September 21, 2016

8 Ways to Fight Mom Exhaustion (Other Than Actually Getting More Sleep)


The birth of my nephew--the second child of my brother and sister-in-law--took some time to happen, when it came down to it. 

I talked to my brother shortly after the eventual arrival of his son, and new-dad-second-time-around commented that he and my SIL had racked up some sleep debt waiting for the grand event. 

"He's just been born," my brother said, "and we're already in the hole."

"You are a parent," I told him. "You will NEVER get out of the hole."

I just love (insert dripping sarcasm) articles that advise moms to combat exhaustion by getting more sleep. People, please. We know we need sleep. We know this has to be a priority for our own good and the good of our families. We know there is no substitute for adequate rest. 

But if the care and keeping of the human race depended on moms being well-rested, we'd all have become extinct generations ago. Instead, moms rely on a few time-tested tips and tricks for powering through days in a daze of exhaustion.

Here are eight standbys that have kept me going for almost two decades. 


1. Daylight. Get yourself outside, mama, and look toward the horizon. Don't look directly at the sun, of course, but look to the light and open your eyes wide to let it in. While I do this, I like to say, in my most convincing voice, "I am well-rested and got a great night's sleep!"--in hopes of tricking my brain into coming on board with this line of thinking. 

My Dr. Mom take on this is that natural (outdoor) light travels in through your eyes and gets to work on your brain and your body's circadian rhythms...your personal internal clock. Natural light (as opposed to artificial indoor light) tells your brain and body, "It's time to be awake! Being awake is what is supposed to happen right now! Awake is how you want to be!"

2. Exercise. If you've read the little bio blurb near the top of this page, you know I am the former president of SAG (Students Against Gym) and the LAST person in the world who's going to tell you that a nice 7-mile run is better than any amount of sleep. And I know that using energy to get energy might seem like crazy-talk. But getting yourself moving really does help fight mom exhaustion better than almost anything else, and you don't have to like doing it for it to work. 

I'm not talking about training for a marathon here. I will, in fact, never be talking about training for a marathon here. (If that's your thing, God bless you. It's just not my thing. It couldn't actually be more an unthing to me.) Just move somehow. Do jumping jacks in the living room. Dance with your baby. Go outside and put one foot in front of the other and try to work up to a pace where conversation would be challenging. (Given the sleep debt that got you out there in the first place, conversation might already have been challenging, but you know what I mean.) Tell yourself you'll give it 10 minutes and then you can quit if you want to. 

If you've never gotten in the habit of regular exercise, it will probably take some fits and starts to make it something you don't have to decide about every day. Just keep on keeping on. The habit will come, and it will be worth it. Not only will you feel more alert, but expert-type people are always saying exercise is the surest cure-all for, oh, everything that ails the human race. And remember what I said: you don't have to like doing it for it to work. 

3. Hydration. Here's how I look at it: if you body is not adequately hydrated, it has to work harder to do all the stuff it needs to do. Working harder makes you feel more tired. WHICH is already a problem to begin with. If you're going to have to ask your brain and body to function on less-than-ideal quality and quantity of sleep for, um, EVER, at least water it well. If you want to flavor-up your water without drinking bits and pieces of fruit, try an infuser option like this one. Drink up, mamas. (Okay, you know what I mean.)




4. Coffee (or green tea). I took up coffee when I had my second child and gave up sleeping. In the interest of full disclosure, I do not so much drink coffee as I drink coffee-flavored creamer. For me, coffee is a caffeine delivery system. I know my sugar-free French vanilla creamer is evil, but there are worse kinds of evil, like me without my daily cup of caffeinated comfort. I do have to jump in here with this bit of scientific justification from Chris Kilham, founder of Medicine Hunter, Inc. (www.medicinehunter.com), who says about coffee that "aside from water, it's the healthiest beverage you can drink" (Real Simple magazine, June 2015). Coffee's caffeine plus its antioxidants and magnesium ups heart health, reduces the risk of various cancers and neurodegenerative disorders, and cuts your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. That's all I'm saying. If coffee doesn't work for you, green tea also offers an energy boost with benefits.

5. Peppermint oil. Prized for its powers of invigoration. I'm sure essential oil fans will chime in with options for accessing these powers, but in the meantime, here are a couple things you can pick up next time you run out to the drug store. 


6. Laughter. Being tired is stressful. Laughter reduces and releases stress. It'll come as no surprise to anyone who's read my blog before (thanks, mom!) that I recommend starting with Anita Renfroe and Tim Hawkins.

7. Deep breathing. When your breathing becomes shallow, you end up with "bad air" floating around your system. And when you are chronically exhausted (see "motherhood"), the last thing you need is more bad anything. Force yourself to fully exhale through your mouth, then breathe in slowly through your nose. Hold that breath for a few seconds, then exhale fully again. Bad air out, good air in. I'm not saying this is any kind of substitute for 8 hours of uninterrupted, REM-cycle sleep, but as with hydration, you've got to help your body out as much as you can while you're asking it to work overtime for 18 years straight.

