One of the biggest things that all moms complain about is not having enough energy. I know I regularly find myself counting down the minutes until bedtime so that I can collapse into my own bed. And don’t even get me started on the afternoon slump that hits around 3 o’clock nearly every day. I wish that the energizer bunny was real and could share some of his tips, because most days I find it nearly impossible to keep going, and going, and going all the way until the end of the day. My patience starts to wear thin right around the time that I start scrambling to cook dinner, which just happens to be a whopping ten minutes after I pick up my kids. After dinner cleanup I just want to plop myself on the couch and mindlessly scroll through my Facebook and whatever other endless vacuums I can find to suck me in on my phone. I most definitely do not want to work on laundry, referee fights between the kids, or even play whatever silly game they have come up with for the evening. I just want to relax in quiet and brainless activity.
And I used to let myself relax all I want. Netflix would get turned on the moment my kids walked in the door from school/daycare and it would stay on until I got bored and declared it was bedtime. I say “I used to” like I’ve got this all figured out. I don’t. I’m not sure I ever will. But I am working really hard on this and I’ve seen some tiny improvements in the last few weeks, so I’ve decided that my tiny progress allows me to say “used to” like I know what I’m doing. We’re in this together ladies, the struggle is real.
We are trying to cut down on the nights filled with Netflix at our house. I’m trying to actually play with my kids, whatever they want to play, which lately involves bending at the waist and pushing trucks around the living room, a great workout for your bottom if I might add. I’m trying to get a little laundry done at night so baskets of clothes aren’t spilling all over our lives. But mostly, I’m trying to actually use the limited amount of time that I have with my kids each day to truly spend time with them and enjoy them, to learn about their day, to make sure they realize that they are important to me, and to show them how crazy in love with them I am. It is extremely frustrating that the most important people in my life get about 3 hours of my day. Three teeny tiny, short hours. And then the day is over. I love my job, I love the work I do and the accomplishments I achieve, but it most certainly is not without sacrifice. And I hate that it leaves my family with just 3 exhausted hours of my day. So I’m trying to make the most of it. I’m trying to ignore that it’s just three hours (and some days even less). I’m trying to forget my exhaustion and disregard my to do list and just be present with as much energy as I can muster for those most important few hours of my day.
If you struggle with this too, here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned to help me find the energy to keep going through those last few, most important hours of the day. As I said, I’m not perfect, I don’t have this all figured out, but when I really try to focus on this area of my life, these are some of the things I’ve found to help me.
1. Get enough sleep at night
Did you know that sleep deprivation is considered a form of torture by Amnesty International? If you go without food for a week, you’ll probably feel like crap, be a lot skinnier, and really hungry, but overall, you will have survived just fine. But what if you go without sleep for a week? After just a few days, you will literally lose your ability to function. We cannot survive without sleep, and we most certainly cannot thrive. If you are lacking energy, the first thing you should look at is the amount of sleep you are getting. If it is less than 7-9 hours per night, you need to get more. It really is that simple. So many people have convinced themselves that they can survive just fine on less sleep than recommended, but countless research studies have proven over and over again that 7-9 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period really is the right amount for grown adults (kids need more in case you didn’t know).
I understand that sometimes this just isn’t possible. Small children tend to wake up at all hours of the night, many nights a week. Both my five year old and two year old still wake up at least one night a week and demand my attention, sometimes most nights in a week. I can’t control everything. But I can control my urge to stay up till midnight trying to power clean the house, catch up on all my TV shows, or read a great book.
2. Drink more water
Take your weight and divide it by two. That is the minimum number of ounces of water you should be drinking each day (example 130 pounds would be 65 ounces of water per day, or a little over 8 cups). This should be water. Not soda. Not juice. Not coffee. Not energy drinks. Not even, my beloved milk and tea. I’m not saying you can’t drink any of those things, I’m just saying you shouldn’t count them in your daily water needs.
