20 Relaxation Ideas When You've Got 20 Minutes

Hey, new momma! Did your baby finally fall asleep? We know those chores have been piling up during your maternity leave, but drop the baby's laundry and do something for yourself instead. 

We wait and wait and wait for baby to nap, and then what do we do? Before our baby arrived, everyone told us to sleep when Baby sleeps. If we're lucky or smart or both, we listen. But because it can be so hard to drop off to sleep on a dime, we often spend baby's naptime either cleaning up after Baby or zoning out in front of Netflix. Break out of the rut and do something interesting instead. Here are 20 little ideas.

1. Revisit a hobby you've been missing. Did you enjoy diving into a novel before Baby arrived? Pick up that book you had to set aside when your baby was born. You might also enjoy quiet activities like knitting, scrapbooking a baby book, or gardening if the weather allows—really anything the "old you" used to enjoy is a great idea.

2. Escape to your bathroom "spa." We like the idea of doing a few quickie treatments at once. For instance, apply a face mask, then slather your hands and feet with a rich moisturizer. Cover your hands and feet in plastic wrap and cotton gloves or socks, then lie on the couch and relax for 15 minutes. Step in the shower and rinse it all off.

3. Stretch out those muscles. We know your upper back feels tight: Take time to stretch away the stress. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms at your side. Inhale deeply, raising your arms slowly over your head and stretching toward the ceiling. Exhale slowly as you lower your arms to your sides. Repeat four times.

4. Feed your brain. Download a podcast series or a few short stories from Audible. Listen to one when you have some downtime but are too tired to concentrate on a book. You can also get in the habit of listening while you're nursing.

5. Treat yourselves to a movie night, which you can plan now. Agree ahead of time on a Netflix pick. And don't skimp on the popcorn. Adult it up by adding luxurious toppings. Start with a base of butter popcorn, and sprinkle in some cocoa powder and chocolate chips. It will give you both something to look forward to—and something to discuss other than the baby.

6. Start a bullet journal of motherhood moments. You'll need a notebook, of course, but in a pinch you can just start a list on your phone's note app and copy them on paper later. You'll enjoy looking back on this time and sharing it with your children as they grow older. Don't pressure yourself to do it every day—just whenever you have time.

7. Get some talk therapy. Call a good friend—one who always lifts your spirits and makes you laugh—and have a 20-minute, guilt-free gabfest.

8. Write an old-fashioned letter on real stationery. Or just pen a quick handwritten note (no e-mail allowed) to an older relative like your grandmother or favorite aunt, a childhood friend, or even your husband. Putting words down on paper is so personal and often therapeutic.

9. Who doesn't fantasize about taking a vacation? Stop pining and research affordable options online. Planning a getaway gives you something to look forward to on difficult days. Visit sites that offer bargain airfares and inexpensive hotels, and save some choices in a Google doc to share with your husband over dinner.

10. Go to school from home. You can take courses online in subjects such as interior decorating or foreign languages. Since there's usually no pressure to complete the course in a set period of time, you can work at your own pace. Consider skillshare.com and General Assembly.

11. Pull out your special-occasion vase or just a pretty glass, and create a flower arrangement. If you haven't picked up flowers at the supermarket or a local florist, head into your own yard. Even in the dead of winter you can collect evergreen branches and arrange them; bushes with berries also make for pretty displays.

12. Love to organize? Channel your inner Marie Kondo and clean out your purse, diaper bag, or jewelry box. Fingering old jewelry is our personal favorite; it's heartwarming to remember where each piece came from.

13. Speaking of organizing, what about those photos? Drive down memory lane by taking scattered pictures and putting them into albums. If you don't have prints, now's a good time to order some on Shutterfly, or start a photo book subscription with Chatbooks.

14. Goof around in the kitchen. If cooking relaxes you, whip up something that you enjoy making—and don't stress about whether anyone will eat it. Cooking or baking for the sake of the process is relaxing for many of us.

15. Garden indoors. Go online and order a miniature herb garden for your kitchen window or consider picking out some succulents and indoor plants to help grow.

16. Give yourself a confidence boost. Stop running around in your sweats and a ponytail and take 20 minutes to really get dressed (nothing fancy). Take a shower and style your hair. Looking good is like magic; it can change your whole outlook on the day.

17. Add shows to your Netflix list. It's easy to spend a full hour scrolling through shows and movies you want to watch and then never actually starting one. Use this time to watch some trailers for new shows and save them to your list to watch later. That way when you do have another 20 minutes free, you'll know exactly which show to play.

18. Remember birthdays. Sit down with a calendar and make a list of family birthdays. Fill out cards now, even if you'll mail them later. Need a gift? Shop online.

19. Take a walk. It's wonderful to walk unencumbered—no baby, no purse—but if there's no sitter, take baby along in her stroller. You don't need any particular destination in mind—for once just enjoy the journey.

20. Make a cup of hot chocolate or a healthy fruit smoothie. The best part—you don't have to share with the kids.

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