Stop and give me 15 — easy self-care in fifteen minutes (or less)

Holding down a part time job, while homeschooling three kids, keeping house, and taking care of a dog doesn’t leave me with loads of time to sit back and think about me, me, me. But, when things start to get really stressful, I need to set aside even the smallest bit of time for me, or I start to feel like that lady in the Calgon commercials of yesteryear. And while a nice, long luxurious bubble bath sounds nice, I know I’d spend the entire time up to my neck in bubbles, thinking about everything I need to do.

Instead, I have a few quick tricks up my sleeve that take less than 15 minutes but leave me feeling like I did something good for myself. And I tell myself that someday, maybe when the kids are all at college, I’ll be able to take that bath.

Go out for a walk
I’ve always loved walking places when I lived in more urban areas, though I’ve grown more sedentary in suburbia where nothing is really “within walking distance”. This is where having a big black lab is a plus: She definitely needs to work off her doggie energy, and I can cover quite a bit of ground in 15 minutes. Since my kids are old enough to watch themselves (and I’m not going too far in such a short amount of time), I get to spend that time alone with my thoughts in the fresh air. For those of you without dogs, lace up your shoes anyway and hit the pavement for a little power walk—with or without the kids in a stroller. It really does feel great, even when the weather isn’t ideal.

I’m not a meditating kind of person, but after reading Mommy Niri and Lisa Johnson’s posts about their experiences with meditation, I’ve given it a shot. Just sitting quietly for a few minutes with my breath, telling my brain to s-l-o-w down feels really good. This is best done when the kids are still asleep in the morning, or when they are engrossed in a project downstairs, since angrily yelling, “Leave me alone! I’m meditating!” kind of defeats the purpose.

Spa Lite
I can’t ask the kids to sit tight while I run off for a massage at the local spa, but I can leave them downstairs while I spend 15 minutes taking care of my skin with a yummy smelling face mask and some heavy-duty, wrinkle-avoiding cream. Or, another trick I’ve done for years is to rub gobs of hand moisturizer on my hands and then plunge them into little disposable rubber gloves. Sure, I get really weird looks if the UPS guy comes to the front door, and–boy–do my hands get hot, but the reward is super-soft hands, especially if I can stand to wear them for a good long time (bedtime is good too).

Ten-minute tidy
Housecleaning isn’t often mentioned in pampering lists, but, since a messy house ruins my mood like nothing else, I swear by this trick: I set the oven timer for ten minutes, put on some great music, and the kids and I run around the house, putting away toys, clothes, papers, dishes. . .No I can’t clean my house in ten minutes (I wish!) but when the timer goes off, we all can see a big difference—and, if I’m lucky, the kids ask if they can “keep cleaning a little longer“—-er, OK kids. . .go crazy! I’m going to lie on the couch.

Pump Iron
In the perfect world, I’d have a gym membership and, after a nice long run or aerobics class, I’d have another hour to work on my chiseled arms and six-pack abs. In reality, I know any gym membership will go unused, as will big complicated home programs that require expensive equipment or an hour of time. But since gravity doesn’t seem to be giving me a break, I’ve decided to fight back. I grab the little 5-pound hands weights I keep in the family room, and do arm exercises for 10-15 minutes. Bicep curls, triceps push, deltoid squeezes, upright rows. . .It’s pretty amazing how many I can do in those few short minutes. I won’t have “Madonna-arms” doing this, but at least I can help tone things up a wee bit.

When all else fails. . .
I hide in my walk-in closet with a really, really good piece of dark chocolate and eat it v-e-r-y slowly.

Do you have any quick tricks for taking care of yourself during the day?

ScreenShot2012-09-27at74056AMThis is my second of three sponsored posts with Harvard Pilgrim (the first one is here!) All the thoughts, opinions, and advice expressed are my very own. Want to find even more ways to be well? Check out 


  1. I like to have a cup of hot tea in the morning before my sons wake up, and just enjoy it before I do anything else.

    • Ahhh, yes! The very first thing I do when I stumble down the stairs is make a cup of coffee. Though, for me, that feels less like a break and more like a necessity. Hmmm. . .perhaps I am a wee bit addicted to coffee!

  2. I have found that I try to make the most of the small moments that I do have alone at home – if I shower in the morning or even quickly use the toilet while both kids are downstairs having breakfast, I try to appreciate those quiet moments when I am not being called upon. However, the small people (aged 2 and 4) have cottoned on to this and now beg me NOT to have a shower in the mornings! I work flexibly but full-time and have taken to exercising on my lunch hour – it really makes me a happier, more relaxed and more motivated person at home and at work which is great as my main goal was really to get a bit fitter and more in shape!
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    • I used to have to bring the kids into the bathroom with me while I showered (and they followed me in there whenever I had to use the toilet! so much for privacy!). Thankfully, that does pass once they are a little older. And, working out at your lunch time is a great time to do it—in fact, any time you can fit it in is “the right time”, especially with two wee ones.

  3. When everyone is engrossed in something that requires NOTHING from me and will not result in any obvious arguments, I go take a bath in the middle of the day and submerge my head up to my nose in water while the faucet is on. The white noise of the running water while I’m underwater is heavenly. I can’t hear SQUAT and it’s awesome and I find that this is where I can meditate for 10-20 minutes without interruption. And I get clean to boot. Win Win.
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  4. Great post! I love the *idea* of setting the timer and cleaning for 10 minutes. But somehow, I never end up doing it!

    Honestly, I don’t know how you find 15 minutes for yourself with homeschooling, work, a dog, and other life stuff! I’m impressed! (And need to do the same) 😉
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