Clear Your Head

3 easy ways for parents to take a time-out for 10 minutes, 1 hour or 1 day. Enjoy!

Have you ever sent junior to his room ““ and wished you could disappear into yours instead? It’s time to give yourself a time-out. We consulted Alyson Schäfer, psychotherapist and author of Breaking the Good Mom Myth, for some serenity-now strategies for those days when your head hurts just thinking about the to-do list that’s longer than War and Peace.

Got 10 minutes? Imagine you’re an elephant
Think about your best qualities as a parent ““ what or who do you associate those traits with? Schäfer tried this exercise with one mom who likened her nurturing side to that of a mother elephant dedicated to her calf. “So, she pasted elephant pictures all over her house,” says Schäfer. “In frantic moments, those visual cues helped pull her back to focusing on her preferred state of being.” OK, maybe a wrinkly pachyderm doesn’t work for you (fair enough), the trick is to find something that does ““ Brad Pitt, for example, seems the very model of a caring parent.

Got an hour? Preserve the art of naptime
Who says you should miss out on 60 blissful minutes of peace just because your munchkins are too old for a daily snooze? Keep the ritual alive ““ they can play quietly in their rooms ““ and take the time to reset your mind and body. Most importantly, give yourself permission to kick productivity to the curb: this hour isn’t for laundry or dinner prep. “It’s worthwhile even if you aren’t “doing’ anything,” says Schäfer. “Notice how you parent afterward when you’re more calm and centered?”

Got a day? Work through a dilemma the write way
Try writing a journal again (we know, groan). But we’re not talking about the usual “Dear Diary” recaps. Instead, write down anything that’s circling around in your mind and don’t edit yourself. If you’ve got a really big decision looming, set aside 20 minutes to write four times throughout the same day, starting in the morning. “Studies show you can work yourself right out of a problem,” says Schäfer. “Your brain moves the info away from circular non-productive thoughts and you can process it, learn and develop solutions.”

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