As a working parent, have you ever felt like your energy levels were low? (If you said no, you are officially super human.) If you feel yourself dragging and in a constant state of fatigue – perhaps even in a season of life after those 3am feedings have ended – this post is for you.
Today, I’m happy to welcome Martha Rosenstein as a guest on the Mindful Return blog. Martha is a Nurse Practitioner who focuses on helping her patients get their energy back without sacrificing the things they love. She is also a chronic fatigue survivor herself. And she’s the author of The 30-Day Energy Reset. Show us the way to more energy, Martha!
Having more energy feels unattainable for a lot of people. So if you’re wishing you had more energy, you are not alone. Close to 90% of my patients come to me with complaints of fatigue. Fatigue can be a complicated beast that feeds a vicious cycle of stress and more exhaustion. I find that most people assume they are tired because they aren’t getting enough sleep. (This is especially true for new parents.) But the truth is, there is often more to it. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do besides getting more sleep to get your energy and your mojo back!
My Top 3 Energy-Boosting Tips
1. Don’t underestimate the power of a bedtime routine.
I’m not a parent. But I work with both parents and kids in my nurse practitioner practice. And I know that everyone feels better when there are some solid routines in place. I also recognize that creating routines amidst the chaos of daily life can be a challenge.
That being said, the one routine I’d encourage you to prioritize is bedtime. A bedtime routine helps train your brain to wind down and get ready for a restful night of sleep. And it also does the same for your kiddos, no matter their ages.
I have a ton of tips for creating a bedtime routine and supercharging your sleep in my book, The 30 Day Energy Reset. But one of the best things you can do is to go to bed at the same time each night. (Again, the same thing goes for your kiddos.) Varying your bedtime and the time you get up in the morning too much has the same effect on your body as changing time zones.
Limiting caffeine in the afternoon. Using calming essential oils in the bedroom. Limiting your evening exposure to electronics. Journaling or meditating before bed. These are all thing that can help prepare your body for rest. Helping your kids brush their teeth and reading a story before bed are also great ways to help create a routine for kiddos. If you use essential oils, having older children help pick out oils and fill diffusers before bedtime is an excellent way to get them involved too.
2. Fuel your body.
Food is fuel and can have a profound impact on the way you feel. I find that many of the people who come to my practice are actually undereating. And if you aren’t eating enough, then your body doesn’t get the fuel it needs to carry out all of the basic physiologic processes that are needed to keep you alive.
But here’s the thing. Bodies are really good at compensating to keep up the appearance that everything is fine. Two of the biggest clues that everything is not fine are an inability to lose weight and feeling tired.
New routines and schedules can make getting nutritious food on the table a challenge. But that nutritious food has such a big impact on the way you feel that it’s worth finding a way to make it happen.
This might mean spending a few hours on the weekend cooking food for the week. (Yes, including some extras to put in the freezer for later.) Or perhaps making double portions of dinner each night, so you have leftovers for lunch or extras for the freezer. The key is that feeding yourself and your family plenty of good food will help to fuel your body to power through the day.
Surprisingly, I probably tell almost every patient I see to eat more. This completely blows their mind, especially when they are trying to lose weight. But in the three years I’ve been seeing patients as a nurse practitioner, I have yet to have someone come back to me and tell me that they gained weight from eating more. You DO have to be sure that you are prioritizing real, whole, unprocessed foods over packaged and processed foods. But you might be surprised at what a difference eating more of these nutrient-dense foods can do for your energy levels.
3. Mindset is everything.
While the struggle may in fact be very real, how you handle it is everything. Life is stressful. Being a parent is stressful. Having a job is stressful. While it’s virtually impossible to completely get rid of stress, it is possible to master your mindset around life and the stressors that are a part of it.
Reframing the way you view stress and the way you respond to it is one of the most helpful strategies for mastering your mindset.
Take traffic, for example. Most people find sitting in traffic to be stressful. But why? All you are doing is sitting still in your car. What is actually stressful about that? Changing the way you view and respond to stressful situations can help decrease your stress load. And the longer you can get your body out of fight or flight mode (which is what is happening when you experience stress), the more energy you will have! Yoga, meditation, and journaling can all be helpful ways to reframe the way you think and feel about stressful situations.
Another important mindset piece is picking your battles. Striving for perfection is NOT the way to go when you are a new parent or trying to master a new routine (going back to work, kids starting school, or even staying at home full-time).
Your house doesn’t need to be perfectly clean. The laundry doesn’t need to be put away all the time. And if you miss a day of exercise, the world will not end. But feeding your family nutritious food and creating a solid bedtime routine will have a profound impact on the well-being of you and your family. So instead of trying to do it all, work on mastering the things that have a direct impact on your health and wellness. Leave the other things for when you feel like you have time.
Remember that change is hard. While it might feel like you are fighting an uphill battle of fatigue and overwhelm, incorporating these simple strategies into your life can have a profound impact on the way you feel. It’s also important to remember that implementing routines takes time and practice. So don’t worry if you don’t feel like you get it right on your first try. Keep going, keep tweaking, and soon many of these things will start to feel easy.
Want more advice from Martha on everything from her 21 ways to sleep longer and deeper, to her wisdom on an energy-reset diet? Get her book, The 30-Day Energy Reset, here.
Martha Rosenstein is a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner, mostly Paleo foodie, research and science junkie, endurance athlete, and chronic fatigue survivor. A lifelong Alaskan, she practices a functional medicine approach, which takes into account how all of the systems in our bodies and all areas of our life affect our health. She believes that total wellness and long-term health is achieved by combining food, movement, and self-care practices in a way that fits you – not what works for someone else. When not helping other people live happier, healthier lives, you can find her reading articles on PubMed for fun, running, hanging out with her dogs, or planning her next adventure to far-off places.
If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.