One afternoon recently, I was reading to my son and feeling more than a little tired. My eyelids were getting heavy. It was difficult to concentrate on the story, even though I’d read it at least 25 times before. Suddenly, my son leaned over, looked at me intently and asked “why do you have that sleepy voice, mum?”.
I’m afraid that sleepy voice has been around quite a bit of late!
Sleep deprivation is a common motherhood challenge. It’s one of those things we’re all warned about but we don’t always realise it can last well beyond the newborn phase.
Did anyone tell you that it can last for YEARS?
When we’re not getting enough rest, our ability to focus, remember things and make decisions is compromised. Our willpower isn’t as strong. We’re less tolerant, more stressed, more emotional and reactive, less optimistic and more anxious. We may be clumsier. Being exhausted can also make you feel hungrier!
When you’re sleep deprived on a regular basis you may not even realise the extent of the effect, because at some level, you get used to operating this way.
Why don’t we just sleep more?
Most mums out there would love to sleep more but there are many reasons we don’t. Children who wake or feed throughout the night, illness, worry and anxiety are common reasons mums don’t get enough sleep.
I personally find it hard to go to bed early because those precious few hours at night are my opportunity to do the things I need and want to do, without interruption or someone wanting to “help”. When I’m working, I want to get as much done as possible. When I’m relaxing, it’s hard to call an end to it. When I’m doing chores and other things that need doing, well, there’s just always something more to do!
If you’re like me, your child is your alarm clock. This means you usually get woken abruptly and not at the right point in your sleep cycle to wake easily (I do realise I could get up earlier). Or you might get up super early so you can get a head start on your day before your children wake up.
I used to nap while my son napped when I was really tired (sometimes involuntarily). But now that naps are a distant memory, I just have to keep on going, no matter how I’m feeling.
How to get more energy – 15 ideas
So, what do you do if, right now in your life, you can’t seem to get enough sleep on a regular basis?
How do you find the energy to get through each day?
How do you stop yourself falling asleep on the floor while your children are playing?
If you’re looking for some ideas, then here are 15 ways to get more energy to make it through the day:
1. Find natural light
Bright sunshine reduces your levels of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin, and provides vitamin D, which helps you keep your energy levels up. In the morning, sunlight (even on a cloudy day) helps your brain know it’s time to start the day. Turn your face to the sun to soak it in. Being in nature and breathing in fresh air also reduces your stress levels and helps you be more mentally alert.
2. Drink caffeine in moderation
Caffeine helps us feel more awake because it temporarily interferes with the chemical signals of sleepiness. 1 or 2 cups of coffee can really help you get through the day but most experts agree that you should avoid drinking too much more (some say it doesn’t really help after the first 2 cups anyway) and also stop consuming coffee at least 4 hours before bedtime.
If you’re avoiding coffee or just don’t like it, even smelling coffee can have an energising effect. Alternatively, drink black or green tea for an energy boost.
There are also some herbal teas that give you energy without the caffeine; ginseng, ginger, rosehip or gingko biloba.
3. Eat breakfast
To start your day with as much energy as possible, don’t skip breakfast and eat it within and hour of waking.
Aim for a meal that includes nutrient-dense carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats that for sustained energy. Consider including things like eggs, plain Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese, oats, avocado, nuts and seeds (including pure nut butters), whole fruit and vegetables, smoothies (with protein powder if you like) and olive oil.
Dehydration causes feelings of fatigue, so you’ll feel even more tired. Drink more than you think you need. Start the day with a glass of water, carry a water bottle with you, and have water positioned around the house as a reminder, where you can grab it easily as you go about your day. Also, remember that when you’re exhausted, you may feel more hungry, but thirst can easily be misinterpreted as hunger, so try drinking some water first.
5. Have a cool shower
If you have the opportunity to shower, make the last 30 seconds of your shower cool. This will help you be more alert and get your blood flowing. Personally I think this sounds awful (I hate being cold) but if you’re brave, then do it! If you’re short on time, splashing cold water on your face can give you a quick boost.
I know that when you’re exhausted you often don’t feel like exercising or even putting one foot in front of the other. But studies have shown that even light to moderate exercise can help you feel and think better. The more you move, the better your circulation will be and the more energy you will have.
So, try some stretches, walk up and down your stairs, wrestle or play an active game with the kids, do some simple yoga, or go for a brisk walk outside. Just a 10 min walk can increase your energy for up to 2 hours.
