The kids are out of school for the summer, and your home life is bound to get busier. Add to that work tasks that are piling up, a growing list of household chores, and the vacation you’re trying to plan — and you may be wondering how you can possibly capture some of the enticingly lazy feeling of hot summer days.
Taking time out of your hectic schedule just for yourself helps you live a healthier, happier life. “Relieving stress can lower blood pressure, help you sleep better, and even help you maintain a healthy weight,” says Berit Brogaard, a professor of psychology and philosophy at the University of Missouri in St. Louis.
Here are 10 ways to sneak some “me time” into a busy summer day.
- Just say no. It’s okay to push back from a few volunteer projects or to let the dishes sit for a few hours so you can take time out for yourself. “Don’t feel bad saying ‘no’ now and then,” says Bo Bradley, a life coach and the author of Achieving the Balance Dream. It's important to free up time to take a walk, work a crossword puzzle, or watch your favorite TV show.
- Forage for finds. Lose yourself in a stroll around a flea market or neighborhood garage sale. The hunt for a one-of-a-kind treasure is a great way to snap out of your routine.
- Create a musical escape. Can’t leave the house? Turn everyday chores into relaxing moments. Play classical music, or some other type of music that you find soothing, while you’re folding laundry or preparing dinner. Instead of feeling rushed and annoyed that you’re searching for matching socks, you’ll find yourself relaxing.
- Join a “time off” team. Join forces with other busy parents and arrange playdates or sleepovers. Spend your night off unwinding with friends at a café or coffeehouse. “Just be sure to order decaf so you’re not counting sheep at midnight!” says Brogaard.
- Clear your head. A half hour of meditation or yoga can clear your head and relieve stress, helping you feel more relaxed and calm. “These activities regulate the brain waves responsible for our conscious states,” says Brogaard, “and literally make the brain less busy.”
- Bury yourself in a book. The quiet atmosphere at a library encourages relaxation, and the cool air can be a welcome relief when the temperature outside is climbing. Spend an hour flipping through your favorite magazines or looking for a fun summer read. “Just make sure you leave the kids at home so you can truly immerse yourself in the experience,” says Brogaard.
- Go green. Spending time outdoors resets your natural rhythm, says stress managementexpert Debbie Mandel, MA, the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7-Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life. Take a nature walk, eat lunch outside, or take a chore outside — such as balancing your checkbook out on the deck. “Any opportunity to get outside will help you feel like you’re part of the summer season,” says Mandel.
- Talk to the animals. Sure, the zoo is a great place to take the kids. But feeding the ducks and watching elephants splash in their pool is a great way for grown-ups to unwind too. Playing with your pets at home is another fun way to enjoy some animal company.
- Get schooled. Sign up for that ceramics or pastry class you’ve always wanted to take. Learning something new can fuel your creativity and give you a chance to make new friends with similar interests.
- Stop by the silver screen. Spend a rainy or sticky summer day at the movies. “A comedy or romance is a great treat for busy, overscheduled parents,” says Mandel. “It’s good for your mental health to laugh and feel like you’re putting your interests first now and then.”
With a little planning and some ingenuity, you can find time this summer to relieve stress and nurture yourself, which will help keep you healthy and give you more energy to meet your family’s needs.