The Magic of Microbreaks: Finding Time for Self-Care As a Mom

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Read time: 6 minutes

  • Finding time for self-care as a mom can be a challenge given the mental load and invisible labor required in motherhood.
  • Research shows that microbreaks—short, intentional pauses lasting a few minutes—can improve well-being and refresh psychological resources.
  • Breathing exercises, stretching, enjoying a cup of tea, or lingering in the shower are a few of the 15 microbreak ideas included here.

Being a mom is a full-time job. Sometimes, it can feel like there's never a moment to spare for yourself. Between managing appointments for your kids, meal preparations, school drop-offs, and all the other responsibilities that come with motherhood, finding time for self-care can seem like an elusive dream. 

But fear not, there is a simple way to reclaim some much-needed "me time.” Enter microbreaks. Self-care doesn't need to be an extravagant vacation or a spa day, but it can be looking at your daily routine from a micro level. 

“Can you make room in your schedule to sit for 10 minutes in your backyard with a cup of coffee?” says Jana Wu LCSW, LADC, CASAC-Advanced. “Or if that doesn’t interest you, maybe it’s walking around your neighborhood or just taking a long shower.”

Research shows that these small moments of relief—or microbreaks—can improve well-being and replenish your psychological resources, helping you to show up as a more present mother and happier human overall. 

Get to know the concept of microbreaks and how they can be your secret weapon in finding time for self-care as a mom. We'll delve into the science behind these short, rejuvenating moments and provide you with 15 microbreak ideas that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine.

What is a Microbreak?

A microbreak is a short, intentional break or pause taken during the day, typically lasting only a few minutes. It’s a brief moment of respite that allows you to step away from your ongoing tasks or responsibilities to recharge, relax, and refocus. 

Unlike longer breaks, such as lunch or coffee breaks, microbreaks are very short and can be seamlessly integrated into one's daily routine. While they may seem trivial on their own, the cumulative effect of these microbreaks can be profound. 

“Small things can also help us reset our mental state, but we often overlook them because of this idea that they can't help,” says Becky Vieira, author and social media personality at WittyOtter. “They do, and small moments taken for ourselves add up.”

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The Science Behind Microbreaks

The concept of microbreaks comes from research in ergonomics and worker productivity, but it can be applied to the lives of busy moms, too. The sheer mental load of motherhood can be extreme. Keeping track of all your responsibilities as a mom can deplete your psychological resources and cause exhaustion or fatigue. 

Our brains are simply not designed to function continuously without rest. Research shows that prolonged periods of concentration can lead to decreased productivity, increased stress, and burnout. This is where microbreaks come in.

When you take a short break, even for just a minute or two, your brain gets a chance to reset. This allows you to return to your tasks with improved focus, creativity, and energy. Moreover, microbreaks can have a significant impact on your overall well-being by reducing stress and preventing mental fatigue.

How to Get Started with Microbreaks

Getting started with microbreaks means making two important mindset shifts about self-care:

The first shift is recognizing that self-care is an important item on your to-do list and that you deserve to take time for yourself. 

The second shift is moving away from the idea that self-care needs to be time consuming or that you need to go somewhere else to do it. 

Self-care can happen during microbreaks at any time, anywhere. The best tool to help you get started with microbreaks is something you probably carry with you everywhere already: your phone. 

“Set a timer to go off five times a day to prompt you to take a microbreak,” suggests Daniela Wolfe, LMSW at Best D Life. It can really be that simple. 

Try the timer method for a few days to get used to pausing in the middle of a task and taking a moment for yourself. After a few days, you might get into the habit of pausing periodically for self-care and can forgo the timer going forward.

There is no magic number of microbreaks for optimized wellness. Self-care is highly individualized. What matters most is how you feel throughout the day. Listen to your body, mind, and spirit. To feel replenished and on top of your game, you might need 20 microbreaks or you might just need two. Experiment with what works best for you. 

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15 Microbreak Ideas for Moms

Microbreaks are a great opportunity to get creative and find ways of treating yourself to a few minutes of calm and relaxation. “Add five minutes to your shower, or sit in your car in the grocery store or Target parking lot for a bit before you head home,” suggests Vieira. “Use the time however you'd like: listen to a podcast, call your best friend or just enjoy being alone and not hearing anyone say ‘Mom!’”

Here are 15 ideas for microbreaks that will help you relax, restore, and re-energize before heading back into the fray of family life:

Deep Breathing Break: Find a quiet spot, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Focus on inhaling positivity and exhaling stress.

Stretching Session: Stretch your arms, legs, and neck to release tension. Even a short stretching session can improve circulation and reduce muscle stiffness.

Mindful Tea Time: Brew a cup of your favorite tea and savor it mindfully. Let the warmth and aroma soothe your senses.

Nature Gazing: If possible, step outside and take a moment to connect with nature. Gaze at the sky, listen to the birds, or simply feel the breeze on your skin.

Gratitude Journaling: Grab a notebook and jot down three things you're grateful for. This simple practice can shift your focus to the positive aspects of your life.

Mini Meditation: Use a meditation app or YouTube video to guide you through a quick meditation session. It can help clear your mind and reduce stress.

Quick Yoga Poses: Learn a few basic yoga poses that you can do in a small space. Yoga can improve flexibility and promote relaxation.

Aromatherapy Break: Inhale the soothing scent of lavender or chamomile essential oils. Aromatherapy can have a calming effect on your mood.

Positive Affirmations: Repeat positive affirmations to boost your self-esteem and motivation. Examples include, "I am strong," and "I am a loving mother."

Phone-Free Zone: Designate a corner of your home as a phone-free zone. Use this time to disconnect from technology and connect with your thoughts.

Doodle Break: Grab a notepad and doodle freely. It's a creative way to unwind and express yourself.

Quick Dance Party: Put on your favorite upbeat song and dance like nobody's watching. It's a fun way to get your blood flowing and boost your mood.

Gentle Self-Massage: Give yourself a quick neck and shoulder massage. Use gentle circular motions to release tension.

Breathing Exercises: Practice deep breathing exercises like the 4-7-8 technique. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7, and exhale for 8.

Visualization Break: Close your eyes and visualize a peaceful place. Whether it's a beach, a forest, or a cozy reading nook, let your imagination transport you there.

The Bottom Line

As a mom, finding time for self-care may seem like a challenge, but it's crucial for your physical and mental well-being. Microbreaks offer a practical solution, allowing you to reclaim precious moments for self-care throughout your day. 

By understanding the science behind microbreaks and implementing them into your daily routine, you can prioritize your self-care without sacrificing your responsibilities as a mom. So go ahead, embrace the microbreak, and find time for self-care in the beautiful chaos of motherhood. Your well-being deserves it.

This article has been clinically reviewed by Hanna Rifkin, RD, CDCES, clinical health coach at One Drop.

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Sara Huneke
Sep 11, 2023

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