There’s an added bonus here – exercise will also improve your sleep! (Your exercise won’t stop your children from waking though! Sorry!)
Many of us take shallow breaths, especially when we are stressed or tense. This restricts the amount of oxygen that enters our body and makes us feel tired. Breathing exercises help you consciously deepen your breathing, so that your body gets more oxygen and your circulation is improved, leading to more energy. Breathing exercises also help you feel calmer and more focused.
I recently shared 6 breathing exercises that I use myself. You can find them here.
In addition, you might like to try the Breath of Fire exercise, which is practiced in . This exercises requires you to breathe rapidly and continuously, with equal inhales and exhales and no pause between them. It is very effective at providing a natural energy boost and can be used throughout your day. If you’d like to learn more, check out this tutorial. (Note: variations to this technique are recommended if you are pregnant or menstruating. See the beginning of the tutorial for details).
8. Use essential oils
This is one of my favourite energy and mood boosting strategies. When I’m feeling like I can’t keep my eyes open, I diffuse or wear a combination of peppermint and citrus essential oils. Lemon, orange, tangerine, lime or grapefruit are all great options!
9. Eat regularly and eat well
Breakfast is a good start to the day, but you’ll need to keep refuelling to keep your energy up through the entire day.
The important thing here is to keep your blood sugar balanced so your energy is constant. To do this:
- Eat small amounts every 3-4 hours.
- Avoid sugary processed foods and drinks (even though they may give you an initial burst of energy, you’ll crash later).
- Avoid over-eating at meals so you don’t feel like a siesta afterwards.
- Eat nutrient dense carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats.
Have healthy snacks on hand or pre-prepared so that you don’t have to think too much. Whole fruit, vegetables, whole grain bread, cheese, hommous, nut butters, plain Greek yoghurt, nuts, seeds, guacamole, boiled eggs and edamame are all great options.
10. Listen to music
We all have songs that make us want to get up and dance. Or at least tap your foot along to the beat. Find that song that makes you feel energised and happy and have it on standby for a quick energy boost.
Laughing stimulates circulation and produces endorphins that give you more energy and also help you feel less stressed. When you’re low on energy, do something that makes you laugh – play a funny game with the kids, read, watch or listen to something funny, or even just replay the memory of something funny that has happened in the past. If you’ve got a friend or family member that makes you laugh, then they could be a great person to spend time with or call when you’re feeling particularly tired.
12. Reduce your to-do list
Feeling stressed demands a lot of energy. Reduce feelings of overwhelm and reclaim some precious energy by focusing on just 1 thing you need to do. Allow yourself to feel accomplished when you get it done. Then, do another if you can! If you are really exhausted, put your to–do list to the side and just focus on getting yourself and your little ones through the day.
13. Accept your lack of sleep
I have a rule that I don’t look at the clock once I start to get ready for bed (sometimes even earlier). The more you focus on how much sleep you didn’t get, the more anxious you can feel about it. Since we tend to be more negative when we’re exhausted, we’re more likely to ruminate on our lack of sleep, making us feel even more tired and negative.
So, don’t keep track of how many hours you’ve slept (or not slept). Instead, accept that you’re in a season where your sleep is going to be interrupted and do what it takes to keep on going and look after yourself. As is the case with many things, once you accept your lack of sleep, it often becomes easier to deal with.
14. Spend time with people you love
For those of us who have a preference for extraversion and therefore feel energised by the people around us, this is a great strategy. Just spending time with people, especially those whose company you enjoy most, will give you a burst of energy. If being around others drains your energy, this may not be your best strategy, however, if you have your children with you, having some help to occupy and look after them may help your energy levels anyway.
15. Straighten up!
If you change your physical state you can change your mental state. This is why I try not to lie down in the afternoons. I don’t want to fall asleep! Slouching can also make you feel more tired. Instead, stand and sit straight, with your shoulders back and head directly over shoulders (not forward), to help you feel more alert.
Important: If you are constantly experiencing extreme fatigue, you may need to consult a doctor to see if you are lacking in any nutrients or have another underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
That’s it lovely! 15 ideas about how to get more energy to make it through the day. Of course, if you have the opportunity to get more sleep, then do it!
Which energy boosting strategies will you try this week?
I’d also love to hear if you have any other strategies that you use to get you though the day! Leave a comment and tell me what they are.