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I’ve spent most of my life viewing burn out as a badge of honor.
In my mind, and in the minds of many moms, total exhaustion meant that I was trying hard and doing my best. I believed that scheduling time to tend to my own needs was both weak and dramatic. I was crushing it, why would I take time out of my schedule to be indulgent?
This mindset first played out in my life as an ambitious student. Then as a dedicated teacher. And finally, in the ultimate burnout job, as a new mom.
But these beliefs didn’t bring me health and happiness. Instead, they ultimately made me addicted to my phone, novelty leggings, and Cheez-Its.
It was time to make room for self-care.
Lack of Self-Care Leads to Bad Habits
In 2016, my second child was born. A newborn with reflux plus a toddler meant that there was no time for anything except childcare.
I kept waiting for an opportunity to recharge. Waiting for 5 minutes alone to take a hot bath. For 10 free minutes to read. I dreamed of 30 free minutes to nap.
But when those moments came? I refused to take them.
My husband would tell me “I’ve got this. Why don’t you go lay down?”
Nope, I wasn’t going to do that. I was Supermom. I could do it all. To ask for a few minutes for myself would show weakness. At least, that’s what I told myself.
If You Don’t Make Time For Yourself, Your Mind Will Find Relief Any Way It Can (Spoiler Alert: It Won’t Be Healthy)
While I might not have been willing to squeeze in time for myself, my mind looked for ways to relax. And soon, I started doing three things to make me feel good for the moment.
Whenever there was a break in the action, I would pick up my phone and distract myself with social media. As I scrolled through social media, I’d sometimes purchase a pair of leggings with Dodo birds on them, because who doesn’t need those? Then, I would slip into the kitchen and grab a handful of Cheez-Its and shove them in my mouth.
Repeat at the next break in the action.
I did this for months. All of these things became habits that I just did automatically.
Terrible habits that will destroy my life and my family? No.
Productive, inexpensive, healthy habits? Also, no.
And these habits have been incredibly tough to break. In fact, I still use my phone too much. While I’ve stopped buying Cheez-Its, I’m still prone to snack-accidents from time to time.
But I’m proud to say I’m over the leggings.
Maybe that’s because my jeans started to fit once I gave up the Cheez-Its. 🤔
If this sounds like your life, you need to start prioritizing self-care, Mama! The days you do, you’ll be less likely to sneak big spoonfuls of ice cream right out of the freezer. It’ll be easier to put down your phone and just relax.
And you can do it – even if you only have 10 minutes.
15 Inexpensive Ways to Practice Self-Care in Less Than 10 Minutes
Most of us daydream about what we would do with an hour or a day or a week to ourselves. But the reality is that we struggle to squeeze in quality self-care when we only have a little bit of time. It can be hard to find cheap indulgences or ways to fit in thoughtful self-care in the 37 minutes your kids are actually napping at the same time.
So, to get you started, here are 15 tips and suggestions that will take 10 minutes or less, cost you very little, and give you some relief.
Remember to schedule self-care time. Even when you’re only doing it in 5- to 10-minute increments, the time won’t just show up. Schedule your self-care in advance.
If you need a reminder, set an alarm on your phone. Plan to do it at the same time every day. Do something to ensure you’re taking care of yourself.
1 – Keep Your Hobbies Set Up
If you like to craft and create, you may spend as long setting up your supplies as you spend actually doing the craft. If you can manage it, have a designated place where you can leave it out or a basket filled with your supplies for a quick set up. You are more likely to actually do the activity.
2 – Wake Up Early
When my first child was about 9 months old I was complaining to a coworker about how I missed having alone time. She suggested that I should wake up BEFORE my son so that I could have a little bit of time to myself.
I wanted to punch her in the esophagus. Was she serious?
Fast forward to now. I wake up two hours before my kids get up. TWO. HOURS. Past me hates current me.
I work out. I shower. I drink a cup of coffee on my couch. Sometimes I watch shows where British people bake pastries. I’m a lot more patient when everyone needs me later because I have taken care of my needs first.
You don’t have to wake up 2 hours early like me, even 10 minutes of alone time to start the day can help.
3 – Turn Your Shower into a Spa
This suggestion comes from my fitness coach and it’s one that I intend to try. You can make a quick shower feel indulgent when you shower by candlelight and use your favorite scents.
I’m going to try this the next time I am craving a hot bath but I don’t have the time.
