100 ways to take time for yourself
How much time do you get for yourself each day? Whether you're a new mum or your little ones are growing up, you probably find it difficult to get any time that's devoted solely to your own wellbeing and pleasure. Here's our guide to taking time for yourself, even if you have only 10 seconds to spare.
• Spritz on some perfume. Spray it in your hair, behind your ears, on the backs of your knees, and on your wrists. As you walk (or run after an active toddler), the scent will be released and you'll be reminded that you deserve to feel beautiful.
• Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Inhale through your nose; exhale through your mouth. Pay attention to your breathing.
• Light a candle or some incense.
• Pour yourself a tall, cold glass of water, or fill up your water bottle. Carry it with you and hydrate yourself!
• Smile! Break out in the cheesiest, widest grin you can. It will release some of the tension you're holding in your face, and you might even get one in return, especially from a child!
• Dab some spearmint oil or lavender oil on your temples and the nape of your neck.
• Kiss and hug your partner, your baby, your dog. A bit of affection can give your mood an immediate lift.
• Put on a necklace or some earrings. All too often, mums forget that they even own jewellery. Wearing your favourite necklace or pair of earrings can give your self-image a boost.
• Say a mantra or affirmation that has meaning to you. "I am competent, intelligent, and capable. I can handle this!" can be useful for trying situations. Memorise a quote or saying that resonates with you, and say it out loud to yourself when you find that your patience or optimism are being challenged.
• Take the phone off the hook, or set the ringer to "silent" and let the answering machine take your calls.
• Take a multivitamin.
• Think about an upcoming holiday or break you've been looking forward to.
• Take some Rescue Remedy.
• Run a brush through your hair. It will stimulate your scalp and help you to feel refreshed.
• Adjust your bra straps. If your bra fits you well, your posture will be better, and you won't feel so much tension across your shoulders and in your back.
• Scream! Go on, let it out. It will help release tension in your face and may help you simply let off some steam.
• Rub on some hand lotion.
• Put on a soothing CD or any of your favourite music. Leave it on in the background while you do other activities around the house.
• Laugh out loud. Even if nothing is funny, make yourself giggle, at least. Laughter is said to be the best medicine, and it's an awesome stress-reliever, too.
• Take off your shoes and wiggle your toes. Stretch your toes out, then gently crunch them against the floor. Grab a ball and roll it around on the floor beneath your feet.
• Put on some lip gloss. Smile at yourself in the mirror!
• Close your eyes and place your ring fingers directly under your eyebrows, near the bridge of your nose. Slowly increase the pressure for five to 10 seconds, then gently release. Repeat two to three times.
• Close your eyes and think of five things you're thankful for.
• Do your pelvic floor exercises. It may not seem like something fun, but your body will thank you for it, and it will take your mind off of everything else, as pelvic floor exercises require concentration of a different kind!
• Face the wall. Stand with your feet flat on the floor and raise your arms to about shoulder level, then shift them up a little bit. Place your palms against the wall and push. Stretch your hamstrings as you push against the wall. Your hamstrings are one of the first muscle groups in your body to store tension, so if you take the time to stretch them out, you'll feel better.
• Do a fast jog in place for a full minute. You might feel a bit silly, but if you can get your blood flowing and your body primed for action, you can kick that sluggish feeling for a few hours.
• Give yourself a mini massage. Rub your shoulders, temples, and hands.
• Brush your teeth! Fresh breath gives you confidence and makes you feel clean and refreshed. Mint is a mood-lifter as well.
• Stop and be fully present in the moment. Consider your surroundings, what you're doing, who is with you, and what the mood is. Try to objectify the current situation so you can get a clear picture of what's going on. "Check out" just the tiniest bit in order to put things into perspective, then when you get back to reality, you'll be more aware and less likely to get frazzled or frustrated.
• Give your scalp a light massage. Place your thumbs behind your ears while spreading your fingers on top of your head. Move your scalp back and forth slightly by making circles with your fingertips for 15 to 20 seconds. Repeat two to three times.
