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You know you need to take breaks to rest your mind and body. But how on earth are you supposed to make that happen when there’s too much to do? Cleaning, meal prep, running errands, keeping kids alive… Not to mention the constant interruptions whenever you do finally sit down for 5 minutes.
As moms, we usually neglect our own needs because we’re consumed by the needs of our children. We skip showering, sleeping, eating properly, our hobbies – pretty much everything else comes before our own needs!
But we aren’t robots or computers, and we can’t go at full speed all day, every day. We’re humans, and we need breaks.
If we want to perform consistently at a high level, breaks are necessary. Even the most elite athletes don’t train all day long without rest. They focus on rest and recovery just as much as they focus on their performance.
Taking a break can be as simple as stopping to smell the roses. What we need is to be mindful and enjoy the little moments. Be intentional about slowing down for just a few minutes.
Mindfulness is a tricky beast, though. Mom life is full of responsibilities and distractions, so it can definitely be a challenge to rest.
But here’s the crazy thing – slowing down for a break makes you even MORE productive! Sometimes, when it feels like you’re running to the point of exhaustion, the very best thing you can do is take a 15-minute break.
It sounds counterintuitive, but it truly works. A short break can reset your energy and motivation. And taking time that’s just for you will help you be the best mom you can be for your family.
A quick note: This post is NOT going to cover extended breaks – date nights, vacations, moms’ nights out… I’m going to be talking specifically about getting 15 minutes or a half hour of peace <gasp!> right in the middle of your busy day.
How to Make Time for Breaks – Set Your Margins First
We all need margin in our lives, but we’re too busy to slow down and carve it out.
Margin is unscheduled time that you can use in whatever way refreshes you or helps you get your day back on track. In other words, it’s your breathing room.
It’s your moment to sip a cup of tea and read a book. Or maybe sit and stare out the window at your heavily-trafficked bird feeder. It’s your opportunity to grab 20 minutes that are just for you.
If you’re always rushed, stressed, frazzled, and feel like there’s never enough time, it’s most likely that your problem is lack of margin. That’s certainly been my experience in the past.
The first step in learning how to take breaks every day is to add your margins first. Only then can you fill in the rest of your pages. Like a book, our lives are the words and text, but we need the plain white space around the busyness to keep us sane and focused.
No one is going to tell you to take a break. You have to shape the life you want to live, and margin is an important part of that.
So set your margins first – choose a space in the routine of your day that might be a good transition time. Maybe it’s those first 20 minutes after you put your kids down for a nap. Or the space right before you have to shift into dinner prep and welcoming your husband home – throw on a show for the kids and have a break at that time.
My “transition space” falls between homeschooling and either cleanup or work, depending on the day. It’s usually around 1 or 2:00, and I take the time to have an afternoon coffee and just sit for 15 minutes. The caffeine and the rest work together to give me a refresh for the rest of my day.
“But Karis, my day is full, full, FULL. How can I find time to even add these margins?”
I hear ya.
You add margins to your day creating them first, before you schedule anything else in your day. Here are a few tips to help you find that margin somewhere in the craziness of your daily routine.
Leave buffer space between activities.
When you know you’re going to be leaving the house, make the time commitment longer in your planner than you know it’s actually going to be. For example, we go out with homeschool friends every Friday. It’s really people-y for me, so my introverted self needs time to decompress when I get home, before I jump back into everything.
Friday Friend Day generally lasts from about 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. So I block off the time in my schedule from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The extra time accounts for drive time back and forth, unpacking the car, and 15-20 minutes to sit in the quiet when we get home.
Wake up earlier.
You already know that I think everyone should wake up before their kids. If you can’t find a way to put margin anywhere else in your day, this is a great place to start.
You can have coffee while it’s quiet, read a book, check email, have a peaceful breakfast, work out… And you can do every one of those things without interruption. The possibilities are endless.
Know your limits.
As a homeschool family, we have soooo many opportunities to go on field trips or outings with friends. We could leave the house every day if we wanted to. But I know that this doesn’t work for our lifestyle.
Not only does that take time away from our actual school and housework, but it leads to a week with no blank space, and that’s stressful and exhausting for both me and the kids.
Actually, as I write this, I’m heading into a week where we are planning to leave the house to do fun things with our friends 5 days in a row – beach, pool, splash pad, beach, and beach again 🙂 It’s going to be awesome and hard all at the same time. But those weeks are few and far between – I need more empty space than that!
Run errands only once a week.