4 – Be Creative
If it’s been a while since you flexed your creative muscles, taking 15 minutes to doodle, knit, or paint might seem overwhelming. But taking the time to regularly be creative relieves stress, unlocks different areas of your brain allowing you to think more clearly, and seeing your improvement over time brings a sense of achievement that we’re sometimes lacking in the day-to-day grind.
Even if you just use an adult coloring book, spend some time connecting with your inner artist.
5 – Stretch
I tend to get really tense in my neck and shoulders. A little stretch always loosens me up and puts some pep back in my step. There are a ton of free, short stretching videos on YouTube to get you started. Then, once you know what you are doing, you can work in quick stretches throughout the day.
6 – When Nature Calls, Listen
When you have to pee, you go pee. Seems simple.
Fun Fact – For a busy mom, it’s not.
But would you ask a child to hold it for 3 hours? When you ignore one of your most basic needs you give yourself the message that your needs do not matter. Go pee. You may have to go as fast as you can but do it.
7 – Read Poetry or Short Stories
Here is how I read.
Pick up book. Scan page to figure out where I last left off. Nope, not there. Ah, here it is! OK, here we go. (Reads one paragraph.)
Put down book.
If you love to read, poetry and short stories are a great option. You might actually be able to FINISH SOMETHING and that right there might make you feel even better!
8 – Turn on Some Music
This is my most recent go-to whenever I need a pick me up.
But I don’t play much kids’ music around here. My sanity doesn’t have time for Baby Shark. Instead, my children have learned to love the Foo Fighters and tunes from the late 90s. Honestly, they can’t understand what Dave Grohl is saying anyhow.
If you are worried about your littles listening along you can use earbuds. I tend to prefer the one earbud in and one earbud out method. You can also make a playlist of music that meets your approval.
9 – Meditate
If it’s hard for you to shut off the constant running to-do list in your brain or find a sense of calm, meditation is an amazing antidote. Even finding time for a 5-minute meditation practice with an app like Headspace or Calm can help you start your day with more self-love and patience.
Meditation can also teach you skills to calm yourself when your day goes to crap. Because sometimes, that’s just life.
10 – Get Outside
Go for a walk. Sit in the sunlight and let it warm your face. A little vitamin D, fresh air and some endorphins do a body good.
Better yet, bring the kids to the playground so they can get their crazies out while you take a little break in the sun.
11 – Tidy Up
Do you care about having a messy house, but not enough to do something about it? Set a timer for 5 minutes and put some stuff away. While you won’t take care of everything, sometimes it feels good to at least put a dent in the mess.
Focus on areas of your home that are front and center, like the counter in your kitchen or your nightstand. A cluttered nightstand will start and end your day with stress. Not ideal.
12 – Do a Quick Workout
Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t lose it when their toddler inevitably spills his full milk cup on the floor.
You don’t need to drag yourself to the gym or have a full half-hour to get the benefits of exercise. Do 30 crunches, a few jumping jacks, or 5 minutes of yoga to get your blood pumping and remind yourself that you’re energetic and strong.
13 – Play HQ Trivia
I generally prefer to put down my phone when it is time for self-care. However, I love this app because it is an actual LIVE and free trivia game. And it only airs at certain times, which removes the temptation to keep playing all day.
Bonus: You can win actual money (but you can’t cash out until you have won $20 or more)!
14 – Keep a Gratitude Journal
All too often, the many blessings present in our lives are shifted out of focus. The problems and roadblocks demand our attention, preventing us from seeing all the things that bring us joy.
Start or end your day with a quick gratitude journal. Write down one happy thing from the day, something you’re feeling thankful for, or a person in your life you appreciate. It’s all about perspective. And it isn’t hard or time-consuming create a more grateful mindset.
15 – Unfollow Someone on Social Media
Ahhhhhh, my favorite button! Tired of hearing about Sally Shares Too Much’s abscess tooth? How about Angry April’s opinions on holiday cheese platters?
Everyone talks about how important it is to cut negative people out of your life, yet we fail to use an ACTUAL BUTTON that can hide these negative people from us. It only takes a minute and it is almost guaranteed to make you feel better!
You’re Worth It
Mama, you’re balancing a lot. But you need to take time to care for yourself. Burn out isn’t a badge of honor and the constant feeling of exhaustion isn’t good for you or your family. Plop the kids in front of the TV for 10 minutes and try one of these awesome self-care ideas.
Your body and mind will thank you.
How do you practice self-care? Which of these ideas might work for you? Share!