If Victoria Beckham Can Do It, So Can You
How to manage your energy and get some zest back in your life, by Tracy Gunn from Mumager.
Victoria Beckham and I have something in common. I’ll bet you do too. Whilst I wish it was her shoe or handbag collection – it’s not. Rather, it’s our experience as a working mum. Mrs. Beckham summed it up perfectly when she shared “I’ve a lot on my plate. I’m not going to lie about it, I’m tired... I’m basically just like any woman who is working and has children – it’s tough”.
Research by Top Santé magazine also reveals that women in their thirties feel exhausted by the demands of a career, motherhood and running a home with many admitting to feeling stressed, missing sleep and skipping meals. About 85% of those polled said they “frequently feel tired” and 75% were “lucky if they get six hours” of sleep a night. A lot of the mums that we work with at Mumager agree. They say that by the time they’ve done everything they need to do in a day they just want to flop on the couch – with little or no energy left to do anything for themselves or their partner.
Whilst it’s good to know you’re not alone on the flagging energy front, it doesn’t really help when you have an important meeting to attend or if you’re struggling to muster the energy or enthusiasm to play at pirates or princesses after a long day in the office.
There are so many things that are just part and parcel of being a working parent. Most parents say that they try to squeeze every last minute of the day so that they can leave work on time, or manage their workload on reduced hours. Then there’s the guilt factor – wanting to make up for time away from our little ones by filling our weekends with activities and fun things to do. And doing all of those things requires energy.
After I had my second little boy, I realized that I was tired of feeling tired. When I looked objectively at what I could do, I realized that there were some things I couldn't control – like the fact that my boys are early birds and love to get up at 6am, and no amount of interventions or banana-at-bed-time tips was going to change that. Or that my clients expect me to be on top of my game regardless of the fact I may only have had a few hours of broken sleep due to a poorly toddler. So instead, I focused on what I could change and the results were rather surprising. I found I could control more than I thought, and whilst none of the things I did are going to blow your mind or go viral as the latest life-hack – they work.
So if you’d like to manage your energy and get some zest back in your life – here’s what you can try:
Z – Zzzzds - Sleep
This is the most obvious and one of the most effective solutions. When I realized that getting up at 6am was my new reality, working backwards I accepted that I was going to have to go to bed earlier if I stood any chance of clocking up a reasonable amount of sleep. Okay so going to bed at 10pm isn’t rock and roll – but I can live with that! Also, when the going gets tough, my husband and I take turns of sleeping in the spare room so at least every other night we get some decent sleep.
E – Eating
It’s amazing how much thought and preparation we put into planning our little ones meals – whipping up a storm of blitzing, pureeing and freezing wholesome goodness into teeny tiny ice cube trays. Yet when it comes to looking after ourselves we often get by on grabbing the first thing that comes to hand. Let’s face it, when you’re dog-tired it’s so easy to reach for a coffee and comforting cheese toasty (my guilty vice). But taking the time to fuel our lean mean mothering machine is vital; otherwise we’re going to be running on empty.
When we eat lots of foods that are high in sugar and caffeine the short-lived energy boost we get is quickly followed by a slump, leaving us feeling more tired than before. I overhauled what I was eating – cutting down on bread and ‘treats’ like biscuits – and began eating more energy-packed food like, oatcakes, chicken, eggs, soups and nuts. I couldn’t believe the difference in my energy. I try to keep a small packet of oatcakes and nuts in my bag for when I’m having to eat on the go.
And finally water. When we’re even just a little bit dehydrated our concentration suffers, and so does our energy. Despite the fact that we all know this, a lot of us find it hard to drink enough water. One mum we worked with admitted she deliberately didn’t drink a lot of water as she was so full-on at work that she didn’t have time to keep running to the bathroom to pee! Assuming we can make time for bathroom-breaks, I find that filling a large bottle at the start of the day helps motivate me to finish it by home-time. Or, if on some days having a glass of the clear stuff feels like hard work, chug down a glass whilst you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or the coffee to brew.
S – Slow down
Most mums I know live by the clock. Knowing to the minute exactly when they have to leave the house to win the traffic war, or precisely the absolute latest they can leave the office without being late for crèche pick up. Most of us are so practiced at wringing the value out of every second that I think we find it hard to let go and slow down. When you ask kids what they want most from their mum and dad - it’s time. Not activities or outings or stuff. Just you. Whilst the thought of slowing down is terrifying and un-realistic for many (when will we get all our stuff done?!), finding some down-time where you can just ‘be’ is a life-saver. For you it may be at bath and bed-time – a time when you can just be present and in the moment, or a Saturday morning where you all stay in your PJs until noon. If you need a bit of help with this - an app that we love at Mumager is called Buddhify. You can pick a meditation to suit you – in as little time as 5 minutes you can slow down and re-charge your batteries.
T – Time for you
As a mum you may feel like your needs are at the bottom of a big long list. Chances are you rate the need to do laundry higher than having some time to yourself. When you’re a working mum there is often that feeling that we have to spend every minute making up for the time we’ve been away from our children – so things like meeting a friend for lunch, or going for a swim and steam-room feel indulgent and selfish.
But much like the way we’re told by the air steward to fit our own oxygen mask first in case of an emergency – taking some time to recharge our batteries isn’t selfish – it’s essential. Whether is a Saturday morning swim or a monthly book-club having something that is just for you can help you feel re-energized. Mums who are great at doing this say that having a set day and time helps them stick to it. Those who involve a friend also say that they don’t want to let their friend down, so they’re less likely to cancel and get stuck into the laundry!
So there it is. Four simple things we can do to have more energy and ZEST in our lives. The challenge is that it’s usually when we’re at our lowest energy ebb that we feel least like making good choices – so we work harder, stay up later, go faster and eat rubbish. But you deserve to feel at your absolute best. Taking the time to create healthy habits will benefit not only you but your family (and work) too.
Try making just one small change to get some more ZEST in your life – after all – you’re worth it.