… stretching is a fabulous habit to get into. Simple touch-your-toes stretches are perfect. Do whatever is comfortable. I generally try to focus on one area of my body and do several different stretches that target that area. If you feel tense in a certain area stretch it out! You will feel looser and calmer at the end of your session.
Make it a point to take 10 minutes out of a busy day to celebrate YOU! Whether you can do it once a day or once a week, you are worth it! Your children need a calm, relaxed, and healthy mama and you can give it to them!