Debbie Reber on How She Restores, Recharges, and Finds “Me Time” (Parent Lean-In)

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In this Parent Lean-In episode, Debbie answers a listener’s question about how she restores, recharges, and makes time for herself while balancing parenting her neurodivergent child and running Tilt Parenting. She shares her best practices and ideas for prioritizing activities and ways of processing emotions that support overall well-being and filling her emotional and energetic reserves.


About Debbie Reber

Debbie Reber, MA is a parenting activist, bestselling author, speaker, and the CEO and founder of TiLT Parenting, a resource, top-performing podcast, consultancy, and community with a focus on shifting the paradigm for parents raising and embracing neurodivergent children. A regular contributor to Psychology Today and ADDitude Magazine, and the author of more than a dozen books for children and teens, Debbie’s most recent book is Differently Wired: A Parent’s Guide to Raising an Atypical Child with Confidence and Hope.


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Episode Transcript

Hey everybody, I am recording today’s episode as a solocast and it’s a very short and simple question that I’m going to be tackling, but it’s actually a question I get asked in different forms a lot. So I thought I would tackle it for this episode. And that question is, what do I do to recharge and have me time? 

So I got this question I thought kind of self -care-ish, but also what does it actually look like in practice, the things that I do. So I’m gonna share some of my strategies with you today. And not just strategies for specific conscious maintenance, as I call it, things to do, but actually ways that I think about recharging and restoring my energy supplies and just kind of the way that I navigate that. So that’s what I’m gonna talk about today. So let’s take our quick break now. And when I come back, I’m gonna share some of my best practices with you.

Okay, so the first thing I’m just gonna say off the bat is the physical piece. So I go on a lot of walks. I don’t love honestly walking around my neighborhood anymore. I could walk for miles and miles and miles. I’m a big fan. I think of David Sedaris who, I don’t know, walks like 30 ,000 steps a day or more. I’m not quite that high, but I do like to walk. It’s a way that I process. Sometimes I walk with a podcast. Sometimes I walk with a book on tape. I don’t usually walk and listen to music. Sometimes I just go without any kind of device and just go for a walk. I tend to walk fast. I try to walk for a couple of miles, but just kind of as a way to process, especially if I’ve had a rough day, I will go out for a walk. I don’t usually walk in the mornings. I will do it kind of towards the end of the day before dinner just to kind of shake off what’s going on so I can kind of transition and get re -centered. So walking. 

I also started maybe six months ago doing restorative yoga once a week. In fact, as I record this, I am leaving for my yoga class in about an hour and it has been transformational for me just to have 90 minutes once a week where I actually focus on my breathing. I get so kind of honed in on paying attention to the breath and the movements that we’re doing in the poses that it’s really the only time that I can shut off my brain. I can’t meditate, that does not work for me, that actually turns my brain on and makes a lot of dialogue happen in my head. But yoga, that tends to really work for me, at least this class. And then I’m a runner, you guys know I’m a runner. So I have this kind of blend of different physical things that I do and that is definitely a way that I recharge and also a way that I process stuff that I need to get out of my system so that I can have some time for myself and also support myself. Okay, so that’s kind of the more expected physical, taking care of physical well-being stuff.

Another thing that I do that I think I’ve really just acknowledged is a huge part of my recharge process is to connect with people. So I am an introvert. I don’t know if that’s surprising to any of y ‘all, but I am an introvert and I really have social anxiety in group situations. But what I’m really, really good at and that feeds my soul is connecting with people who are important to me one on one. And I’m also kind of a friend collector. I’m sure I’ve talked about this before. When I find people, you know, we’ve lived all over the country and in, you know, we’ve moved around quite a bit and in every place that I’ve lived, I kind of find my people and then I hold on to them. So I collect people who really support our family and respect my kids and just kind of love on us and I hold on to those people. And so, one of the things I prioritize is reaching out and checking in. And I try to do that once a week. I’ll think of someone that I haven’t heard from in a while or that we haven’t connected, someone that I love and really feel and who I feel very supported by that relationship. And I will reach out and say, hey, just wanted to check in and see if we can find time to catch up. And that is absolutely a way that I recharge having one -on -one time, even if it’s over Zoom with someone that I respect and feel inspired by and that I can inspire in return is very recharging for me. So that’s a big thing for me.