• Release shoulder tension by reaching one arm across the front of your body to your opposite shoulder. Using a circular motion, press firmly on the muscle above your shoulder blade. Repeat on the other side.
• Cleanse, tone and moisturise your face.
• Stretch your whole body. Start with your feet and toes, then move up through your legs, waist and back, shoulders and arms, and even your neck.
• Turn the radio or music channel up and sing or dance around.
• Go outside and breathe in the fresh air.
• Change your clothes. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh, clean outfit to make you feel better, especially if your shirt is covered in baby badges. Change your whole outfit, from top to bottom (even your underwear).
• Visualise yourself in a stress-free situation. You could be walking in a garden, laying in the tub, or even just laughing with your child. Close your eyes and picture all the details of your restful place as vividly as you can. Visualisation helps you let go of stress, tension and anxiety, and promotes
feelings of peace and calmness.
• Make a list of all of the good things things that occurred today. Focus on the positive, not the negative. Write it down, then look over that list and allow yourself to feel proud.
• Say a prayer. Connect with your spiritual self, and direct your
thoughts toward peace and strength.
• Daydream. Let your mind wander a bit and see what pops up.
• Make a cup of tea. Chamomile or peppermint tea are perfect for relaxing. Let it steep for a good long time before drinking.
• Soak your feet in a tub of hot water and essential oils - lavender for relaxing, sweet orange for rejuvenating.
• Take a shower. Envision yourself washing away your stress and troubles while the suds swirl down the drain. The "white noise" of the shower can also help you to quiet those internal voices as well as drown out the external ones!
• Meditate. Find a quiet place where you'll be comfortable and nobody will disturb you. Even if it's the garage, the storage shed, or the bathroom, it'll do. Shut the door, sit down, and close your eyes. Try to empty out your mind and just breathe.
• Do a "body scan". Simply focus on each part of your body, from your toes to your head, and take note of how it feels, without labelling those sensations as either good or bad - just be aware. This technique cultivates mindfulness and helps you to be more aware of your own body.
• Spread on a face masque. Those single-serve sachets you can get from the chemist are great for this!
• Eat breakfast. Take enough time to actually taste the food you're eating rather than inhaling it at the same time that you're doing 10 other things.
• Play with your pet. Throw a rope toy or a stick with your dog, tease your cat with a ball of yarn, or just do whatever it is that your pet loves.
• Play solitaire. Whether it's on the computer or with a real deck of cards, it's good for helping you to clear your mind and distract yourself from stress.
• Flick through your wedding album. Seeing photos of yourself on such a happy occasion will help you to remember what life was like before babies came along, and it may inspire you to feel more romantic towards your partner if your relationship has been lacking in couple-time lately.
• Sit on your veranda and watch the birds, the neighbours, and the cars driving by. Observe the world around you. Concentrate on stillness when everything else is moving busily.
• Savour an ice-cream sundae or thickshake.
• Buy yourself some flowers. Even if they only come from the local dairy, they'll brighten your day.
• Give yourself a mini manicure. Soak your cuticles, then give your hands a massage with a light hand lotion. Trim and file your nails, then paint on a base coat. Allow to dry, then polish and seal with a top coat.
• Take a power nap.
• Go for a walk. Strap your little one into her stroller and head out the door for a quick jaunt around the neighbourhood. The fresh air and exercise will make both of you feel better.
• Watch the sunset. Sit in your garden with a cup of tea or hot chocolate and admire nature's magic show.
• Start a topic of conversation on the OHbaby! message boards. Drop in on other people's conversations - it's like having a virtual coffee group, only you can hang out in your pyjamas.
• Write in a journal. You don't need to be a novelist. Just sit down for some concentrated time and write whatever you feel like, from thoughts and feelings to plans and dreams. Start a blog on the OHbaby! website where you can record your pregnancy journey, write down how you've developed as
a mother, and keep track of what your little rascal is up to. It's a lovely way to record your memories.
• Relax in a bubble bath, the kind without slippery toddlers climbing all over you.
• Read the newspaper - only the sections you really want to!
