A few years ago, self-care was pretty much nonexistent for me. Time to myself was a rare occurrence and was pretty much all or nothing. When it was over I felt hungry for more – it was like I couldn’t get enough and I began to resent my family for being so demanding of my time.

Sound familiar?

Luckily, over time, I became aware of the fact that I require consistent self-care. Crazy, right? I found that by meeting my needs on a regular basis, (like, every day) and enjoying life’s simple pleasures, I became a far more patient, loving, and understanding person.

One aspect of self-care I discovered is crucial for my sanity is time to myself – regular breaks where I’m able to get away from everyone for a bit and just be alone with my thoughts (I’m an INFJ on the Meyer’s-Briggs).

Without breaks, I quickly become grumpy, resentful, and lose all desire to be creative.

My husband realizes this and encourages me to get out of the house on a regular basis to recharge because he knows I get distracted and forget (he actually has a “Nina self-care flow sheet” he goes through when I get in a certain mood to see if I’ve neglected anything – it’s often the breaks).

In the past few years these breaks have become a regular part of my schedule. I leave the house, sometimes frazzled, enjoy some time by myself and return refreshed and ready to take on whatever tasks await me (unless, of course, it’s mopping – I’m just never ready for that).

When I first started taking “time-outs”, most of my time was spent shopping – for me, the kids, the house – and I soon found that my super-limited budget made for short trips. But more importantly, I came back without any sense of fulfillment.

Rather than seeking out self-care that satisfied, I either did too little and found myself craving more, or I overindulged and was left with the oh-so-yucky mommy guilt. Surely, there was a happy medium that would sustain me and nourish my soul.

Thankfully, I’ve had lots of time to practice and what I’ve found is that self-care is actually pretty simple (you totally didn’t see that coming, did you?), and I’m more likely to feel satisfied by being intentional about how I spend my time alone.

The following are a few simple practices I’ve implemented that have helped me to create more satisfying self-care. I don’t do each thing every time, but I usually incorporate at least one.

Take a Journal

Writing is one of my favorite things. Scribbling things down on paper helps me to sort through what I’m feeling – whether I’m overwhelmed by things at home or jotting down ideas for something exciting, it’s helpful for me to put it on paper.

Suggestion: Use part of this time to write down things you’re thankful for. I’ve noticed that when I’ve gotten to the point of running out of my house to get away from my children, it’s because I’ve stopped giving thanks on a regular basis. Beginning your time alone with gratefulness makes a huge difference in your attitude when you return home.

Invite a Friend

We’re relational people and I know there are times when I’m just desperate for someone to talk to. Yes, my kids can talk, but really, there’s only so much to be said about Minecraft. Sometimes, I need to be with adults on my breaks.

Suggestion: Be mindful about who comes with you. Intentionally seek out someone who inspires, challenges, motivates, or energizes you.

Enjoy Nature

Take a walk in a park. Sip a cup of tea on a patio overlooking a river. Go hiking on a wooded trail. The possibilities are endless. Taking the time to be in nature is a great way to wind down and clear your mind.

Suggestion: This is also an excellent time to give thanks for the beauty that surrounds you. Being in nature is a great reminder that there is so much more to life than what is going on at home right now. You are part of something much greater. Take some time to breathe and be grateful for your smallness.

Get Inspired

I love being inspired. And I love that I can be inspired in so many ways. Next time you have time to yourself, make a point to bring along something that will inspire you – a great story, motivational non-fiction, a podcast, your favorite Spotify playlist. Go to a coffee shop, order something tasty, sit and enjoy.

Suggestion: Take this time to write down thoughts that come to you. For me, once something gives me that little nudge of inspiration, a flood of great thoughts and ideas follow that I want to remember for later. When you get home, don’t just put them away – put them into action.

Do Nothing

Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. There is nothing wrong with spending your alone time at home – as long as you don’t do any cleaning! Ask your partner to take the kids to a park or a friend’s house and use the time to take a nap or have a long, hot bath.

You have permission to rest.

Suggestion: If you’re taking a bath, make it special. Make it as relaxing as possbile. If you can, put on some quiet music and dim the lights. Add some bath salts. Don’t just make it something to cross off your to-do list.

Enjoy yourself.

Photo by Tyler Pruitt