After School Carpool: 3 Self-Care Activities You Can Do

A few days before the 2021-2022 school year started, I made a last-minute decision: to drive my kids to school (instead of putting them on the bus like I have the last four years).

I knew this would mean sacrificing a lot of time. Not just the driving time to and from school, but the long wait times during after-school pick-up.

As a way to reclaim some of that lost time, I decided that I should be mindful of how I use my time in the afternoon carpool line. Specifically, if I wasn’t intentional with how I’d spend it, I knew that I would just end up scrolling Instagram or shopping planner shops – neither of which are good for my mental health or wallet.

In today’s post, I’ll share with you three self-care activities that I’m doing while waiting in the car during after-school pick-up. If your little ones are car riders like mine this year, maybe you’ll find inspiration to do something similar for yourself.

Activity # 1: Read

While I have a hard time writing while I have noise around me, I surprisingly don’t have the same trouble reading. Therefore, it’s the perfect self-care activity to do while in the car with a potentially noisy preschooler.

However, I must define reading because some people consider browsing social media and blogs as a form of reading. True, that is also reading. However, it doesn’t offer the same effect as picking up a physical book or reading a kindle.

When it comes to picking a self-care activity, I need it to calm my mind, not add to the racing thoughts and anxiety that can cause my heart rate to increase. Hence, reading actual books (vs social media) is perfect because it allows me to escape my current reality and gives my mind something else to focus on.

Reading also reduces my heart rate, signaling to my body that I’m safe, which helps take me out of any stressful state I might have been in.

Reading also reduces my heart rate, signaling to my body that I’m safe, which helps take me out of any stressful state I might have been in.

Activity # 2: Journal

I’ve always been a journaler, but as an adult, I’ve never been one to practice regularly. Days, weeks, or months go by between entries. Typically, I only wrote before bed and usually only when I was feeling stressed about something. However, I’ve recently decided that I need to journal as often as possible (preferably daily) as a way to just word vomit everything that’s on my mind, for my own mental self-care.

After several consecutive days of journaling, I noticed a difference in my average resting heart rate and I had a feeling journaling had to be a contributing factor. Plus, I even felt a little less frazzled (which surprised me because I didn’t think I was frazzled to begin with).

While that’s all good and well, in order for this daily habit to stick, I needed to reframe my mind around when and where I journal. I needed to let go of this limiting belief that I had created that said I can only journal in the evenings before bed. Sometimes, I’m just way too tired by then to think about my day and how it made me feel.

With a new school routine starting, I knew that if I gave myself permission to use that new time to journal, it would not only help solidify the new habit but also help me get out of the mindset that journaling can only happen at night.

Some journaling tips to consider: When I journal, I write as if I’m writing to a friend, telling them what’s happening and how I’m feeling. Sometimes, if a lot has happened, I’ll quickly list off the main points so that I’m not writing a novel.

But make journaling work for how your brain works. Don’t get sucked into believing it can only be done one way. I currently use a lined A5 spiral notebook from Plum Paper but I have used smaller lined notebooks in the past.

If you want to try journaling during after-school pick-up, don’t overcomplicate it. Keep your journal (and a pen) in your car if you think it will help.

Make journaling work for how your brain works.

Activity # 3: Do nothing

Okay, technically “doing nothing” isn’t an activity, but it is absolutely something that I will sometimes do. If I’m not reading or journaling while I wait for school dismissal, I allow myself to just sit there, taking in the scene, so that my mind can wander.

I’m guilty of always seeking something to do, so I’m plenty aware that doing nothing can feel extremely difficult if you aren’t used to giving yourself permission to just do nothing. As moms with lots to do, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in wanting to always do something. However, over the years, I’ve learned that I can be productive even while doing nothing.

Science states that our brains need breaks in order to process the stimulation we’ve consumed (through all our senses). If you ever lay your head down to bed and your mind starts racing, that’s a good indication that you aren’t giving your brain enough downtime during the day for processing.

Burnout and feeling overwhelmed partially happens because our brains are having trouble keeping up, especially if you are highly sensitive like me. Hence, a routine part of my self-care during carpool this year will be to allow myself to just do nothing.

Since it’s hard to sit in my house and do nothing because I’m surrounded by cues mentally prompting me to do stuff, using the time in my car during after school pick-up is a perfect time and place.

Over the years, I’ve learned that I can be productive even while doing nothing.

Final Thoughts

To recap, here are the 3 self-care activities you can do while waiting in the after-school carpool line:

  1. Read (a book, not social media or online articles/blog posts)
  2. Journal
  3. Do nothing

You can do the same thing every afternoon, or you can rotate between the three. You might also consider other types of self-care activities, like meditation or EFT tapping if you aren’t accompanied by a tiny passenger who could disrupt your practice. Heck, you could even take a little (or long) power nap (just be sure you set an alarm so that you won’t get startled by car horns blaring).

Regardless of how you spend your time waiting for your kiddos to get out of school, I hope that by practicing self-care activities like these you’ll feel refreshed and recharged, and ready to power through the rest of your (likely) crazy afternoon.

P.S. For more tips like these, subscribe to my email community to be notified when a new blog post goes live and to receive my monthly email of motivation and encouragement “The Calm Download.” You can also follow me on Instagram for more tips on managing stress, planning, and self-care.

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