By ‘chronically knackered parents’ I actually mean all parents…We love our darling children but they don’t half suck the energy out of us….
If you’re anything like me, you’ll know the conundrum. After a full on day, the kids’ bedtime is looming and you have a choice. You’re undoubtedly exhausted but do you stay awake to have some well needed ‘me’ time or do you give in and head off to bed to give yourself the rest you crave?
My energy levels (or lack of them) also impact my motivation. When I wake up in the morning I’m full of motivation and ideas of things I’m going to do when I put the kids to bed. Be it going for a run or swim, read a book, bake some cupcakes, write or even just watch a movie, I feel energised enough in the morning to plan all that I want to do with my precious evening alone time.
As they day goes on, I can feel that energy and motivation slowly being ebbed away by the demands of the day. Frantically trying to get my daughter to school on time, looking after a very energetic toddler, working during his nap, rushing to collect my daughter and then the dinner bath and bed routine leave me feeling shattered (not to mention the fact that the toddler still wakes up at least once a night). I know that you know some variation of this routine. By the time I get them into bed, all I want to do is flump on the sofa and stare mindlessly at the TV; my motivation for ‘me time’ having long since left the building.
Caring for children is exhausting whether you have a new-born and are feeding round the clock or running around after a busy toddler. Having been a mother for almost eight years now, the lack of a proper night’s sleep is really starting to wear me down. You know what I mean – gone is the heady, thick sleep of my pre-child years and in its place a restless kind of sleep where I am stirred by as little as cough from the other room or my seven year old tiptoeing down the hallway.
I decided recently that enough is enough. I may not be able to control how much sleep I’m getting but there must be things I can do to increase my energy throughout the day. I started to research what I could control to increase and boost my energy levels. This largely involves changing my diet and lifestyle.
Here is what I found when I looked into how to increase my energy levels:
1. Increase Magnesium Intake
I had no idea what magnesium does diet-wise, but it turns out lack of magnesium in your diet can adversely affect your energy levels. Magnesium helps to break down glucose into energy and can be found in nuts, wholegrains (especially bran cereal), green leafy vegetables (like spinach), fish and tofu. Definitely worth bearing this in mind.
2. Increase Iron Rich Foods
Iron, like magnesium, is needed by the body to produce energy from glucose. As a veggie, this is quite tricky for me as iron is plentiful in lean red meat, chicken and fish. So if you’re not vegetarian, eat lots of those! Iron is also present in eggs, wholegrains, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds (similar types of foods that contain magnesium).
For busy and exhausted parents, finding the time to exercise is tough and may be the last thing you feel like doing (it certainly feels like that for me). Apparently, instead of making you even more exhausted, moving about and getting your heart rate up will make you feel happier and more energised. I know this to be true.
For me, gone are the days where I could go to the gym for hours or have a lengthy swim. However, I do try to walk every day because even a brisk ten minute jaunt along the high street makes me feel better. I’ve also started exercising at home with workout DVDs which only last fifteen or twenty minutes (I like Davina or Jillian Michaels but there are plenty out there).
4. Have a Power Nap
Hmmm, I’m going to brush past this one although all credit to you if you can! No one needs to tell parents what the benefits of sleep are…
5. Boost Vitamin B Intake
Again, this was new to me. Apparently B vitamins play an important role in fuelling the body too. Similar foods to above are required for this: wholegrain cereals, eggs, milk, green leafy vegetables, meat, poultry, salmon and eggs. I have a feeling I’m going to be eating a lot of spinach!
6. Eat Breakfast
We all know this is the most important meal of the day, yet sometimes it gets lost in the chaotic pandemonium of getting ready for work or school. I’ve never been a big breakfast eater even though I know ‘breaking the fast’ with some fuel for my body will give me more energy. This is something that I clearly need to change.
Can you eat spinach for breakfast?
Interesting. I’d never heard of this before. Apparently, it’s a freshwater algae which is rich in vitamins B, C and D and also contains a hefty dose of magnesium, iron and zinc. Could this be the answer to my energy based problems? It’s worth a try and apparently you can buy it in tablet or powder form. This is worth investigating for sure.
8. Drink More Water
Dehydration can also lead to fatigue and lethargy. A nice glass of water can work wonders if you’re tired and cranky. Though my peanut sized bladder may protest, I’m going to make an effort to drink more of it.
9. Cut Down On Alcohol And Caffeine
After a caffeine fuelled day, wine o’clock arrives just on time once the kids are in bed. I don’t drink every night but I definitely notice that the quality of my sleep is even poorer than usual after a few glasses of the golden nectar.
Too much caffeine is also not good because it stimulates the productions of stress hormones. So once the temporary boost in energy is gone, anxiety, irritability and fatigue are left in its place. I know, I know – I love a cup of coffee as much as the next person so I’m just throwing this out there.
10. Eat Complex Carbs
Think wholegrain bread and pasta and brown rice. Also museli, quinoa and root vegetables (beetroot, sweet potato and pumpkin for example). Complex carbs help to keep energy levels and blood sugar stable.
For us parents, the primary source of our exhaustion is our beloved children. However, if there is something you can do to increase energy levels then it’s worth a shot. I’m going to try out all of the tips above and hope they work for me – I hope they might work for you too!