As a new mother, I definitely had my mommy meltdown moments. They snuck up on me, usually when I was endeavoring for the umpteenth time to finally get something done. That's when my baby girl, Samantha, would start to shriek because she wanted out of her two-speed swing, or when one of our three cats would decide to hurl a hairball across the light-colored carpet, and when my lunch would explode in a muffled splat all over the inside of the microwave.
At times like these I’d get the hint and stop whatever I was doing. I’d pick up my pouty-lipped princess, collapse into our wonderfully overstuffed lounge chair, and begin to rhythmically rock and hum a lullaby. Samantha probably thought all this soothing behavior was for her benefit, but the truth was I was actually plotting my next twenty-minute break – the best trick I've learned for how to avoid mommy burnout.
So next time life gives you twenty minutes, don't waste a single moment complaining that it's not enough time, jump right into one of these twenty relaxing rituals instead, and you'll find that the cure for mommy burnout was in within your grasp all along:
1. Enjoy the perfect cup of tea and your favorite tea cookies while daydreaming by an open window. My mother used to keep her "special cookies" hidden so the kids couldn't raid her secret stash. Now I do too.
2. Get your heart rate up with a brisk walk, preferably around the most scenic route in your neighborhood. As you walk, shake those baby-toting kinks out of your arms and shoulders.
3. Write four fanciful postcards to your dearest faraway friends. Short on postcards? Find the four prettiest pieces of notepaper in the house and write a handwritten note with the most grown-up pen in the house.
4. Flip through that old stack of magazines you never have time to read. Tear out the pages with articles that really interest you, staple them, and keep them in a magazine holder for grabbing on the way out the door. Read in the passenger seat, while waiting in line at the grocery store, or anywhere else you find yourself with a few minutes of down time.
5. Set your DVR to record your favorite funny sitcoms or designate a weekly time to catch up with them on your computer. During these times, shut the door, turn out the lights, and enjoy (with or without commercials). Ah.
6. In your journal, write your idea of the perfect day. Start with how you would like to wake up and proceed all the way through, hour by hour until the bedtime ritual. Be as descriptive as possible.
7. Pick up the phone and call your best friend. Read her your perfect day and ask about hers.
8. Close the shades, put on your headphones, find your favorite dance music, and get down. Don't stop until your stress and strain shimmy away.
9. Sit outside under a tree. Listen. Write what you hear in a poem.
10. Take a mini-vacation to a foreign land – spend $10.00 at an ethnic market on something you would never ordinarily buy.
11. Flip through your childhood photos or family photo albums. Reminiscing helps us remember what it was like to view the world through innocent eyes.
12. Buy yourself inexpensive bunches of flowers in season and arrange them in your prettiest vases around the house. During winter, try tangling a strand of Christmas lights through a gathering of bare tree branches.
13. More fun with old magazines: make a collage of images that represent your future hopes and goals. Don't hold back! Dream big.
14. Engage your inner child – finger paint, play with clay, or color with crayons. Focus on the fun of the process, not the quality of the product. You should get to play uninterrupted too sometimes.
15. Imagine a natural place where you feel safe and comfortable. What happens when you visualize yourself talking to an older, wiser version of yourself there? Write the results in your journal.
16. Turn on some soothing music, fire up as many candles as you can find, dim the lights, and sink into a sumptuous bubble bath.
17. Write a gratitude list for all that you have. Then write a second for all the things you wish you had, as though you already have them.
18. Be a rock star. Sing in the shower as loudly as you like. Buy soaps and shampoos with scents that inspire you.
19. Soak your feet in a warm foot bath for five minutes. Push the cuticles back with an orange stick and apply two coats of your brightest, most cheerful nail polish to your toes. Be quick, they’ll need a few minutes to dry.
20. Set your alarm clock for 20 minutes, lie down and start counting backwards from one hundred. When your alarm goes off, you'll be rested and refreshed, whether you fell asleep or not.
Once you've found your favorite ways to briefly rekindle and relax, post your top five somewhere where you'll see them, like on the fridge or next to the bathroom mirror. When you steal twenty minutes for yourself, you make life a little brighter for the whole family. Make it a habit and you’ll see.
Christina Katz is a journalist and author and always on the lookout for her next small indulgence. Her latest book is Permission Granted, 45 Reasons To Micro-publish.