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11 Instant Energy Boosters
Easy ways to work some much needed rest and relaxation into your hectic life
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By the time you hear your child's early-morning stirrings, you've probably already worked out for 90 minutes, meditated for 30, and enjoyed a healthy, balanced breakfast, which of course included a low-fat pomegranate smoothie. Why, there's nothing left to do besides jog happily over to your beloved offspring's room, sweep him out of bed, and shower him with all the joyous light, wonder, and oneness you're feeling with the universe.
Stop laughing. Why are you laughing? Oh, so this sounds a tad unrealistic to you? Yeah, okay, it is. But, wow, imagine having even a fraction of this energy. It would sure beat being woken by a frantic first-grader five minutes before you need to be at the bus stop.
Happily, there is a lot you can do to boost your stamina, aside from the basics we all strive for: to eat well, sleep eight to nine hours a night, and exercise regularly. These tips can't replace those basics, but especially on the days when you have no choice but to compromise on one or all three, they can keep your behind from dragging on the pavement.
Don't Skip Breakfast Or any other meal. "Skipping meals literally starves the body -- it's like running the car on empty," says Marlene Merritt, a nutritionist, practitioner of Eastern medicine, and founder of the Merritt Wellness Center in Austin. "Forty percent of your blood sugar is used for brain function, so if you're not eating enough, you can't think clearly, never mind doing anything else."
Besides, waiting long stretches between meals means your blood sugar stays low for too long, says Merritt. That fires up your adrenal glands, which start pumping out a hormone called cortisol to bring it back up. When those glands are overworked, you feel fatigued and crave sugar and coffee, which leads to even more ups and downs. The remedy: Eat a little something every three hours.
Lock Yourself In Your Car Yeah, you may get a few "there goes that crazy mom" stares in the school parking lot, but who cares? Think of the energy. "Most moms don't get five uninterrupted minutes," says Merritt. "Turn off your phone -- off as in really off, not on vibrate, which you can still hear -- sit in the car, and take ten deep breaths, focusing on the emblem on the steering wheel." This is meditation, which only means focusing on something other than your own thoughts. "If it feels good, do another ten," she says. If the police come and try to tow your car, put your key in the ignition and head home. Luckily, there's no law against driving while relaxed and energized.
Reward Yourself "When I have things I don't want to do, I think of how much less pressure I'll have once it's over. And I make a deal with myself that if I suck it up, I can have a manicure later, go shopping, or see a movie with a pal," says Mandi Abdell, a West Palm Beach, FL, mom of six.
Aim Low Take your standards down a notch. Of course, no one's suggesting you compromise on health or welfare, but almost everything else is fair game. "Survival is the number one goal, followed closely by some kind of basic hygiene," says Alice Domar, Ph.D., a mind-body specialist and author of Be Happy Without Being Perfect. Many moms, she says, typically set unrealistic goals, like having a sparkling kitchen or a flawlessly turned-out kid. Perfectionism is an energy suck -- so's the guilt you feel when you fall short. Manage your expectations in the first place and you'll have reserves when you need it, like when your child accidentally upends a jar of Indian beads.
Hang Out With Your Homegirls Although spending time with friends seems like a luxury, the stress you'll relieve in doing that will restore untold energy. What's more, it's fun, and you deserve it. "It's widely accepted that friendships contribute even more than family relationships to positive feelings and, as a result, psychological well-being," says Rebecca Adams, Ph.D., a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Make some time to get together, or if you can't, just call! Either way, you'll get a bigger charge than from texting or e-mailing.
Pack Away More Protein Many women don't get enough, says Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., a certified nutritionist who wrote The 150 Most Effective Ways to Boost Your Energy. Protein staves off fatigue by helping to stabilize your blood sugar and keeps you alert by stimulating the neurotransmitter dopamine. It elevates your metabolic rate during the day, too, so your energy stays up. Too little protein, especially combined with an excess of refined carbs, is a recipe for the slumps. Bowden advises scaling back your carb intake by replacing a serving or two with something protein-rich, like low-fat cheese. Another good choice: Go nuts. Knowing you've got them in your purse might make you less inclined to buy that muffin at Starbucks.
Drink a Lot Of Water, anyway. If you're dehydrated, "your cells can't function their best, and everything gets slowed down," Bowden says. Coffee is fine, as long as you don't go crazy with it. One cup a day in the morning, and maybe an iced tea in the afternoon, won't interfere with your ability to hit the sack at night. Or better still, make caffeine work for you by sipping small amounts throughout the day -- one recent study showed that doing this may optimize its ability to keep you alert, without interfering with your body's natural sleep/wake cycle.
Buy Bins Getting some simple containers, smacking labels on them ("Hats and Gloves"), and tossing stuff in can give you a surprising boost. Simply being in a calmer environment saves you mental energy, says Lisa Zaslow, founder of Gotham Organizers, in New York City. "If you're looking at a pile of things strewn around the house, your eyes are taking in that visual stimulation and your brain is processing it all," she says. Put those scattered items into a single bin and what happens? "Your eyes just take it in as one unit," she notes. "There's less for your brain to focus on." Cubbyholes and low-hanging hooks can encourage your kids to do some of the cleaning, which is a definite energy saver (for you, anyway).
Try a One-Minute Exercise We asked Tanya Becker, cofounder of Physique 57, in New York City, to share one from her just-out 30-Minute Full-Body Workout DVD. Short and intense, this power plie with alternating heel raises will give you an adrenaline rush: Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart and toes slightly turned out. Lower your seat toward knee level, keeping your hands on your hips. Lift your right heel off the floor (imagine you're wearing stilettos) and lower it, then lift and lower your left heel. As you alternate heels, add in a pulse by bending your knees a few inches up and down. Keep your spine straight. Repeat 30 times, or until your thigh muscles are feeling shaky.
Let Dad Do It "wrong" Your husband volunteers to take the kids to the playground so you can sleep in, the lovebug. Next thing you know, you're "just checking" that he isn't letting your 3-year-old con him into wearing her tutu outdoors. One word for you: Chillax. "He doesn't have to parent the way that you do," says Domar. Besides, if you spend all your time fretting, "you're not napping or reading a book, which would help your energy," says Domar. Instead of recharging, you're alert and aware -- and probably a little peeved.
Show Your Lobes Some Love According to Chinese medicine, when you stimulate your ears, it's a wake-up call for your other organs, too. So give your whole ear a gentle rubdown. This is also supposed to redirect your energy upward to your head, which is a good way to perk up because "fatigue often makes you feel like all your energy is dragging downward," says Merritt. While you're at it, grab a handful of hair and gently pull your scalp, then release. Repeat with a different handful until you've done your whole head. This should take two minutes, and will stimulate blood flow, giving you a lift.