Health & Wellness, New Mom

How to Have as Much Energy as a Toddler (and then some)

Want enough energy to keep up with your toddler all day and still get your grown up shit done after bedtime?

One of the biggest complaints I hear from new moms when it comes to their health is this: They. Are. Exhausted.

Yeah, we all expected to be a little sleep deprived with a newborn in the house. But as the days drag on and your baby isn’t much of a newborn anymore, that exhaustion doesn’t seem to quit.

In fact, it gets worse.

It seeps into your bones, into every fiber of your being.

You begin to dream of a week in a hotel room, where you can sleep to your heart’s content, get room service, and a nice long shower. (And then the #momguilt sets in because of course you don’t want to escape your kids!)

And your baby is getting older, sleeping better. But you still feel like there aren’t enough pots of coffee to get through the day.

Waking up in the morning feeling like you could sleep another 8 hours sucks. Going through life as a #mombie sucks. And this level of exhaustion feeds into Post Baby Burnout, which also sucks.

So let’s fix that, shall we?

There can be several surprising reasons why you’re dragging ass every day.

Here are the most common (and what you can do about them).

Stress is Wearing You Out

When we are in the thick of birthing and raising babies, it is really easy for chronic stress to kick in. I describe Post Baby Burnout in detail here and here, but you probably already know what it is. 

Once we are chronically stressed, exhaustion easily sets in. Our bodies are constantly pumping out the hormones cortisol (which is the one that wakes us up in the mornings) and adrenaline (the one that makes our heart pump fast). Raising your heart rate, increasing your breathing, and pumping extra blood into your muscles. And all this constant biological activity uses up a lot of energy. Which in turn, makes you feel tired.

Finding a way to permanently lower your stress levels is the best answer here. But we know that can take a lot of habit and lifestyle changes. So in the meantime, you can lower your stress levels by taking a 15 minute walk outside, taking 2 minutes to deep breathe like this, or spending 5 minutes meditating.

You’re Overfed and Undernourished

We live in a society where food is abounding, but the actual nutrients in most of that food are limited. This means that unless we are intentional with what we eat, we often consume too many calories but not enough nutrients.

This combo makes us tired (and messes with our waistline). We use energy to store the extra calories, while we don’t have enough nutrients to fuel our biology. Our bodies respond by trying to adapt, which can mean lowering our overall energy output to match the nutrition that is coming in. It also further increases our stress levels! 

So how do we fix this? Begin to look at food as something you need to function well throughout the day. Look for foods that pack in as many vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients per bite as you can. When we switch to measuring food by the amount of nutrition each bit contains (rather than some other calorie measurement), we begin to give ourselves the gas we need to get through our high demand days.

Don’t fill your tank with the cheap dirty gas girl. You were built for premium.

Your Sleep Quality is Crappy

There are only so many hours in a day, and with a newborn or even a toddler around, it can be hard to get a lot of sleep. But when the few hours of shut-eye that you do get are not restorative, then it’s a double whammy for exhaustion.

Yes, the quality of your sleep matters as much as the quantity. 

Most people don’t realize they are not getting good quality sleep. We assume that if we don’t wake up or have nightmares, we’re fine. But there is plenty of evidence that shows we can have poor sleep cycles even without waking up a lot. Things like the light from our phones, the temperature of the room, and how much wine we had all can cause us to sleep poorly.

So what can you do? The simplest is to avoid any screens after sunset (or at least an hour before bed). And yes, that includes not scrolling on your phone if you have to wake up to feed the baby in the middle of the night. The light emitted by screens causes our “wake up” hormones to surge and our sleep hormones to drop off, which means you won’t get the deep sleep you need to feel rested.

You’re on a Diet

We already talked about why the quality of your food matters so much, but the quantity also has an effect on your energy levels. If you’ve been on a restrictive diet for a while, this may be the cause of your exhaustion.

When we restrict calories, our bodies think we are living in a time of famine and respond in a way to keep us alive for as long as possible. Our brain and thyroid work together to lower the energy output of our biological functions.

What’s that mean in everyday speak? Our hormones make us tired, so we expend less energy.  

And if you’ve been on a low carb diet for a while, the effect can be amplified (especially if you are still breastfeeding). 

Changing to a higher nutrient and more balanced diet will do amazing things for your energy levels in this case. And there’s an added bonus: you will often begin to lose weight again once you add better calories back in!

These are the most common reasons why my clients have been feeling more tired than they should, and some of the ways we have worked together to get them their energy back. There can be other reasons behind your exhaustion, of course, so if you want additional help figuring out what steps to take to get your energy back, let me know! I’m happy to chat with you about it.