8. Chocolate. If there's a way for me to include chocolate in a list here on Guilty Chocoholic Mama, I'm going to do it. But this is legit: caffeine plus flavonoids plus antioxidants plus mood-enhancing powers. It's your call, of course, but if I'm going to have to give up sleep, I'm going to fill in at least a few of the gaps with extra helpings of my favorite food group.

I'll leave you with this recipe for my favorite "Mama Mocha." It hits chocolate and caffeine and hydration. If I breathe deeply in between sips and drink it while I stand outside looking wide-eyed at the horizon, I just might be able to make it to my next nap.


Mama Mocha:
1 cup milk (from whatever source you prefer: cow, nut, Nigerian dwarf goat...)
sweetener to taste (I use a packet of Stevia)
about a tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
a couple teaspoons (or more) instant coffee granules (sorry, all you French-pressing coffee purists out there)
decorations (whipped cream, chocolate syrup, cinnamon, chocolate chips...if you're that sort of mom, which I am)

Get your milk piping hot. In a mug, mix the rest of the ingredients. Gradually stir in the hot milk, then whip it around with a fork to froth it a little. Decorate if/as desired. 


What are your best energizing tips, mama? 
Share them here in a comment or over on Facebook
And someday soon, may a full night's sleep be yours.  


**This post may have been shared at some of these blog bashes.**

32 comments:

  1. Haha you will never get out of the hole - skippy that! I agree with your 8! Now I realize why I was hooked on peppermint for so long - it pepped me up!

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    1. Wow, I love that peppermint endorsement, Amanda! I didn't know its perk-up powers, either until I read about it somewhere. ((I just knew it was killer with chocolate!)And I am WITH YOU, honey, in the sleep-deprivation hole. I've gotten pretty used to it down here. Just sippin' my coffee and breathin' deeply...;) Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  2. As always, this is just great. Shared the heck out of it and hoping that you didn't do like I did last night and stay up until 2am writing this post... ;)

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    1. Aw, thank you so much for your kind-as-always words and for sharing this! I was not up until 2 a.m. writing it. I was up till 11:30 p.m. working on a new online Bible study group I'm facilitating. I don't really know what I'm doing with it, so it's a lot like blogging that way! ;) But if I'm reading your comment right and you were up till 2 a.m. writing a blog post, I cannot WAIT to read it! Bless you, my sweet friend!

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  3. Smiled at #8 -- as if we even need to be reminded!! Thanks for persevering!

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    1. Hahahaha, Michele...I must stay true to my calling and my mission! ;) Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  4. Great tips, Elizabeth. I've been up since 4:30am with my 3-month-old and my toddler is about to wake up (full of energy, of course). Indeed, you never get out of the hole! It's a small price to pay for getting to be their mama. :-)
    I love chocolate and coffee, too, but I would add that it is so important to eat right. Making sure you get fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, etc. (not just eating what is handy) helps a lot.

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    1. Oh, mama...you're just so tired! But you are right on both counts in your comment: it IS a small price to pay for the privilege of mothering these energetic little people, and we do indeed need to fuel up our sleep-deprived bodies! GREAT addition to the list. It makes me glad I mainlined edamame last night while I was working at the computer. Thanks for taking time to stop by and add to this list! Here's to you getting a nap sometime...soon?!

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  5. Think I need me an extra-large Mama Mocha today!! (I'm taking three teenage girls shopping at the outlet mall...make that a super-extra-large ;)

    These are practical and helpful tips - much needed after the late nights coming home from ball games and choir performances and all other teen-related activities!! I think I need to try out that foot lotion...and I can always count on Anita Renfroe and Tim Hawkins to upgrade my mood!

    Hope your day is a good one!!

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    1. Tracey! Three teenage girls + shopping + outlet mall? You rock. But yes, better make it a super-extra-large. Meanwhile, I will pray for you while I go do #1 and #2. Happy shopping...hope it's a day filled with many moments you can turn into sweet memories. :)

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  6. Elizabeth, after reading this, I'm pretty convinced you're my long lost twin. A few things...

    1) " I do not so much drink coffee as I drink coffee-flavored creamer." <<< you couldn't have describe my coffee preferences any better! I just started drinking coffee a few weeks ago, when my daughter started preschool (I seriously underestimated the power of toddler and the monster known as getting ready for school mornings...). But seeing as I like how the coffee smells and not so much how they taste, I drown it in milk and sugar--and let it sit for a bit before drinking--juuust to make the coffee taste is safely subdued.

    2) "I just love (insert dripping sarcasm) articles that advise moms to combat exhaustion by getting more sleep. People, please. We know we need sleep" <<< my EXACT inner monologue whenever I read an article about moms getting more rest.

