Remember those carefree days of youth when your biggest concern on any given day was whether you should ride your bike to the park or get some friends together for a water fight? Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? Once you enter the exciting world of adulthood, there is work to be done (you’ve got bills to pay), a house that’s not going to clean itself, and kids that need to be fed and shuttled around. By the time your day is gone in a whirlwind of activities, you’re starting to wonder if there will ever come a day when you can just relax and do something for yourself. When was the last time you read a good book, or spent the afternoon at a coffee shop with a girlfriend? When was the last time you did something just for you? If you can’t remember then it has clearly been too long. But you can manage your many obligations and finding some time to relax; here are just a few ways you can cut back, de-stress, and put yourself first.
- To-do list. Forget the old paper-and-pen version which ends with a pile of scribbled notes in your purse. If you have a smart phone, simply download an app that manages your to-dos on a daily basis. Try Astrid for the Android (a free app), or check out one of the many apps for the iPhone on the iTunes store (prices range from free up to about $10, with a variety of options for functionality). Computer-based to-do list managers like Remember the Milk and Todoist can also be used via mobile with a data package. Make a list, check it twice, and you won’t spend all day wondering if you forgot something.
- Set up a co-op for kids. No time for yourself? Likely there are other moms in your area feeling the same way. Communicate with neighbors and friends to see if there’s any interest in setting up a kid-share. If you get enough people, everyone can choose a day where they will have all the kids over (this works best if they’re all around the same age, or at least in school) so that the other moms can catch a break (to run errands, kid-free, or simply take a much-needed nap), and when your turn comes around, you get the same benefit. It’s like a free babysitting service, only with a higher level of trust.
- Get fit. Did you know that regular exercise can actually give you more energy? It not only helps you sleep better, lose weight, and improve overall health, but contrary to popular belief, it will up your energy and make you feel great all day. So whether you rise half an hour early to get in some aerobics or you strap your toddler in a jogging stroller and run him to the park every afternoon, you should try to work in a little workout each day.
- Say no. This sounds simple enough, and yet, few of us seem to be able to manage it. By turning down commitments when your plate is already full, you can reduce stress and get everything done with time to spare. You don’t even need a reason. Practice saying no arbitrarily and see how it feels. You may find it empowering!
- Do something for yourself every day. If you get run down and burned out, you’re not going to do anyone any good (least of all yourself). So find a way to give yourself at least half an hour each day to do something that is just for you, whether it’s taking a bath while your honey feeds the kids or going for a morning walk around the neighborhood before the madness of the day begins. Take care of you, and then take care of everyone else.