A sandwich with a bit less filling
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A sandwich with a bit less filling

You walk in the door, dump your bag, don an apron, crank the oven, turn on the computer to check emails, text to organise a child’s appointment, help with homework, chop vegetables, reply to a work email, diffuse a few child fights and ring an elderly parent to check in.

On it goes until you are on top of things enough that you can finally lie horizontally, hoping your brain can switch off enough to actually sleep, don’t even mention the libido fairy, she’s as dead as a dodo. Sound a little familiar?

A little "me" time is vital for mental health.

A little "me" time is vital for mental health.

You’re probably in the "sandwich" category, according to a recent Jean Hailes women’s health survey which found that women in their late 30s and 40s are most likely to feel squeezed between work, children and ageing parents. Over 25 per cent haven’t had any "me" time in the last month (Hello children? The bathroom door is closed for a reason, ahem).

It’s all very well to be told what you are probably already feeling, but it can feel overwhelmingly impossible to know how to fit what seems like frivolous time into your schedule. However, psychologists say it is vital for your mental health. So, if you feel like a sandwich in a toastie machine, here are some tips from experts for finding "me" time:

  • Speak up and be honest about the pressure, expect more help from children or partners - it may feel quicker if you do it yourself, but they need to learn responsibility; they’re not living in a hotel.
  • If aged parents are part of the equation, try to spread the load among siblings.
  • Enrol in an adult education class, choose something you’ve always wanted to do - it commits your time and will hopefully be thoroughly enjoyable – African drumming anyone?
  • Actually practise saying "no’ - if you’re prepared, it’s easier to say. The saying about busy people is true, but this doesn’t always mean you’re happy to be that busy and resentment builds, especially if others appear to be doing very little. This year I said no to something substantial and it felt ridiculously liberating, I may have high-fived myself.
  • Get up a little earlier and exercise, read, have a quiet cup of tea, listen to a podcast without interruption – anything relaxing, just no multi-tasking!
  • Make a date with someone (or yourself) for a coffee, a show where you pre-buy tickets or head out for a walk at lunchtime.
  • And finally, set up your devices to "do not disturb" after a certain time at night.

That’s the advice given … now I’m off shopping, by myself, to buy a lock for the bathroom door.

Nicola Philp is an Age columnist.