I know that exhaustion is often a new mom badge of honor. But staying tired is preventing you from functioning at your best. So let’s say screw the badges and use the list above to get ourselves out of the tiredness cycle. Deal?

Health & Wellness, Positive Thinking, Uncategorized

The Change at the Water Cooler

Over the summer, I’ve completed several week-long online classes that deal with the inner workings of your brain. No, I’m not trying to get a neuroscience degree, but one of my core beliefs is that you have full control over how you respond to any situation that life throws at you. One of our greatest weapons against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. These classes provided insight into the science behind why these beliefs are true and helped to teach methods for changing your own inner dialogue from something that may be negative and not serving you to one that is uplifting and enables you to take actions that you want. Changing your brain helps you to make the changes in life that you want and it makes them as natural and effortless as the habits you have now.

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One course in particular focused on becoming aware of the negative thoughts (or voice) that we often have streaming through our subconscious. Becoming better at noticing this voice is the first step into being able to STOP this voice (and eventually replace it with your own cheerleader). At the end of this course, the instructor put us up to a challenge: make it 30 days with no complaining.

Yeah, I had that reaction too…

The first time the 30 Days of No Complaints challenge was proposed to me, I made it about 2 hours in before the complaining started up (“Uuuggghhh…. Whhhyyyyy is there traffic???”). I tried again and made it maybe 6 hours. Tried again and made it about 10 minutes. Yup! It was just as “impossible” as I thought.

Then at the beginning of September, the challenge came up again. This time around, I paid better attention to the instructions. If a rogue complaint crosses your mind (and they will), you haven’t failed the challenge. You are supposed to catch all these thoughts, stop, and “flip the narrative” to something that makes you feel good rather than down. So with my traffic complaint, rather than the “traffic sucks” narrative I say “Oh, there’s traffic. Well that means there’s more time for me to finish this awesome podcast!” You get the idea.

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I can’t say for sure if I made it for the full 30 days. I did put a focused effort on flipping my script throughout the month. The month was particularly challenging (it included a trip to Puerto Rico with a 3 and 1 year old the weekend between hurricane Irma and Maria, for example). I was by no means perfect with this challenge.

What does any of this have to do with a water cooler? I’m glad you asked.

Earlier this week, I was rushing out of work to get to an appointment. On the way out, I stop at the water cooler to fill up my water bottle for the drive home (hydration is important, of course). I put my water bottle under the cooler spout and… nothing. My brain does this:

“Dog Gamn people who use the last of the water and don’t change the bottle! WTF I guess I’ll DO IT AGAIN…”

::easily lifts new 5 gallon water jug onto the cooler::

“Hey, look at that! That was really easy. It’s been a while since I had to change one of these I guess, so other people clearly change them too. All this work at the gym is really paying off!”

::starts to fill water bottle::

“You know what else? Now I’ll be getting room temperature water instead of way-too-cold-so-I-have-to-mix-the-cold-and-hot-water-together water. I’m actually glad I had to change this now! Wow gratitude is cool…”

I filled my bottle and began walking out of work, with my mind suddenly on one of those random thought tangents about things that make me happy and grateful. My mood was suddenly much much better than when I was just shuffling along on autopilot after a long day.

The good mood carried over into motivation and action after work: I got some errands done, made dinner, and actually felt motivated to complete a lot of lingering To Do items after bedtime. It was awesome.

And that’s when it hit me. THIS was the point of the 30 Days of No Complaining challenge. I wasn’t perfect. I haven’t made it to a full 30 days, but I have kept practicing. And each day of practice makes this easier (your brain literally changes as you practice to make it easier). I suddenly “flipped the script” without consciously thinking about it.

And that was the entire point.

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Health & Wellness, Uncategorized

Self Care and the High Maintenance Myth

It’s been a busy month since my last post! Work at the Day-Job continues to move at a crazy pace, we took a (well deserved) family vacation, and school with IIN is in full swing. July has brought me to some high highs but also a few very low lows where I began to wonder if I could handle it all. It seemed like this month was such a delicate balancing act, where the slightest upset or deviation from the plan would spiral out of control and rather than bounce back quickly, I would find that I had wallowed in the slop for hours or days.

I’m sure that so many of you new and/or soon-to-be moms out there can relate to this. In a world of busy we end up being so over scheduled that a single problem had a domino effect, which in turn makes any little thing become a huge stressor in our lives. We end up having our lives run us, rather than running our lives. We just want the power to pause time for a minute, an hour, or even a day so that we can take a second to come up for air.