Another thing that I do to recharge is I opt out of things. So going back to the social anxiety piece, I have always had this kind of push pull of really wanting to participate in lots of things. And then kind of over scheduling myself, or putting myself in situations where it’s actually draining. And so I guess it’s a bit of FOMO if you think about it, but I’m just thinking of this example so right now we’re living in brooklyn and we live on. This street that has a lovely Community and there are a couple block parties that happen every year, and I feel like one of my values is Community right. That’s a big value for me and to contribute, and so I love contributing to the beautification of the block when we plant things in the flower beds. I want to go out and help; it’s just part of what I like to do.

 And I don’t know a lot of people on a personal level, so it’s very stressful for me. And so we had a block party a couple of weeks ago. And we’re going through a lot of transitions and big changes right now and the stress level is very high. And the block party was happening right outside our door. And I really felt like I needed to go, like I needed to be there because we’re a part of a community and that’s how I show up. And I really wasn’t feeling it. And so I had this kind of internal battle. Of course, my husband was like, I do not want to go. Like, also very introverted and not as social as I am. And so, and he would have gone if I dragged him, but I just realized, you know what, I actually don’t have to go and it’s okay if I opt out. And it felt weird because I normally would just go because it’s what I’m supposed to do and I feel like my value of community kind of pushes me in that direction. But I opted out and it was okay. And it was actually kind of nice because I didn’t have to have that kind of, you know, looking for one person that I could talk to so I wouldn’t stand there awkwardly and feeling uncomfortable, which is what usually happens. So opting out of things, it’s a way that I recharge.

Another way that I have been recharging lately and taking care of myself is accepting help. Another thing that is uncomfortable for me, honestly, I like to do all the things by myself. I like to take charge. It’s part of the control aspect of who I am. And so I am really trying to lean into offers of help. I will give you an example. Yesterday was a rough day. I was very stressed and spent hours working on some kind of bureaucratic paperwork that really probably damaged many of my brain cells and I just could not shake it. I really, I felt like I lost like a week of my life. Anyway, Darren’s like, let’s get out for a walk. So we went for a walk together, but I just couldn’t shake this energy. So he got me out for a walk, which I accepted that help. And then he’s like, well, what do you need right now? And then he knew that I had been wanting to go to Ikea. And he said, what if instead of going home and me cooking dinner from our meal kit, what if we went to Ikea tonight and then we could have those meatballs that you like so much. And I instantly lit up. I was like, yeah, I think the meatballs would help. So I followed the feel good and I accepted help. I allowed Derin to get me out for a walk and to try to come up with something that was gonna kind of shift me out of that mood. So I don’t know how I tied accepting help with IKEA meatballs, but there you go. I think zooming out what I’m trying to say is that I’m not being as stubborn and just kind of white -knuckling it through things that are hard or trying to push past uncomfortable feelings or when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, just kind of turning that part out. I’m just kind of turning that side of me off and pretending it’s not there. I’m acknowledging, yeah, not doing great right now, could use some help. And then when people are willing to help me, I’m actually accepting their suggestions. I’m staying open -minded and I am allowing others to help me recharge.

All right, a couple other things. I’m going to just mention music. I kind of forget about the power of music and then I remember it. I’m like, my gosh, music. Why aren’t I, why aren’t I engaging with and using music all the time? I think I’m always listening to podcasts. And of course, I think I’m always listening to podcasts. Like I go through so many podcasts a day. So I’m constantly consuming content, whether it’s for learning or whether it’s for learning or distraction. But because I’m doing that, I tend to forget about music. And so I’ll give you an example. Two weekends ago, I wanted to bake something. I love to bake. So two weekends ago, my kid had a friend staying with us for the weekend and I wanted to bake something and I had to do some cleaning up. And normally I would have my AirPods and I’d be listening to a podcast, but I was like, you know what? It’s like a Sunday morning. I haven’t listened to music in a while. And so I decided to play a Spotify playlist of Eagles music. I was having a nostalgia moment. And as soon as that first song came on, it might’ve been Hotel California, I don’t remember. I turned the music up really loud and then I sang Eagle songs for probably 40 minutes at the top of my lungs, much probably to my kids’ horror. But that was so good for me. And I had that moment of like, why don’t I do this all the time? It was a release. It was a recharge. It was, now I was in my own little world. My husband was not around. I think my husband was not at home at the moment, so he didn’t have to listen to me. The cats were fine with it. So the cats were fine with it, but that’s really a powerful way for me to recharge. And I encourage you, if you know that there are songs and music that lift your spirits, proactively play them. You know, make a playlist of songs that are kind of like, make a playlist of songs that make you feel happy or make you feel optimistic or you can dance to or you can sing to. If you have that playlist already created, then you can proactively access it. Then you can access it anytime you need a recharge. So music, music, music.