    THANK YOU for sharing on #shinebloghop today. Always a pleasure to read your pieces :)

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    1. Oh, Maria...my soul sister! I think I took up coffee about the time my first daughter started preschool, too. "Monster" is a good way to describe school mornings! Mostly what I'm like on them, but in other ways, too... I heartily "amen" every word you wrote about coffee. And I can hear your inner voice responding much as I do to those "duh, no kidding" articles about how moms need more rest. I'm sorry, and I truly don't mean to stereotype, but I think some of the experts who write that sort of advice must be men who get 8 hours of sleep a night. Thanks for making my day with your lovely and hilarious feedback. I just finally subscribed to your blog so I can better keep up with you...a long-overdue action, to be sure! Bless you, tired-but-wonderful mama!

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  7. Take a long, hot shower! Or if you are really lucky, a bubble bath with a good book. :)

    These aren't often realistic for me, as I'm fortunate to ever go into the bathroom by myself at any given time!

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    1. YES, Jessica! Great ideas. Or, great dreams, given the realities of time in the bathroom you are SO right about. ;) But, a mom can dream, can't she? Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  8. Chocolate was my thing and tea (being British). In fact that hasn't changed now my boys are older. Oh well. Great post. #shinebloghop

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    1. Oh my, yes, Kirsten, I do love a cup of tea, too! And I'm sure you do still need it (and chocolate) even though your boys are older because...well, the hole. ;) Thank you so much for stopping by from the #shinebloghop! :)

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  9. I've gotten so bad at the hydrate and exercise thing. I'm actually headed to my first ever Zumba class tonight in an attempt to not only get exercise but escape for the 3 needy people I live with (yes, I said it. lol). I know that I need a glass of water or juice or even milk before I have my cup of coffee in the morning but some days that is sooooo hard.

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    1. Oh, Julie, I know what you mean! The very act of getting a glass of water can seem so overwhelming when there's so much else to do, to say nothing of the monumental effort of exercise! But that Zumba class sounds like JUST the thing...not only for your benefit but also for the trickle-down benefit of those needy (so glad you said it...I've got 3 like that myself) but precious people you live with. Keep on keepin' on, mama!

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  10. Amusing AND useful tips for parenting on sleep fumes. (Did anyone else start deep breathing when they hit that paragraph?) Too sweet not to tweet.

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    1. Aw, thank you so much, Tuned In Parents! I'm actually breathing more deeply just reading your kind comment! So glad you found me so I could find you...following from now on! :)

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  11. Elizabeth, it's amazing how chocolate is the cure all for anything that ails you. :) You know, a teacher friend of mine told about how sighing is a stress reliever. The last two years of teaching I sighed quite a bit. I even had students doing it because they heard me several times through out the day. One little girl commented on how she felt better after it. All I could do was smile because first graders should not be under any stress. Thanks for sharing this great list with Thankful Thursdays.

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    1. OH. MY. GOODNESS, Lori. I am a MAJOR sigh-er, so that is JUST so interesting! I've always felt bad about it (and it is true that I relate so well to and love so dearly this verse from Isaiah 35:10 ~ "Gladness and joy will overtake them and sorrow and sighing will flee away"). But I love this new way of looking at it...maybe I don't have to entirely give up my sighing habit after all. I'll just call it deep breathing/stress relief! Thanks so much for being such a dedicated Thankful Thursdays party hostess!

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  12. Hehe, I'm so with you on the marathon training! I drink loads and loads of water these days which I find helps. :)

    Thanks so much for sharing over at #FridayFrivolity!

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    1. Oh, good, Jessica...want to train for a 0.1K with me...my mom is "doing" one this morning! ;) So glad for the water testimonial. As a matter of fact, I'd better get going on a glass right now. Thanks so much for HOSTING #FridayFrivolity! One of my faves...

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  13. Hi, thanks for sharing. I haven't tried peppermint oil to fight exhaustion but I'm curious to try!
    My toddler got up at 5AM this morning and refused to go back to sleep :-|
    So lots of cups of coffee for me today.

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    1. Oh my...you should have called me! I was up at 4:15 with Restless Brain Syndrome. ;) (A side effect of the condition known as Having Teenagers.) Coffee is on for me, too. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  14. Great post! Of course chocolate should be on the list!

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    1. Heehee...thank you, Debbie! Clearly, in spite of what I assume is epic sleep deprivation, you still have your mental faculties about you and know what the essentials are. ;) Thanks so much for taking time to stop by!

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  15. Great list! Love it (especially the chocolate and coffee parts). ;)

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    1. Thank you, Kayleigh! (Love your blog name, BTW...must check it out in a minute.) And just so you know: your favorites here are also mine. ;) Thank you for stopping by!

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  16. Girlfriend, you hit the mark yet again! Featuring you at tomorrow's Coffee and Conversation! Thank you so much for sharing your humor and truth with us and our readers :-)

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    1. Aw, thank you so much!Bless your heart! It's funny: this is the most popular post I've ever put up...not because it's necessarily the best thing I've ever written, but because moms are just so tired! Alas, we are the sisterhood of the exhausted. ;) Thank you so much for the lovely honor of being a C&C feature!

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!