Let's just say it had been a long day: My ambitious made-from-scratch mac ’n’ cheese had been sent back to the chef by my 5-year-old daughter, Hannah, and when I attempted to quickly sneak onto the computer to return an e-mail, 2-year-old Ethan insisted on co-piloting the mouse. Then we ran out of toilet paper, which necessitated an emergency pre-nap journey to the supermarket. My stress level called for a total-body seaweed wrap and an attendant bringing me emerald-colored drinks. However, with a playdate arriving imminently, I had to opt for the next best thing: I escaped to the bathroom (that sacred sanctuary of mothers everywhere) and listened to the shower run. Hey, if you close your eyes, that kind of sounds like Malibu. Decadent? Uh, nope. Effective? Actually, yes.
Believe it or not, even five minutes of “me time” can help you recharge and make you more resilient, says Josie Znidarsic, D.O., who practices family medicine at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine. And it turns out there are better ways to unwind than hiding in the loo. Health and wellness experts—busy moms themselves—share brilliant ideas for hitting the reset button.
Practice this form of meditation, in which you focus on the present moment during everyday routines, says Kristen Race, Ph.D., author of Mindful Parenting. Before picking up the kids from school, turn off your phone and make a cup of green tea. Use all your senses: Feel the warmth in your hand, the steam on your nose, the liquid in your throat. You can do the same thing in the shower or while petting your dog.
Amber Duncan, a clinically certified aromatherapist in Dayton, Ohio, and a mother of three kids under age 6, relies on scent to deal with her own daily stress. “I carry four or five different aromatherapy inhalers in my purse,” she says. Getting set up is simple: Buy empty nasal inhaler tubes (yes, they do look like tampons) and add a couple of drops of essential oil to the wick inside. Inhale for a few seconds to recharge. These are five aromas and it's purpose Duncan has at the ready:
Research has found that silent reading slows your heart rate and reduces muscle tension within six minutes. Ella Berthoud, coauthor of The Novel Cure, shares reads that lend themselves to nibbles:
When I’m dragging, that pint of Salted Caramel sings its siren song. “We’ve all been there. You crave something sweet or salty,” sympathizes Jessica Gavin, a certified food and culinary scientist in Orange, California. For a restorative way to crush cravings, she relies on smoothies. For each of these recipes—all perfect for breakfast—pop ingredients into a blender for 90 seconds.
The great outdoors reminds you that you are part of something bigger. Treat yourself to this five-minute exercise from Sarah Vulgamore, the spiritual wellness director at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts.
Minute 1: Find a spot where you connect with nature—a patch of grass in the backyard or a quiet window to look outside. If you’re a city dweller, a window seat where you can see the sky should do it.
Minutes 2–3: Observe and focus on the natural world around you until something catches your eye. Take deep, calming breaths.
Minutes 3–5: Think about how that one element of nature reflects something about you, and say or write down your conclusion. It doesn’t have to be profound: A thought like “the cardinal is red and that’s my favorite color” will do the trick.
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Did you know there’s one hiding in your kitchen? Rhonda James, owner of the Belly Up Spa in Lone Tree, Colorado, which caters to moms, suggests these easy, luxurious DIY ideas.
To Calm Down. Play the nature-inspired music of your choice, suggests Judi Bar, yoga program manager at the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. Don headphones, close your eyes, and if you can swing it, lie down and cover your eyes with a rice-filled eye pillow warmed a bit in the microwave. “To fully immerse yourself in the music, focus on listening to individual notes or the waterfall sound in the background for three to five minutes,” says Bar.
To Rev Up. Borrow your child’s toy drum. (No one’s looking!) “Drumming can release endorphins, those natural ‘feel good’ chemicals,” says Allison Gemmel Laframboise, a yoga and drumming teacher at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. “I use drumming to release stress, feel more freedom, and just let go!” To get started, drum to the rhythm of a spoken phrase, like “I eat peaches. I eat peaches. I eat peaches.” Then lose the phrase and just focus on the sound and feel of the pattern.