Alright, two more things. One is that I bring a book with me everywhere and usually I’m reading on a Kindle, which I can actually it’s so small I can stick it in my little fanny pack that I carry around with me, but always having a book that I’m engaged in. is wonderful if I’m on the subway or I have a commute to a meeting or something’s going on. But always having a book with me is great if I’m on the subway or maybe I’m working at a coffee shop and or meeting someone and they’re running late like diving into a book feels so supportive and also kind of indulgent to just give my brain a complete break and immerse myself in another world. And I’m not talking about the many parenting books that I read for this show. I’m talking about a good novel or historic nonfiction, something like that. I’m reading the book Long Island right now, which is the sequel to the book Brooklyn. It’s written by Colm Toibin. I think I’m saying that right. Anyway, it’s such a good book. And so it’s exciting. I’m like, I have this long train ride coming up. Well, I have my book and it completely reframes the experience, recharges me and it feels again, indulgent. It feels like it’s something I’m doing just for me.

And I mentioned being at a coffee shop, that is another thing if you guys have listened to my show for a while, you know that at least once a week I like to go out to just a coffee shop or we have a pie shop on the corner. I don’t need the pie, but they make a very good latte and I’ll go there, you can have your laptop on weekdays not on weekends but on weekdays and i’ll just go and work there so if I have couple hours worth of work, maybe processing emails, I will do it there. And that helps recharge me getting out of the apartment, change of scenery, yummy latte. I feel like I’m part of something even if I’m there by myself, it’s really positive me time.

Okay, and the last thing I’m going to say before I wrap this up is I think it can be hard when we know there are things that are restorative for ourselves and that recharge us and the resistance can be really strong because we’re tired, we’re overwhelmed, we feel shredded, right? We don’t want to do anything. Inertia is a real thing. And this is something I come up against all the time. And the strategy that I have is to, if I’m noticing that I have resistance around something, but it’s something on paper, I want to do or think would be a good thing. I give myself a moment to envision myself actually doing the thing or envision myself having done the thing. So I take away thinking about what it’s going to take to get there. Or to take the action and I just imagine myself immersed in the experience – immersed in the block party, immersed in the yoga class. And I pay attention to how that feels for me. And if it feels light, right? If it feels positive, restorative and generally like a good thing, then that’s an indicator that it would be worthwhile for me to do. But if I imagine myself doing the thing and it feels a little heavy or kind of I’m getting mixed signals and I want to pay attention to that. And maybe that’s when I again give myself permission to opt out of that activity. So I try to pay attention to that. But It can be hard when you’re already kind of feeling depleted to persevere and push through to do the thing. I do this with working out a lot. I do this with running a lot. I’m definitely a person who loves to have run. But sometimes, you know, lacing up those shoes and heading out the door and then running up the five blocks to get to the park all uphill isn’t as enjoyable. So I try to imagine how I’m going to feel after I will have run. And then I let that part of my brain inform the part that is experiencing a lot of resistance. Sometimes I can push through it, sometimes I can’t, but that’s kind of my general rule of thumb.

So that’s what I do to recharge it is a mishmash. But they’re all things that I do pay attention to, including building and time for me, no matter what’s going on, because I know that if I don’t take that time, it’s going to catch up with me. And it’s very clear to everyone that I live with when I’m depleted and when I don’t have the capacity to respond the way I want to, to show up the way I want to. And, you know, when my own frustration tolerance is really low.

Also now I kind of want to know what all you guys do to restore yourself and to recharge and to build in me time so if you’re listening to this episode and you feel so inclined shoot me an email at debbie at till parenting calm and let me know. Okay, so that’s what I do to recharge and to restore and to build into me time. I hope you got some inspiration from this. Thanks for that question. Again, this is something a lot of people ask. And I think the more we can talk about this stuff and share ideas that can give other people ideas if they’re feeling like they don’t have the time or energy or resources to prioritize themselves. So as I just shared, sometimes recharging can be as simple as sending a text to a friend. It can be kind of a small lift. So I hope this has been helpful. Thanks again for that question and now I’m gonna say goodbye so I can get ready for my yoga class. Bye everybody.


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