• Weed your garden. It's hot, sweaty work, but it's remarkably good for helping you to de-stress. Ripping stubborn weeds out of the ground is also very satisfying at a visceral level!
• Head to the nicest bakery in town and get yourself a beautiful dessert, and eat it all by yourself, with nobody asking for a bite. This also works with fine-quality chocolates!
• Write a nice, long letter or email to someone you haven't been in touch with for a while. Take the time to share your feelings and let them know about your life. It will help you to slow down and think back on happy times, and you'll feel great satisfaction in knowing that you've brightened their day when they receive your letter.
• Do t'ai chi. T'ai chi is a series of flowing, slow, gentle body movements that emphasise concentration and the circulation of vital energy throughout your body. It reduces stress, relaxes you, and helps you to be more mindful of your body.
• Work on a puzzle. Whether it's a crossword or a Sudoku grid, you'll have fun and stimulate your mind at the same time.
• Dig out your high school yearbooks or old photo albums and take a nice, long stroll down memory lane.
• Take yourself out to a light lunch or coffee at a posh café. Order something scrumptious and sit at a table outside or by the window. Read a magazine or the newspaper and let someone else wait on you for a change.
• Get a massage or facial. Allow yourself to feel pampered.
• Drop in on a yoga or pilates class. Better yet, make this a regular weekly activity.
• Go to the gym. Burn off some stress and get those endorphins pumping. You'll also sleep better.
• Window shop. Most towns have an area of quaint shops that encourage leisurely browsing. You don't have to spend any money - just revel in being out and about. Pay attention to the shop displays and admire the colours and arrangement of items. Take the time to really look at what's in front of you rather than rushing past.
• Take a drive. Sometimes you simply need to get out of the house, and strapping a grumpy baby into their carseat while taking a leisurely drive to absolutely nowhere can soothe both of you. Put on some music that you love and sing along.
• Go swimming at the beach or the pool. Many local community pools are free during the day, and trust us, nobody but you cares what you look like in your togs.
• Go get a manicure or a pedicure - or both!
• Visit a garden centre and admire the exotic, expensive and gorgeous plants that are in season. Smell the roses!
• Paint a picture. You don't need to be an artist to enjoy swishing a paintbrush around a nice big piece of paper and expressing yourself creatively. If you don't have paints, then break out your child's crayons and get busy.
• Make a self-esteem collage. This is something OHbaby! Magazine Editor Katherine has done since university, especially when facing a new situation that challenges her perception of herself. Get a piece of poster board from the local art supply store, a stack of magazines, scissors, and glue. Cut out photos and words that are pertinent to your self-esteem and glue them to the poster. Hang it somewhere that you'll see it every day - your bathroom wall, your closet door, or even the kitchen.
• Visit your local bookstore and have a really good browse.
• Buy new underwear and a bra - frilly, feminine, matching ones.
• Ring a friend and just have a good, long chat.
• Attend a book group or poetry reading. Many bookstores have scheduled events like these, and doing something that stimulates you intellectually as well as gets you out of the house can really get your mind out of a rut.
• Wander through your local historic home or botanic gardens.
• Go shopping for yourself! Take some time to find yourself a new outfit that suits your post-baby body, rather than suffering in too-big maternity jeans while envying your pre-pregnancy clothing. When you're wearing something that fits you and feels good, you'll feel better.
• Go bush. Find a local track or reserve with pathways, and take a hike. Pack a backpack with some water and snack bars for sustenance, and get away from the hustle and bustle.
• Go to the afternoon matineé at the movies by yourself, or take a friend along. See whatever you want, and you don't have to worry about grubby hands stealing your popcorn or children misbehaving. It's dark so you can sink into the theatre seat and relax, and, because the afternoon matineé is never crowded, you'll likely have a whole row of seats to yourself!
• Take a class. Many community centres and schools offer lowcost courses in a number of different genres, from cooking to languages to handcrafts, and there are evening classes, too.
• Get your hair done. Whether it be a new style, a cut and colour or simply a tidy-up, it will make you feel like a million bucks.
