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3 Tips For Finding "Me" Time, Busting Stress

Can't seem to unwind with deadlines piling up? Read on for tips on how to plot pampering moments into your busy schedule.

How often do you give yourself permission to plop down on the couch and watch back-to-back episodes of a guilty pleasure like Pretty Little Liars or True Blood? You're probably so busy doing a thousand and one things that you don't take time out to just be idle.

"We've been programmed to be multi-taskers, able to do a variety of things at once," says Edward Hallowell, MD, author of Crazy Busy. "Because you know you can do a lot, you feel compelled to keep busy, which is draining, even when you feel you can handle it."

You might think you're just knocking things off your to-do list, but all that task mastering may create more stress. The solution: Organize your life better so that in your free time, all you have to do is a whole lot of nothing. Try these sanity-saving tips:

1. Tune Out At Home

Unfortunately, a lot of people don't have the luxury of turning off their cell phones at night. Still, you have to stop thinking of your room or house as an extension of the office. "Because we're now capable of working from home, we may unknowingly save things for after hours and not be as efficient during the day," says Kathleen Hall, PhD, CEO of the Stress Institute and author of A Life In Balance.

If you buckle down during regular business hours and don't give yourself the option of bringing work home, you will get more done and have time to truly relax. Another idea: designate an hour to check work email, say, from 9PM to 10PM, after you've eaten dinner but haven't yet settled in for the night.

2. Set A Schedule

Part of the reason you constantly feel like there's something else to do is that there really always is. Dr. Hallowell suggests allotting certain times to take care of regular chores. For example, make Thursday night the time to do your laundry, and leave grocery shopping for Tuesday. "That way, it becomes an automatic part of your routine and won't weigh on your mind the other six days of the week," says Dr. Hallowell. Have multiple errands or chores to do? Set aside a few hours to get them all done, rather than draw them out over a couple of days.

3. Put Pampering On Your Agenda

When your schedule is jam-packed, an hour-long massage feels like a luxury. But you need to make that "me" time a priority or you'll never do it. "Pampering moments are essential to recharging your brain," says Hall. "If you keep going, without taking time out to relax, you're less efficient because you'll be over-stimulated."

Once a week, reserve an hour to take a bubble bath, get a mani-pedi, or read a good book. And resist the urge to add a productive task to your relaxing activity—it'll diminish the rejuvenating benefits of your downtime.

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