I'm deviating from my standard recipes today to share a few ideas on how to keep your energy level high all day long. When I went back to work after having my son, I absolutely could not get through the day without a nap or an unhealthy amount of caffeine! This went on for a while before I made a few simple changes to my daily routine. As Moms, we have so much needed from us, and our jobs don't quit! Whether you work full-time or stay at home with your kiddos, I think these tips are helpful to keep your energy levels steady. First...
Get Some Sleep
Have you ever heard the saying that you can't fill someone else's cup if yours is empty? Well, I think whoever first wrote that was sleep deprived and at their wits end! I know that if your nursing a newborn several times a night, you're sleep deprived. I feel for you. I've been there. But it's temporary and you WILL sleep again soon! I'm talking more to the rest of us, the phone warriors who browse Facebook later than we should, or decide they can watch just one more episode of their favorite show. So many of us are prolonging bedtime for something that could easily be done tomorrow. I can function okay on 5-6 hours of sleep a night, and for a long time I did. But I have found that if I do this for a prolonged amount of time, I suffer. I start to get sick. I catch every little bug and cold. I start to get cranky and short with people. Personally, I need 7-8 hours a night consistently to function at my best and feel good all day. I need my sleep, and science backs me up! The Sleep Foundation tells us that women need twenty more minutes of sleep every night, because they multi-task more and use more parts of their brain. And The Energy Project tells us that studies show the highest performing people get the most sleep. This feels a little bit counterproductive because an extra hour up means an extra hour of productivity, right? Not so, if you're spending the entire next day with a groggy, distracted mind! Making sleep a priority is a basic way to feel better and have better energy.
You knew I was going to say this, right? Everyone says this, but still, so many of us don't do it! For me, eating breakfast everyday has been the most important change. I used to skip breakfast and come lunchtime, I would be STARVING! I would then make some bad decisions (hello fast food) and start a vicious cycle for the day of letting my blood sugar go on a roller coaster of plummeting then spiking. Yikes! Plus, eating breakfast kick starts your metabolism for the day and reduces your risk for obesity. Anytime you get to eat more and weight less, you should do it, right? For breakfast, I typically eat oatmeal with brown sugar, which I keep both at home and in my desk at work. If I'm at home over the weekend and have time to cook, I will make some breakfast that we can grab and go each weekday morning like these Mini Egg Muffins. No matter what I eat, my breakfast is always paired with hot tea. I am a huge tea drinker, and I love Tazo Awake™ English Breakfast Tea in the morning. I typically drink two cups, one on the car while I commute, and the other when I sit down to my desk. It's a robust flavorful black tea and it packs the caffeine I need in the morning.
Plan a healthy lunch (and have backups)
My office is in a food desert, so my lunch choices are limited to fast food and diners. The key word here is plan. If you leave your lunch to chance, you risk fueling up with something will make you crash mid-afternoon! To me, lunch should be a combination of veggies, healthy grains (think whole wheat bread or tortillas, brown rice) and lots of protein. I definitely eat carbs at lunch. If I do eat out, burrito bowls are my BFF! I do start to limit carbs towards dinnertime, but I need them to get me through my afternoon!
When you can eat lunch in the office
When I forget to bring my leftovers which happens all the time (like 2-3 times a week), I have backups in our work freezer. Every month, I go to the store during the work day to buy individual frozen meals that I don't mind the taste of. Mostly Indian and Mexican dishes, but some pasta as well because it tends to freeze well. If I'm stuck without lunch, I don't order delivery, I just pop a frozen meal in the microwave and call it good!
When you have to eat out
If we're planning a lunch meeting, I try to suggest a restaurant where I know I can order a good salad with lots of protein and greens. I ALWAYS look at the menu beforehand and choose what I'll order, otherwise I can talk myself into the yummy mac and cheese, grilled cheese, cheesy soup. See a trend there? For me, looking at the menu ahead of time helps me stay away from the cheese bombs that I love so much!
Beat the mid-afternoon slump
It's so important to have a small snack mid-afternoon. Your blood sugar starts to decline. You get sleepy. And distracted. When I start to feel this happening, I take a short walk to our break room and do two things: grab a snack, and make some tea. I really had to ease into green tea. I knew about all of it's health benefits, like how it helps keep your memory and heart healthy. But, I was used to drinking black tea. At first, I would load my green tea up with honey or other sweeteners. Now, I drink it straight up and I steep it for a long time. Green tea has very light amounts of caffeine, so it's a great choice for mid-afternoon. Plus, there's just something about the ritual of having afternoon tea. It's a very simple way to add a little joy to your daily routine! For my snack, I keep nuts and dried fruit in my desk at all times. These are a great choice for a quick snack that has a long shelf life. When I have time over the weekends, I'll make something like my Peanut Butter Honey Energy Bites and bring a batch in to work for the week.
Stay active throughout the day
Working out is an important part of my life. I do cardio 3-4 times per week and I lift weights twice a week. Although I'm a huge believer in what a good workout can do to clear your mind and boost your energy, most of us neglect to move our bodies at all during the day. Like most of you, I'm sedentary the entire workday. I'm either sitting at my desk, or driving to appointments. I used to sit for hours on end without getting up to stretch. Then I read this article, "Too Much Sitting is Killing You." It seriously scared me. Now, I set a timer on my phone to go off every hour. When it goes off, I get up and walk around the office. This is the ideal time to get a snack or grab some water. Sometimes I'll make a personal call from our conference room and pace around while I do it. Literally anything to get your body moving!
I hope that these tips are helpful to keep your energy levels high and get your day! When I commit to all of these tips, I honestly feel great. When I slack on them, I start to struggle and have to make a conscious effort to start them back up.
I'd love to hear from you! How do you keep your energy levels high?