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.
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.
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.**