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How I Chill Out

You've packed the kids' lunches, found the missing shoe to your daughter's favorite doll, put on your earrings, and broken up a squabble over the last Pop-Tart -- and it's not even 7 a.m. How can you possibly think about squeezing in a little "me" time at some point? Here's inspiration:

"While my kids are at a lesson, I sit in the car, recline the driver's seat, and thumb through catalogs of gorgeous things. Twenty minutes spent looking at eye candy really refreshes me."

-Louise Tutelian, Larchmont, NY

"Being a single mom, I hardly ever get time to myself. But for the past four years, I've set aside every Tuesday night to go over to a friend's house and watch TV for a few hours -- lately, our favorite show is Gilmore Girls. Since my mom lives with us, she watches my daughter and they have their own special bonding time."

-Genevieve Boss, Ann Arbor, MI

"My husband, Mark, entertains the kids while I tackle a home-improvement project, such as painting or landscaping. I get so much satisfaction out of my finished product!"

-Char Johannigman, Findlay, OH

"After getting my boys, ages one and five, settled for the night, I like to take my dog for a stroll while my husband watches them. Inhaling the evening air makes me feel cleansed, and my shoulders begin to relax from mommy patrol."

-Lisa Thompson, Glen Allen, VA

"Sometimes I'll suggest a conversation topic to my four children, such as what kind of animal they would be; participate for a couple of minutes; then say, "I'll be right back." I dash up to my bathroom, lock the door, and spend a luxurious ten minutes plucking my eyebrows, putting a little moisturizer on my arms and legs, and maybe whipping off a few tummy crunches on the bath mat. Then I spring up, feeling rejuvenated."

-Meghan Cox Gurdon, Washington, DC

"I act in a local theater group once or twice a year so I can take a step away from my busy life. My kids get a happy and relaxed mommy instead of a 'stressed-out-gotta-do-let's-go' one."

-Nicole Stacey, Troy, MI

"When my son used to play with his trucks in the sandbox, I amused myself by getting right in there with him to make miniature sand castles."

-Miriam Hsia, Photo Editor

"My weekends are often spent shuttling my three kids -- ages eleven, nine, and six -- to their soccer or football games. They get upset if I don't watch, so my new trick is an MP3 player. I download books -- right now I'm listening to Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton -- and sit and watch the game, but now I can listen to a good book at the same time."

-Ann Higgins, Tinton Falls, NJ

"Once a week, my mom friends and I head to a movie theater for 'girls' night out,' complete with popcorn and chocolate. It's so nice to get a break -- and not to have to sit through yet another animated flick!"

-Lori Ruether, Dutzow, MO

"My front porch is my escape. I sit on my rocking chair, look down at my flower-filled yard and the pond below, and enjoy the cool evening breeze with a tall glass of iced tea."

-Heather Petrovich, Fairmont, WV

"Having a phone chat with an old college friend always puts a smile on my face and lets me unwind. Doing needlepoint soothes my nerves too -- small projects that don't take ages to finish, like hand towels, are my favorite."

-Kathy Curtis, Warwick, RI

"It helps my sanity level to curl up with a good romance novel. I sneak in some reading time when the kids are napping or while my husband's keeping an eye on them."

-Taylor Campbell, Bakersfield, CA

More Chill-Out Tips

"I do fifteen to thirty minutes of yoga every morning and also take a class twice a week. These are the only times I don't think about 'mommy stuff' and the best way for me to regain a sense of balance and peace."

-Lora Kay Lucas, Loveland, CO

"I enjoy taking walks and snapping pictures of everything in sight -- birds, flowers, trees. Then I enlarge my favorite shots and frame them to give as gifts or to decorate my home."

-Lauri Early, Guthrie, OK

"I love to go online at www.travelocity.com or www.airfrance.com and look at travel deals and dream I'm taking an exciting trip. I read the itineraries and see the photos, and just for a moment I'm transported to Provence or a tropical island before I have to go back and fold the laundry."

-Lynn Bruggemann, Wyckoff, NJ

"I'm a stay-at-home mom, and every now and then I leave my toddler with my husband for the day and go bargain shopping. I love to look at the discount tables at bookstores and browse anywhere there's a sale. The time to myself recharges me for quite a while -- and, of course, I love getting a deal!"

-Melissa Price, Washington, DC

"Every morning I wake up an hour before the rest of my family, sit down with a cup of coffee, and grab the newspaper so I can indulge in my favorite stress-relieving activity: doing crossword puzzles."

-Dana Milne, Tucson

"After a long day, once my husband gets home, I like to take a leisurely bike ride along the canal near my house. And if I really need a pick-me-up, I'll even sneak in a stop at the ice cream shop that's on the trail."

-Denise Rudy, Fairport, NY

"Taking a long, leisurely drive by myself gives me time to think, chill out, whatever! I get to listen to anything I want on the radio (instead of Barney and Blue's Clues) and just let the stress go."

-Melissa Leatherman, Oak Hill, VA

"There's nothing like watching mindless television shows, like Extreme Makeover or Trading Spaces, or flipping through celebrity magazines."

-Tammy Lagorce, Madison, NJ

"Each month I pick a Sunday to head out to a flea market early in the morning while the rest of the house is still sleeping. I wander through the rows of antiques and art posters and am back just as my husband and kids are sitting down to pancakes."

-Julie Tilsner, Albany, CA

"I go to the gym after work with my three-year-old. He loves to play in the childcare facility there, and I get sixty minutes all to myself to de-stress, sweat, and listen to music. We get fruit smoothies on our way out. He feels like he's getting a special treat, and I've done something positive for my body and mind."

-Amy Gray, Nashville

Kristin Kane is an assistant editor at Self magazine.

Moms' and Editors' Faves

"My favorite therapeutic activity is getting my hands dirty working in my garden. A bonus: My four-year-old stays busy digging the holes for my new plants!"

-Susan Knotts, Sudlersville, MD

We like: Smith & Hawken's Heirloom Hand Fork and Trowel

"I love to put on Madonna's Ray of Light CD and bake. I am concentrating on the recipe so much that everything else melts away."

-Risa Crandall, Larchmont, NY

We like: Leslie Mackie's Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook

"When I start feeling edgy, I light some candles and take a warm bath. I know it'll always help me de-stress."

-Stephanie Cottom, Coos Bay, OR

We like: Energy Silk Bath Salts and Aromafloria's Muscle Soak with eucalyptus, peppermint, and lemongrass

"I dim the lights and listen to classical music for a half hour. That always does the trick."

-Joselina Dichoso, Ellicott City, MD

We like: Schubert Piano Sonatas D. 958, 959, 960, performed by Murray Perahia

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