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We all know about the importance of play for the emotional growth and development of children. It can enhance their imagination, increase social skills and boost self-confidence. So why don't we place more value on play for ourselves? According to a recent study by the Families and Work Institute, ½ of American women don’t have enough time to spend on themselves and the activities they enjoy.

Early on, girls tend to be collaborative, communicative and caring – you can see it when they play house and mother their dolls. And these traits become even more entrenched as the years go by. We often put the needs of family before our own and are kept busy nurturing our aging parents and growing kids. Of course, you can’t abandon the never ending to-do lists around family and domestic duties.

 But don’t you think you also deserve to identify your other, more personal priorities?

We could take a lesson from the opposite sex, many of whom find time to let off steam with a pick-up basketball game or a weekly poker night. And there's plenty of expert advice to back up the importance of that. According to the founder of the National Institute for Play, Dr. Stuart Brown, recreational activities are much more than just fun. Fundamental to a healthy adulthood, play increases our capacity for creativity, problem solving, adapting to new situations, learning and even happiness.

The time frazzled woman has become a common archetype today. With the added stress that accompanies these uncertain economic times, you may think that taking precious time away from work and family is unrealistic. But, as members of the sandwich generation, it's vital to nourish ourselves so we can be emotionally strong enough to help those who depend so much on us.

The first step toward better self-care is to recognize that some of the barriers are in your own head. And then it’s critical to shift your standards.

Let go of the idea that you can do it all. Take a lesson from the community of women who call themselves Mice at Play. Their goal is to bring fun into their lives through constructive and positive play-dates, lectures and workshops – in fact, they call it 'fun with a purpose.'

And then start your own personal play revolution. Think about your fondest memories of playing as a child. What are a few similar activities you could integrate into your life right now? How can you reconnect to your creative and playful side? And how far are you willing to go outside your comfort zone? Just imagine the potential benefits to your physical health, level of happiness and feelings of wellbeing. And who couldn't use a few extra laughs anyway?!

© Her Mentor Center, 2012

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