I know there is research out there that will tell you that it’s okay to count all of those non-water drinks as part of your daily water needs, but I think that is unwise. Drink your necessary ounces in water and if you’re still thirsty, go ahead and drink something else. But do not replace water with other fluids. Your body runs on water. The majority of your body is made out of water (55-65%), not soda or coffee or milk, so you should replenish it with water.
When you wake up in the morning, the very first thing you should do (after going to the restroom maybe) is drink at least 16 ounces of water or more. Your body wakes up dehydrated every single morning, so please, give your body the thing it needs the most in the morning, a long swig of crystal clear water. Re-hydrating a dehydrated body is the fastest way to find a surge in energy, staying properly hydrated is key to finding energy to last all day.
Also, if your pee is orange or bright yellow and you haven’t taken any vitamins in the last hour or so, you need to get yourself some water right away. This means you are dehydrated. If you notice that you get an afternoon slump in energy and your pee is orange, congratulations, you have an easy fix. Get thyself some water and rejoice in such an easy solution.
3. Sweat everyday
Do we all know that exercise gives energy? I’m thinking everyone “knows” this in their brain, but it’s really hard to remember this when you are feeling exhausted and can’t imagine going outside for a quick run. But it’s true, exercise is an energy inducer, not an energy sucker, especially if you are properly fueled and hydrated.
Too busy to go for a run or to carve out time for the gym? Join the club. Fortunately, life has options. Try waking up early while the kids are still sleeping and getting a workout in, or doing your workout on your work lunch hour. You could spread out your workout in 5-10 minute increments throughout the day, which is actually a great way to get small bursts of energy to last all day. I’ve also helped my 5 year old lace up her tennis shoes so she could join me on a quick jog around the block and we’ve been known to have family dance parties, family push up contests, and occasionally we all do a round of jumping jacks before dinner. Modeling health is actually really important for your kids, so don’t be afraid to let them see how important exercise is to you.
4. Don’t starve yourself
I know, you want to lose weight and the only way to lose weight is to cut calories and burn calories. It’s an easy in and out calculation. But also one that must be balanced carefully. Going back to what I said earlier about going for a week without food, not only would you be weak and hungry and skinny, but you’d be a beast to be around. Hangry is a real thing (hungry and angry if you’ve never heard of it). If you’ve deprived yourself all day, your brain is not able to work at it’s full capacity, which makes you an impatient grouch, incapable of using the rational part of your brain to deal with those you love.
If you find yourself feeling grouchy, hangry, and impatient at the end of a lean calorie day, it might be wise to add a good healthy fat snack to your plate. Contrary to old beliefs, healthy fats do not make you fat. Fake fats can and sugar most certainly can, but healthy fats are good for you. The fuel your brain uses to continue functioning is fat. If you cut out all fat from your diet, your brain will really be sluggish. And if your brain is sluggish, your emotions will be all out of whack (your emotions are controlled by your thoughts, and where do your thoughts come from? Oh right, your brain). Healthy fats include things like avocado, coconut oil, nuts and nut butters, eggs, olive oil, and fish.
5. Supplement, when needed
We all know what it feels like to be up all night with a sick child and have a full day of work scheduled the next day. And we’ve had nights where we’ve been up tossing and turning and stressing over a very important meeting or appointment the following morning, which just makes that morning appointment that much more difficult. Some days, our energy reserves are just going to be really low, and there is nothing we can do (short of taking a nap) to fix it. On those days, give yourself permission to indulge in a little energy crutch.
Anyone who knows me well, knows my secret. Nearly every single day of my life for the past fifteen years I have had at least one Spark. It is an energy and mental focus drink that works amazingly well for me. It has vitamins and amino acids to help with mental focus instead of just sugar and caffeine like many other energy drinks. There is no crash, no jitters, just nice sustained energy to help me get through my days as a busy working mom. I’m not saying to live on energy drinks, I’m just saying, when all else fails, sometimes “you gotta fake it till you make it”. Whether you choose coffee, a Spark, or that rare can of soda, give yourself permission on the hard days to just survive.