7 (not-at-all new) Ways to Boost Energy When the Tank Feels Dry
**Spoiler alert: This one is for all the working parents out there. They still work if you don't have kids, but it'll be full of obnoxious stories about how difficult it is to be a parent. Like in the next sentence, for example.** One of the biggest changes that I noticed upon entering dad-hood was that I still had all of my ambition but with NONE of the energy to follow through. I went from getting a full night's sleep to taking 3 to 4 naps between 11 pm and 6 am. And the worst part is that no baby comes with a snooze button.
When they are up and ready, you had better be as well.
Early mornings and busy days led to my wife and I feeling completely depleted at the end of the day. Instead of working on projects around the house, cleaning, or personal hobbies, it was just easier to relax and throw on a movie.
But that kind of life gets old real quick. So how can you find the energy to get up with your kids, rock a full day at work, keep yourself in shape, do what needs to be done at the house, and also keep enough time for your personal interests to keep that spark that makes you interesting?
It's simple... just not easy.
Before we dive into the 7 tips on gaining and maintaining energy levels for working parents, I want to make a couple of necessary disclaimers. First, there is literally nothing new in what you are about to read. You'll find this information in literally every blog on boosting energy and productivity levels. If you thought there would be some magic recipe for success that you haven't heard of, sorry...this just ain't that. So why read on? Because these tips work when put into practice. Which brings me to disclaimer numero dos: I can't say that I always DO put these into practice all the time. I'm not perfect, but I'm certainly trying to get better. It's never a surprise, though, that when I actually follow the advice you're about to read, I feel more energetic throughout the day, get more done, and build a better relationship with my family.
1) Fuel your body the right way
There are so many new diet plans out there to look into. You have Keto, Paleo, IIFYM, Low Carb, No Carb, Mediterranean, and whatever new one was just invented while I was typing this sentence. They all have some huge advantages, and they all have some major flaws. But the best advice I ever read when it came to creating a healthy diet for myself was this:
You know what is good to put in your body and you know what isn't. So put good food in your body.
It really doesn't have to be more complicated than that. Eat fresh fruits, veggies, meats for protein, get your hands on good carbs, limit caffeine and alcohol, and drink tons of water. If something comes in a wrapper that makes a loud crinkling noise, it's probably not meant to go into your body.
Again, don't over-complicate this.
Now for the other part: Alcohol. This will vary between people. Personally, I love beer but am taking a break. As in, it's been nearly 10 months since my last sip of anything "fun." The cold, hard truth of it is that alcohol makes you more tired and disrupts your sleep. This is just a fact.
Obviously, you shouldn't be getting wasted every night anyway, but even 1-2 beers at the end of a long day can leave you dragging the next. That said, I'm not going to tell you how to handle your booze... I'm not your mother. But if alcohol is a part of your weekly (or weekendly) diet, you should at the very least stop complaining about being tired.
I'm a huge fan of supplements, but it's easy to get out of control. There are so many articles written on this topic and, if you want, you can make yourself a pseudo-expert in no time. If you're just looking for a starting point, then simply grab the basics. Go to your local drugstore and buy a multi-vitamin. I grabbed a year supply at Costco for $15. Right now I also take a separate vitamin C + D pill in the morning and just started B12. Throw in some Creatine powder (seriously, I was skeptical about this stuff at first...but it's awesome) and even consider protein powder for a midmorning or afternoon pick-me-up.
But here's the deal: supplements are meant to supplement your diet. None of these things will help you if you're filling yourself up with fast food and sugary snacks or drinks. Supplements are NOT magic pills that will solve all your problems, but they can provide your body with the extra nutrients it needs to perform its best.
3) Catching enough ZZZZZzzzzz's
People need different amounts of sleep. I need between 6-7 hours per night to feel really great. My wife, on the other hand, needs 7-9 hours per night. This is easier for her because she doesn't mind going to bed at 9:00 pm, but I'm more of a night owl. At least, I used to be. Yes, I had to adjust my schedule to an annoyingly early bedtime. For the past few months, I've been getting into bed around 8:30, reading for about an hour, and sleeping like a baby at 9:30. I know... it's early. But when I have a full day of work ahead of me and a kid who gets up hours before the sun, I'd rather catch more sleep than binge shows I don't need to watch anyhow.
So be honest with yourself: how much sleep do you need each night and is not getting that amount of sleep worth the cost? If you need 8 hours, start going to bed between 9-10. Yes, it seems boring but your body will thank you the next day. You could also be stubborn, stay up late AND wake up early with your kid, but like what we said about drinking beer... don't complain about being tired later.
Sign up for the gym.
"Oh... but I don't have time." That's silly. Everyone can find the time. You probably just don't have motivation... or more likely, you don't feel the energy. "Oh... but I don't have the money." Again, silly. Stop buying things you don't need and invest in yourself. Seriously, people rarely lack the time or the money to take 3-4 hours a week and exercise but they often lack motivation. If you really, really, really can't get and use a gym membership, here is an at-home workout for you.
There. No more excuses.
Working out both uses and creates energy which, I know, seems counter-intuitive. But it's like investing: it takes money to make money.
Now just replace money with energy and you get the idea.
5) Limit screens
This kind of goes hand in hand with getting better sleep, but replace Netflix with a good book at least 60 minutes before you go to bed. If nothing else, this will at least make you a more interesting person, but it will very likely help you get better sleep. Don't just take my word for it, check out this article from the Huffington Post on the effects of screens on your sleep cycle.
At the end of the day, your binge watching hurts your sleep. Plus, if you're anything like me, you'll tend to check your email right before bed and see a whole list of tasks that could have waited until the next morning. Throw down the phone and go get a book.
6) Get a hobby.
This is really important. If you want to be awesome and interesting, you should restart an old hobby or just get a new one. You need to find something that lights a spark in you. I hate to sound so cold and socio-pathy, but I have zero empathy for people who can't even think of one thing that they love doing. You always wanted to play the guitar? Pick it up! Wanted to learn a new language? Get Duolingo. Always thought it would be cool to learn how to make your own moonshine? That's dangerous and super illegal but also send me some from your second, pre-tested batch.
The point is that you should find something you love doing and speak with your partner about setting aside 1-3 hours per week to devote your energies to that. Holding on to the part of yourself that makes you unique is important to being fulfilled in life and will make you a more satisfied dad in the long run. So figure out what you love (or used to love) and make sure that you (and your partner) are allowing yourself to do just that. But also don't get pissed off if the 'thing you love' is strip clubs and whiskey but your partner isn't supportive of it. Be realistic and choose a hobby that both you and your partner can be on board with.
7) Power nap to power up
I am a huge fan of Teddy Roosevelt. That dude's energy levels seem to be superhuman. It's true, he was regularly thriving on a higher frequency than most people do on their best day but I am willing to bet even he needed a siesta every now and again. Churchill certainly did.
Everyone gets tired from time to time so cut yourself a break. If you've been doing everything right and you get tired, that's fine. It's life. Suffer in silence, if you can, so you don't annoy your partner to the bitter end and just know that you need to go to bed earlier or adjust whatever schedule you have been working under. This is especially true if you have kids. When you're a parent, life is unpredictable and some weeks may be full of 5:00 am wakeup calls while others will be filled with blissful periods of getting up at 7:30 and having time to make coffee before the little one starts crying. Enjoy the good, grit and bear through the bad, and you'll be fine.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, there is no new information here. But ask yourself how much of this stuff you have really tried and, if you have, for how long? My guess is that if you think you struggle with energy, you're more likely struggling with discipline. So go forth, actually try this out (for real this time), and be awesome.