It’s five minutes into the first quarter with the ball on the four yard line. With your back against your own goal post, you look out over the line of scrimmage to size up your opponent. But you don’t see 11 defensive players staring you back as you prepare for the snap – you see trips to soccer practice, science projects and months of dinners to make. Your spouse’s return is the end zone, and you know every yard gained gets you closer to the day the deployment is over.

But enough with the football analogy – you’re parenting solo (again) and you’ve realized it’s going to be a challenging year.

You may have thought about wishing the year away. Tempting. But that won’t help you get through managing the household, your 9-to-5 job and your kids’ extra-curricular activities. Actually, your spouse doesn’t even have to be deployed for life’s daily grind to be difficult. Any time you have a daunting schedule that is guaranteed to stress you out, you can incorporate some “time outs” to help you and the kids truly enjoy the activity you planned for that day.

• Start the Day with a Stretch

Wake up your body with some stretches before you face another fast-paced day. You can stretch even before you get out of bed. Point your toes and raise your arms above your head. Follow up with a few deep breaths. Just a few minutes of stretching can clear the mind and reduce physical tension.

• Socialize Your Schedule

Make plans for lunch with a friend. Call your sister. Talk to co-workers. The point is to avoid getting caught up in the boredom of a certain job – you need stimulation away from that task to keep yourself refreshed. You may find you’re more productive when you allow time for enjoyment.

• Use Common Scents

Soaps and lotions with appealing aromas often evoke positive feelings. Keep a bottle of your favorite close by and use it when your spirits need a lift. The scents of lemon, peppermint and rosemary energize. Fragrances like lavender offer a calm feeling. With the kids, you can play salon and give each other manicures. Also, burning a scented candle or keeping a reed diffuser in a common area can offer a continual soothing pick-me-up.

• Curl Up with a Good Book

Spend a few minutes every day reading the novel you’ve promised yourself you will get through, or read with the kids. Whether it’s a book you can finish in one setting or a novel that will take a week to get through, reading time can offer a daily activity the kids will look forward to and foster good reading habits at the same time.

• Use Music to Set the Mood

Many songs can give a sudden burst of energy or can calm you down when you need it. Use lively music to energize yourself and your children during your morning routine or during cleaning time. Put on something classical during homework time or turn on soothing tunes at bedtime. With computers, MP3 players and car stereos, the right song can always be within arm’s reach.

• Make Mealtime Special

Preparing meals and kitchen clean up after mealtime doesn’t have to be a discouraging duty every day and night. There are many ways mealtime can be a time the family looks forward to. Ask your children to help make dinner or help plan the menu for the week with you. Eat a warm breakfast together at least once a week instead always grabbing the portable foods from the pantry. Take the kids to the park for a picnic at lunchtime. Combine mealtime with some of the other ideas – light some candles, turn on the music and socialize. Get caught up on the kids’ day and share your own. Then perform at least a quick clean up together.

• Brighten Your Day

You’ll automatically feel livelier when you’re surrounded by vibrant colors. Just as a dull atmosphere can bore you, a fun one can spark creativity. It’s easy to do this at home or at the office. Set a bouquet of flowers on the dinner table, place colorful picture frames on your desk or just throw on a colorful scarf.

• Plant Some Flowers

Whether you live in an apartment and have only a window to place an indoor plant near or have a large yard and room for lots of landscaping and vegetable garden, designate at least a few places where flowers or plants can perk up the scenery. There are so many wonderful choices in the garden department that can fill any space perfectly. You can give yourself an activity to enjoy by yourself or with your kids, and one that takes up a little of your time or can be a major investment. Maybe some of these new flowers can serve as sources of fresh clippings for that dinner table bouquet.

• Get Outside for Some Fresh Air

Now that the weather may have finally decided to stay warm, it’s a great time to go for an evening walk, weekend bike ride or even begin the exercise plan that you’ve wanted to start.

• Craft Time

There are many ideas for simple craft projects that you can get online, in magazines and at the craft store. The project doesn’t have to use expensive materials or take a huge time investment, but can be something to do with the kids or a project they can do on their own while you get some time to yourself or time to complete a project.

Now that you have some ideas to help you get started, setting aside as little as five minutes every day to as much as you can afford, there are many little things ways to recharge your batteries and make the day seem a little more meaningful.