Rather than leaving the house every day, pick one day per week to run errands. Plan your meals weekly so that you aren’t making emergency grocery store runs because you forgot something.
You might think you need to leave the house every day to stay sane – if you feel like that, try cutting back your outings. Commit to staying home 1 or 2 days a week at first. If you’re going stir crazy, go for a walk or just play outside for a bit.
Then use the extra time you would have spent driving somewhere to take a break instead.
Say “no” to things you don’t want or have to do.
And don’t feel guilty about it! If you don’t have time, then don’t stress yourself out by overbooking yourself.
How to Take A Break and Relax – Guilt-Free!
When you finally sit down for 15 minutes, how can you be sure to take full advantage of it and not feel your mind racing with everything you need to do when you’re done?
#1 – Breathe
Start by taking a few deep breaths. Yep, that’s all you need to do to get started – 3 or 5 should do the trick. In for 7, hold for 7, out for 7…
#2 – Clear Your Mind
I know, this is easier said than done, what with all of the unfinished tasks running through your mind.
Here are two things that work for me:
- Absorb what’s going on around you using each one of your five senses. Focus on the sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and touches.
- Think of 3 things you’re grateful for or 3 things you love about yourself.
#3 – Rest
Enjoy the peace and calm – as long as your kids aren’t throwing things at each other in the background 🙂
If you’re struggling to figure out what to do, read on – I have some ideas for you!
Seeing it written out like that really makes it seem too simple to be true, right? I wish that I could say it’s easy to do… But it isn’t always easy to do. It does take practice, especially to clear your mind.
But it’s so worth it to be able to slow down and take an effective break from the chaos of your day.
Things You Shouldn’t Do During Your Break
Unproductive breaks can often derail your day instead of refresh you. You know how your mind feels after getting lost in social media for a while? That scattered, unfocused, foggy feeling? Breaks that leave you feeling like that aren’t going to help your motivation and productivity.
DON’T do these things if you want to have a true break:
- Eat junk food.
- Read news articles.
- Surf social media.
- Watch YouTube, Netflix, etc.
- Browse shopping sites aimlessly.
Things You Should Do During Your Break
Try something from this list instead:
- Have a coffee or tea.
- Stare out the window.
- Read a book or inspiring blog post.
- Breathe, pray, or meditate.
- Color or doodle.
- Lie down with your eyes closed or nap.
- Take a shower.
- Take a short walk.
- Call a friend.
- Eat a healthy snack.
How to Not Feel Guilty About Taking A Break
This right here is the hard part. You now know how to make time for a break, how to take an effective break, and what to do during that break.
But how do you stop feeling guilty for doing “nothing” for a little bit, especially when your to-do list is out of control and you can’t possibly just sit still for 15 minutes!?
Remember these things:
- Not taking a break actually does more harm than good.
We all need to recharge our batteries, and that can’t be done if you’re constantly doing the next thing on your list. When you’re overtired and overwhelmed, you aren’t going to be doing your best work. You’ll lack motivation, you’ll snap at the kids, and you’ll be in a cranky mood.
Not taking a break will decrease your productivity and increase your stress level.
No one else is going to take care of you. Love yourself by taking care of yourself.
- Life is not all about being the busiest.
Sometimes it seems like it’s a competition out there among moms to see who’s the busiest – but there’s nothing cool about being so busy you can’t see straight.
Other people’s opinions shouldn’t hold power over you. This is your life and your choice.
Choose to be a well-rested, happy mom rather than being the mom with the most spinning plates or juggling the most balls.
- YOU DESERVE A BREAK.
Stop feeling guilty about taking a break, because the fact of the matter is that you deserve a break. You deserve to feel rested and content.
You can’t do it all – nobody can. You can try to do it all, work all day long, and be super exhausted… Or you can try to do it all, work almost all day long, and be rested and joyful.
I know which one I choose!
Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you so desperately need, but it will also increase your productivity in the long run.
Motherhood is an amazing, exhausting, and all-consuming journey – and you are the only person who can control how you handle it.
I give you permission to take a guilt-free break today. Ignore the dirty dishes for 15 minutes.
Momma, the plates won’t stop spinning and all the balls you’re juggling won’t drop if you take a few minutes for yourself every day. In fact, I think you’ll find that the opposite is true – you’ll have more energy and motivation.
Be a role model for those kiddos – show them that mom loves them AND she loves herself.
How will you make time to take a break today? What will you do? Let me know in the comments!