Sometimes it can seem like you’re juggling the world – baby, hubby, work, home… the list can seem endless. “When you’ve got a young family, it’s normal to feel like you don’t have time to do, or finish, anything for yourself,” says life coach Joyce Campbell (www.joycecampbell.co.uk). “But if you wait for a quiet moment to have some me-time, that moment might never come. It’s not selfish to take some time for yourself, in fact it’s essential to keep you sane.” Taking five can can make you more focused and relaxed, so why not…
1) Read a book
“I was a real bookworm before I had Mia, but when she came along I had no time to sit and read. I’ve now made a list of books I want to get through and make sure I have a 30-minute read when Mia’s having a nap each day. I forget the chores and sit on the sofa with my book. I’m slowly but surely getting through my list and I always feel so relaxed after my 30 minutes.”
Laura Smith, 31, from Hull, mum to Mia, 2
2) Go al fresco
Crisp winter morning? Wrap up warm and have your morning cuppa out in the garden. “Being outside gives you breathing space from life and everything going on in the house,” explains Joyce. “As winter takes hold, you should use every opportunity to get outside. If you’re at home all day, get out in the garden, or even sit with the back door open with your coat on while you have a cup of tea to give you a bit of a boost.”
3) Have a soak
If you’re feeling uptight, a relaxing bath has long been recognised as an easy way to de-stress and there are real benefits to a bit of me-time in the tub. “Having a bath at the end of the day can become part of a regular wind-down routine as it tells your body and mind it’s time to relax,” says Joyce. “As you settle in, imagine all the tension easing out of your body, and disappearing down the plug hole as you lie still.”
“When you’re stressed or feeling the pressure, your breathing becomes shallow and fast,” explains health and wellbeing consultant Liz Tucker (www.behappybehealthy.co.uk). “Enjoying a long quiet soak in the tub lowers and regulates your breathing, which in turn calms you down.”
4) Go for a dip
The benefits of swimming are well known and while it’s a great (and cheap) way to exercise, and fun for your little one too, there’s lots of other perks to making a splash. “Floating in water makes your body feel more buoyant, helping you feel free and not tied down or constrained by whatever’s been going on that day,” explains Liz. “The regular strokes from swimming also help to control your breathing and assist your body and mind to find a relaxing centre point.”
5) Do your nails
“Once a week I sit down and give myself a mini-manicure. It’s a little bit of time for myself and makes me feel special when I look down at my polished fingers. With twins I don’t get a lot of time, but this tiny slice of luxury makes me feel a million dollars and I can do it at any time during the day when the children are asleep or when my partner’s home.”
Abbie Sims, 34, from Bath, mum to Alice and Ben, both 1
6) Listen to music
Music helps you relax and can be put on in the background, whatever you’re doing, to lift your mood. “The beat of music has an effect on your body as when you listen to it you’ll find your heart and breathing rates slow down, helping you to let go of any muscular tension in your body,” explains Joyce. “There’s also evidence that when we listen to music we enjoy, there’s an increase in the production of the feel-good hormone serotonin, which makes us feel more relaxed and less tense.”
Slower tempos with repetitive sounds are most likely to soothe, so try classical tunes or harp music during the day. “Avoid depressing lyrics as these can make you glum,” says Liz. “Fast beats won’t do you a lot of good either and will only raise your heart rate.”
7) Take a walk
“Spending time close to nature is great for the body and mind as it’s our natural environment to be in,” says Liz. “It can be easy to stay indoors during the winter, but getting outside is a fantastic way to up your dose of vitamin D, which is essential for boosting your energy levels.” In fact, whatever the weather, there are benefits to getting out in the fresh air at least once a day, even if it’s just for 20 minutes.
“Don’t dismiss heading out if the weather isn’t great, as different conditions can have different effects on your mood,” explains Liz.
“If it’s sunny, it can lift your spirits and give you positive vibes. Going outside on windy days will raise your adrenaline levels and give you a valuable energy boost to see you through the rest of the day.”
8) Sort out your photos
If you’re like us, you’ve probably got loads of photos uploaded onto your PC, or printed off without any real order to them, but sorting them out can have a positive effect on your mood and the order of your home. “When you think of a time in the past when you were really happy or relaxed, you relive those feelings and emotions,” explains Joyce. “So looking through photographs is a great way to help you relax and reconnect with a happy moment.”
To make sorting photos a bit easier, choose perhaps 10 favourite photos and put them in a little pocket album, or in a folder on your phone, so now and then you can stop and look at them for a few minutes to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step.