December 8, 2010 -- Annie Zirkel from Ann Arbor, Mich., is a finalist in the Dear GMA Advice Guru Contest. Read her response to a viewer-submitted question below!
Question from Shon in Chicago, I.L.: "I am a busy wife and mom of 5. I am constantly on the go with kids, work, activities, socials...you get my drift. I love my busy and energetic life! So it is very difficult to take "me time" without feeling guilty or getting "How could you?" looks from those in my house. What is the best way (with ideas please) to take short "me time" moments during the week so that I get enough de-stressing so I don't have to run away to Barbados (or the bathroom or my mama's house) for a week just to de-compress?"
First, don't not go to Barbados because of any good advice you're going to find here! But when you get back and need a quicker break from your full life consider this:
There are basically three challenges to squeezing 'me time' in: your thinking, your support, and your time.
1. Your Thinking: Besides real time constraints, your thinking about putting yourself first is your biggest stumbling block. So while you've probably heard this before, you need to hear it again - you are important and you deserve a break! In fact, it's critical! You're the engine keeping your family moving, which means you need fuel. And while you're surely very energy-efficient, feeling stress means you're running on fumes and that dredge at the bottom of the tank. And we all know how lovely that stuff is! So replace your guilt with this thought: You deserve better. In fact you're worth premium!
2. Your Support: You get good at what you practice. For instance you are a great support because you do it all the time. But your family needs practice supporting others too!
So if you get push back, say and mean this, "I'm taking a break because I love you that much!" And seriously it's a great way to love them. It teaches your sons to think of others, it models to your daughters that women matter, and your partner gets a happier partner, so you really are doing it for them.
3. Your Time: Finding down time in a busy life is a genuine challenge. And while saying 'no' to a few opportunities to say 'yes' to 'me-time' is an excellent idea, realistically, your time crunch isn't letting up until your children are grown and gone.
So in the meantime, here are five ideas:
1. Get up earlier for some stretching/light exercise while setting an intention for a pleasant day.
2. Use your commute or waiting-for-kids time for more than life's to-do list. Play music, read, call a good friend, write a note to yourself (and mail it!), or savor a nice cup of coffee or tea.
3. Take a short brisk/slow walk. Start with a brisk pace while simultaneously slowing down your thoughts. Notice the sights, sounds, shapes and colors, the air on your face, your breathing. Eventually relax your stride to match your mind and you should reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, in the process.
4. Schedule some pampering and tell your family what you are doing. "I'm taking a mini vacation. I'll be back in soon." When you return, thank them for caring and giving you that space.
5. Here's the mini-est vacation of all. Pause for 30-45 seconds several times a day and take 3 deep belly breaths while focusing on a few gratitudes. You'll be amazed at how powerful this brief experience can be as a respite to your crazy, wonderful life.
Hope that helps. And send a postcard from Bridgetown.