I’ve come to the realization that I actually don’t want to be running my life, I want to be enjoying my life. This goes back to the vision I have for our family: to build a life that we don’t need a vacation from. I thought about this phrase a lot while we were on our much needed vacation. I was so tightly wound up before leaving that it took me over a week to finally truly relax for the first time! (A week and 12 hours to be exact.) That realization hit me like a ton of bricks. What have I been doing to myself? To my kids and husband, if I’m THAT stressed out???

On the way home, I was determined to find a solution to the stress. Not a sit-on-top-of-a-mountain-and-meditate type of solution. Not an up-your-organization-and-hustle-to-get-more-out-of-your-time solution. Something that could be implemented today. Something that would not add an additional stressful to-do item to my already overflowing list. Something that would provide immediate and tangible results.

I’ve begun to take a two pronged approach to tame the stress: self-care and cognitive remodeling/mental positivity (which I think may actually be two sides to the same coin). I’ll leave the mental positivity/cognitive remodeling to another post and focus on the self-care aspect here.

Now often when we first read the words self-care, not very positive images come to mind. You may think of some prissy, high-maintenance person who “needs” her mani-pedi and $6 latte. You may think of someone who spends 2 hours daily doing their shower, hair, and makeup. In general, media images of self-care evoke someone who lives in a bubble: either in a penthouse on 5th avenue or in a yoga monastery. It’s construed that self care is a privilege for other people, or that it is actually a way of justifying being selfish, or that it is done by someone who isn’t real and doesn’t have “real-life” to deal with. It’s even depicted as something that only someone with privilege can have (and then enter in all of the reasons why having this privilege should make you feel like a bad person). Who wants to be high-maintenance? We should all strive to be the opposite, right.

My image of self-care is changing. It is actually the opposite of high maintenance. It is an essential thing for a healthy life, especially for us new and or soon-to-be moms. Self-care is the equivalent of putting on your oxygen mask before you help others with theirs. No one demonizes the oxygen mask, or the need for one. Self care also absolutely does NOT have to be any of the images portrayed by social media (or media in general). If baths and massages are you thing and you make the time for them, then more power to you! But self-care can be anything, at anytime, that helps you to de-stress and lower your cortisol levels: 2 minutes of deep breathing, a 5 minute walk, dancing like crazy in your car to your favorite song… anything.

But the most important thing about self-care (and I’ve found this is the way it actually begins to benefit you the most) is to be consistent in implementing it. This may sound like another thing to add to your to-do list, but here is what I’ve learned: self-care actually helps you to trim down and effectively handle that to-do list. The return on investment for a few minutes of self-care is immense.

I was in such a stressed out state that the first second that I could, I was crashing in my bed and going to sleep for the night. I thought that the 5 minutes of extra sleep were needed more than anything. Things were piling on, and I began to cut out the few self-care items I had established, like taking 3 minutes to wash my face before bed, the 30 second trip to fill my water tumbler for my nightstand, and skipping my breakfast and vitamins in the morning. Fast forward two weeks when I felt like life had completely spiraled out of control and I couldn’t figure out why. I was less patient, more irritable, and definitely more stressed. This meant more battles with my family, co-workers, and life in general. This also translated into less (and poor quality) sleep! The one thing I was trying to get more of…

This week, I got back to the basics of self-care. I learned a few tricks about how to improve sleep quality and decided to implement the two easiest items, without excuse: 5 minutes of movement/exercise each morning and sunshine exposure first thing in the morning. Even though my kids wake me before the alarm goes off every day, I can get 5 minutes of exercise in (with them even! My 3 year old has the attention span to exercise with me for 5 minutes and I can do squats or lunges while holding the baby, if needed). We can all go outside for 5 minutes of sunshine together (weather permitting). I also went back to my habit of drinking a huge tumbler of water as soon as I wake up in the morning (which is something that I found to wake me up more effectively than coffee and to start my day off on the right foot).

In the evening before bed, I decided to try a new sleep routine: refill my water tumbler for the morning, wash my face (something I find to be ultra relaxing), apply some magnesium oil spray (this one to be exact) which helps your muscles to relax, and attempt 10 minutes of meditation. The entire routine takes 16 minutes (if I wash my face slowly). So far, it’s been a week since I started both of these routines. I noticed better sleep the first night and it’s still improving! I’m also much more capable of responding to stress in my life positively, which is why I say that mental positivity and self care are really two sides of the same coin. It is hard to have one of these without the other.

Establishing new habits can be difficult, but it is definitely easier when you see some immediate results. It’s time for me to see if I can make this self-care routine become a permanent part of my life. These small things are often the first things that we let go when parenting or life get too busy. But letting them go would be like taking off your oxygen mask during a plane crash. I doesn’t make you a better person or a better mom, in fact, it hurts you more than you realize.

What are your thoughts on self-care? Leave a comment below!