Whether the school year is winding down or ramping up, parents are busy. There’s no such thing as a “stay-at-home” parent anymore because parenting itself is a full-time job. Sometimes you just need an opportunity to unwind and release the tension in your tummy.
Not everyone (nobody, actually) has time for milk baths and cucumber slices with a mimosa. Befuddled spouses, Zoom calls, remote learning; all of these things demand our attention. But stress will eat at your physical and mental health, so self-care is more important than ever.
If you don’t have time for a full day of treating yourself, consider these micro self-care tips. They can help give you back some peace and perspective that are hard to come by in a parent’s life.
Practice intentional breathing
Working at your desk, stopped at a red light, or waiting in line at the grocery store, breathing is powerful. Taking long, deep breaths in, and slowly releasing them helps you focus on the present. It also affects your vagus nerve, which lowers your blood pressure, heart rate, and calms anxiety. You can do this anywhere, at any time and the benefits are immediate – like a mini-meditation session!
Reclaim a piece of your morning
Make an intentional choice to put your phone on airplane mode or in a different room before bed. Many times, people wake up and immediately check their socials, emails, and the news. This burst of dopamine is pleasant, but it’s not good for your mental health.
Start your day at your pace – don’t let incoming emails and messages direct your movement. Even if you just lay in bed, peacefully take in your surroundings, practice meditation, or get some good post-sleep stretching.
Make coffee or tea intentional
A picture of a mother rushing around with a cup of caffeine could be a mascot for our society. We use caffeine as a tool, but sitting with a cup of coffee and enjoying it is a radical act of self-care. Watch a sunrise, stand barefoot on your lawn, or just sit in peace and slowly savor that first cup.
There are many things to be grateful for in our daily lives, but we’re so busy that we just don’t notice. Mindful gratitude is the practice of evaluating our lives and seeing all the wonderful things we have going for us. It’s great to do right before bed or after waking and made even better by using a journal. The more you practice mindful gratitude, the more you’ll see abundance in your life.
Get a coloring or activity book
There’s an app for everything, but actual, physical coloring books link our minds to the carefree days of childhood. Get a grown-up coloring book, some nice markers (treat yourself), and take 5 minutes to get zen. Word searches, crosswords, or sudoku books are great, too! This is a great activity to do with your kids as well; they’ll enjoy the mommy-time, and you’ll enjoy the peace.
Stop trying to multitask
We’re driven to multitask because of the constant connectivity our world allows, but human brains aren’t good at it. You will never be as good at doing multiple things as you are at focused attention on a single task. What’s worse, multitasking stresses you out; our brains perceive it as multiple incoming threats.
Stop trying to do too much and plan your time intentionally. Focus on doing one thing at a time to completion, then move to the next task. Turn off email notifications and stop being driven by the urgency of other people. You’ll find you’re more relaxed and productive by trying to do less.
Distract the kids for a bit
Your kids need a lot of your time, doubly so when school is out. Reclaiming a bit of time can be difficult and one of the easiest ways is through screen time. Unfortunately, tv and tablet don’t always offer the best options for growing minds. Finding kid-friendly games online can be tricky, though – they’re either not fun or not kid-friendly in many cases.
I’ve already written about some of my favorite apps like Homer or Epic, but browser-based games are great, too. Since these are played in your browser, you don’t need to download or pay for anything. One of my favorite kid-friendly sites is Plays.org, which has a huge selection of games in dozens of categories. There are tons of educational games I love, and some great Star Wars and Marvel games my kids love, too.
Admittedly, I spent a lot of time playing 8-bit Dungeon Knight while I was “teaching” my son how to play, so you might find some stress relief here yourself.
Get some sun
Our bodies are meant to create vitamin D using sunlight; there’s a reason sunbathing feels so nice. I’m not suggesting you go bask in the sun for hours like a 1950s teenager in a surf movie, but a little bit of light can be a big boost. Especially first thing in the morning, getting some sun can energize you by affirming your circadian rhythm. It makes us more alert in the morning – getting sun literally tells our body it’s time to wake up.
If you can get outside in the morning, find some time to get some sun throughout the day. Even five minutes of exposure will make you feel good!
Find time to exercise
Though 30 minutes of exercise a day is a great way to improve your health, 5 minutes is better than nothing. Take a break and go for a walk, do some squats at your desk, or start your day with a short yoga session. Boosting your heart rate and using your muscles reduces insulin and cortisol in the blood, which in turn reduces inflammation and stress.
Snag a healthy snack
Our world is filled with sugary, highly processed snacks that are straight-up terrible for our bodies. Eating a donut might seem great right now, but the blast of sugar will lead to a crash and make you feel terrible. Not to mention eating processed foods is linked with weight gain in just about every study on the topic.
Aim for protein and healthy, natural fats – almonds, string cheese, or avocado are all great choices. If you love fruit, make sure you eat the skin, too because it contains all the healthy fiber and micronutrients that make fruit nutritious.
Organize your area
Wherever you spend your time during the day tends to get cluttered up with life. Toys, notebooks, papers from work – all of these things build up and overwhelm quickly if you don’t get a handle on them. Clutter makes our minds get stressed out, and a stressed-out mind doesn’t work too well.
Take five minutes to spruce up your space. Everything needs to have a home, and if it doesn’t, it might be trash. I’m not suggesting you clean your whole house, but if your direct vicinity is tidy, it can have a profound impact on your mood.
Self-care doesn’t have to be big
Though taking care of yourself is hugely important, it doesn’t have to be done in massive blocks of time or effort. Small changes in your daily routine can lead to big impacts on your stress and mental health. Color with your kids or send them off to discover some fun games online while you take five minutes to breathe. Get some sun, some exercise, and a healthy snack, and reclaim some of your day for yourself.
What do you do for self-care when you only have a few minutes to spare? Let us know in the comments!