• Update your CV. Whether you're a stay-at-home mum or you work outside the home, chances are you haven't even glanced at your CV for ages before your little one was born. Take a good look at it, and revel in your accomplishments right there in black and white. Then update it with the details of your most recent job, give it a good proofreading, and walk away feeling proud of yourself.
• Visit your local museum or art gallery. The quiet ambience and calm atmosphere will clear your mind, and you'll enjoy the opportunity to reflect and observe without interruption or being rushed.
An entire evening
• Organise a girls' night out. Go out for a drink with a friend, then head to a show or a movie. Or go out for dinner with friends at a "grown-up" restaurant, one with linen napkins and extra silverware, and a separate wine menu.
• Lose yourself in a book - a novel, preferably.
• Rent a chick flick and make some microwave popcorn, then settle down for a girls' night in.
• Go to bed early. Leave the dishes and the laundry.
• Check out late night at the mall. It's not just for teenagers!
• Get out your sewing machine and whip up something little and fun. Make heart-shaped lavender sachets, embroider a pillow slip, sew yourself a long, skinny cloth tie-belt, or finish a project you've been meaning to work on.
• Hire a babysitter and have a romantic dinner out with your man.
A whole day
• Have a pyjama day. Eat different breakfasts for every meal: cereal and juice for the morning, bacon and eggs for lunch, waffles and bananas for dinner. Lay around with your duvet and just focus on resting your body and mind. This is not laziness, it's conscious relaxation. You're allowed a day off!
• Go on strike for a day. Let your husband look after the kids, let the housework wait and the washing pile mount up, and enjoy a day of being you, without the pressures of being "Mum".
• Have a girls' day out with some friends. Whether it be shopping and lunch, coffee and a movie, or simply hanging out at a friend's house sharing girly chat, there's nothing like your best girlfriends to make you feel good about yourself.
• Book in for a wine tasting or follow your local wine trail from vineyard to vineyard. Take a designated driver along or join a tour group. You don't need to be a foreign tourist to sample the delights of our country's award-winning tipple.
• Visit a day spa and book yourself in for an entire day of beauty treatments. Many spas have packages which include several pampering treatments and light lunch as well.
• Get some sleep. Most parents are running on a sleep deficit of two hours or more a night - meaning, if you need eight hours of sleep, research shows that you're probably getting more like six hours, tops. A weekend of going to bed at a decent time and getting up at a reasonable hour can help you to reset your internal clock and set you up for good sleep patterns in the week to come.
• Go to a spa or a health retreat. Take yourself out of your home environment and do something that is focused on pampering you. Take a girlfriend along for some company if you are afraid you'll spend the entire weekend on the
phone to your family. She can help keep you focused on taking much-needed time for yourself, and remembering that you're a woman also, not just a mother.
• Get a part-time job. Okay, so that might not exactly sound like stress relief, but if you can find something you enjoy doing on the weekends, or pick up a few hours doing the job you used to do before you had children, you'll be amazed how good it feels to flex your intellectual muscles (while getting paid!).
• Visit an old haunt. Whether you head back to the place where you spent your uni days or you return to your hometown for a brief visit, the blast from the past will really put into perspective just how far you have come in your life.
A whole week
• Unplug the TV. This may sound impossible to do and you'll probably get some serious resistance from the rest of the family, but taking time off from TV can reduce your stress levels significantly. Just having the TV on in the background during the day adds "noise" to your already stressful responsibilities and activities, and may be stressing you out without you even knowing it.
• Send your husband and the kids away for the week and enjoy being in your home alone. You may feel like you can't stand those four walls any longer because of the relentless mess and chaos, but if you can spend some quality time in your own space without anyone else there to bother you, you might find a new appreciation for your surroundings.
• Go on holiday - by yourself. When it feels like "motherhood" has completely taken over your life and identity, it's important to have some time out to remember what else defines you as a woman. Go to a spa or foreign destination, go on a creative retreat, or check out an adventure tourism place if you really need to challenge yourself and break out of your mould.