10 Minutes Saved My Mom

In 2015 I attended Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within. You may know of this event as the one where Oprah walked on coals. At one point during the weekend, Tony said: “If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life.”

I thought of my mom – raising six kids alone – and wondered whether she would agree. So I called her last weekend and asked. She said that, most days, even she had 10 minutes to herself. Her self-care practice included reading mystery and romance novels, playing solitaire, and taking hot bubble baths. In her words: “mystery books offered me a mini-vacation, a place where I could escape.” (She said mystery books, but I remember paperbacks with pictures of Fabio on the cover.) I believe that my mom’s ability to practice self-care for 10 minutes each day helped her stay sane while raising six wild-childs.

Romance novels may not be the right self-care for you, but here are five simple, short ways to practice self-care in 10-15 minutes, paired with excuses that might sound familiar…

  1. “When I try to practice self-care, my mind keeps running through my to-do list.” Take 10 minutes to practice meditation. I wrote about meditation and mindfulness in my short book (a 30-minute read) of self-care hacks. If you spend 10 minutes every day practicing meditation, at the end of the week you will have spent 70 minutes focusing your brain. Your body will reward you by reducing your level of cortisol (the stress hormone) and by increasing your ability to focus on other tasks. If you are a beginner, choose an app such as Headspace, Calm, or Buddhify to guide you along. Buddhify is particularly useful if you only have a few minutes: you can specify the amount of time, and the app will select a guided meditation to meet your schedule. Click here to listen to the founder of Headspace give a TED talk titled “All it Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes.”
  1. “I tried meditating and I didn’t like it.” Try the 15-minute priming exercise that Tony Robbins does every morning. Priming includes a short breathing exercise, a short reflection, and a powerful goal-oriented visualization. Click here to learn more about the science of priming and watch the video demo at the bottom. Bonus tip: if you do this mental exercise after physical exercise, it may be easier to refocus.
  1. “I can’t sit still.” Leave your phone inside and head outside for a brisk walk. Keep your mind focused on what you encounter – what you can see, hear, and smell. Literally stop and smell the roses. If you’ve lived on the same street for 10 years, make it your mission to find something that you’ve never noticed before. There’s a reason why you may have heard this piece of advice already… because it works. Listen to this short podcast with the Director of “Inside Out,” Pete Docter, as he talks about how walking helped him to get out of his head.
  1. “These tips sound like mumbo jumbo, and I’m not motivated to try any of them.” Download the WeCroak app. This simple app does exactly one thing: it sends you five random quotes throughout the day to remind you that you’re going to die. One of my favorite quotes has been from Thoreau: “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” At first, these quotes seem like morbid reminders of death, but they transform into reminders to live life fully. We don’t know when we’re going to die, so put some life in the rest of your years.
  1. “I still don’t have the time.” Maybe it’s time to reintroduce yourself to the word “no.” If you’re a parent (especially a parent of toddlers or teens), you already know this word because your kids are probably dropping it daily. As adults, we get caught up saying “yes” – to the extra work project, the happy hour, the bake sale, the holiday dinner, … oh and to just one more drink. But you probably can’t say yes to all of those things and still say yes to the gym, a healthy dinner, and a favorite magazine. The tricky part is understanding when to say no. The questions I ask myself are: Will I regret saying no? What do I risk by saying no? What do I gain by saying no? Who am I saying no to? Saying no requires us to be honest and vulnerable, both with ourselves and with others.

Pick one of these ideas, commit to doing it for 30 days, and reflect on how you feel at the end of the month. The 10 minutes that you invest in yourself could be the difference between putting your boss in a headlock or sparking your next promotion-worthy idea.