Sometimes, in between meetings, deadlines, Russian craziness, home-office-chores, cooking, cleaning, taking my son to KiTa and looking for the last clean shirt to wear to go groceries-shopping, I am only able to make it through the day because I know: tonight I will go to the gym. It sounds ridiculous, but knowing that I will have a complete hour to myself at a later time on the same day helps me to keep up the energy that I need to do all that I have to do. It’s like some weird mind-trick that I am playing on myself: just hold out a little longer, you will get your reward later. And time outside of home without anything else to do than exercise is really a reward, compared to what my usual day looks like.
So, this hour-for-myself, that I get to have two or three times per week, has become crucial for me to survive in my busy day-to-day life as a full-time working mom and I try to spend it in the most valuable way for me as possible. Depending on what happened during the day I spend it differently, but most of the time the hour-for-myself contains at least one of the following qualities:
A complete brain-shutdown
Whenever I go to the gym and enter the classroom for a Yoga- or Zumba-class I feel like handing out my brain to the teacher in charge – because for the next hour I will very stupidly only repeat what somebody else is doing or telling me to do. I won’t have to think about what to do, because somebody else is going to do that for me – and this is a huge contrast to the rest of my usual day. It is also quite funny, because in real life I hate people telling me what to do – whether it’s in my job or in private, I like being in charge of myself and I think I can draw on enough experience to take good decisions in most situations. But it feels totally different when I voluntarily decide not to decide – then it feels like a relief and it helps me to relax my oh-so-busy brain.
What I also love about going to a Yoga-class: the silence. An hour of silence is heaven for the parent of a toddler. An hour of silence can make up for three hours of screaming, toys-throwing and hammering on the children’s workbench. I think we shouldn’t underestimate the power of silence: in a world, in which most jobs come with a constant flood of emails, instant-messages, possibly also WhatsApp-messages and phone calls, we rarely have time to peacefully work on something and concentrate properly. So whenever I feel like being stressed out by this constant and also sometimes unnecessary over-communication, I think of my upcoming hour-of-silence. And this immediately takes off the edge of the situation and reminds me that there will be a time and a place for calming down.
Blowing off steam
Sometimes I just need to punch something. Literally. When too much rage or frustration has piled up inside of me, the best way to restore balance is by releasing this rage physically. This can also be done perfectly in the gym by going to a class that involves punching, kicking and some loud, aggressive music. Sometimes, when there is no time to go to the gym or when there is no appropriate class in place I also like to take a walk and listen to some loud music. Going outside, changing the scenery, breathing in some fresh air and giving my brain the time to run through the stress-cycle and get some closure helps most of the time.
For me, there is nothing more rewarding than a good conversation. I have always enjoyed deep and meaningful conversations, but especially since having a child (which requires constant utmost attention) I also simply appreciate it whenever there is time and focus for being able to talk to somebody without interruptions. While I enjoy talking about children and parenthood in general, I enjoy not talking about those topics even more. Being a parent occupies a lot of my time already, which is why I love to use my free time to think and talk about all the other things that are important to me in life (reading good books, listening to good music, traveling, hiking, eating delicious food and exploring the best coffee places – just to name some).
When I was a kid I was very creative. I used to draw a lot, I wrote tons of pages into my diary, I composed melodies on my keyboard and wrote lyrics. This all pretty much went down the drain when I started studying and nowadays my busy day-to-day routine prevents my brain from getting creative ideas most of the time. The only two „hobbies“ I still try to pursue at least a little bit are writing and taking photos. Whenever I get into the flow of writing I feel free and empowered – writing helps me to structure my thoughts and process my emotions – however, one hour is way too little time to finish a decent blog-article or anything else, that is supposed to be published. Taking photos is more about creating something beautiful than achieving something intellectually and can be done in less time – and it requires totally different skills. But both activities have the same result: the feeling of having created something valuable, which is extremely satisfying.
How are you using your free time and what helps you to deal with the stress of everyday life? I am always interested in other points of view, opinions and ideas 🙂