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Every day around 11:30 a.m., I bring my toddler upstairs for her nap. I tip-toe out of her bedroom, and breathe a big fat sigh of relief. 

I love that teeny little maniac like crazy, but desperately need this hour or two to decompress and get things done. It's been a recurring conundrum and a daily decision,: how am I going to spend this nap?

You see, as a work-from-home mom of three, I have a lot of pressing to-do's on my plate -- and I often need to shuffle and reprioritize. I need to meet deadlines, cook meals, carpool kiddos, help with homework, do the laundry, tackle the dishes, scrub the floors, and oh-yeah hop on a conference call or two. There simply isn't enough time in 24 hours to do it all (and, yes, I insist on sleep). And so every day, I take care of the most pressing matters and roll over whatever isn't finished. The current pandemic has amplified this struggle, and I feel like I never have a moment to just "breathe."

Come that precious nap hour, though, all I really want to do is decompress. I want to take a load off and not think. I want to feel useful and feel more settled in my skin. To this end, sometimes, I'll find myself staring at the wall for 15 full minutes. Once I snap out of it, I regret wasting a quarter of an hour doing, well, nothing. After hours of chaos, my brain craves this nothingness.

I have been programmed to believe that we can either relax or we can do, but we can't simultaneously do both. This is why I always thought that decompression and productivity were two separate things -- that you couldn't do both at once. I either needed to choose between de-stressing or getting something knocked off my list. This last year of pandemic parenting has taught me that these two musts are not mutually exclusive. I can have it both ways. I just need to adjust my expectations, and realize that getting something "done" and checked off the list can also mean taking care of myself or doing something little but impactful.

So when I really feel like I need a break, but also want to move forward with my day, there are three activities I turn to:

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Some days, you may want to stare at the wall or curl up on the couch or take a nap (hallelujah), it's all good. But when you want to decompress to refresh, remember that it doesn't have to a passive activity. You can be productive and still take a moment to yourself. 

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