Thursday, August 28, 2008

5 energy boosters for busy parents

I'm always going on and on about how much I hate it when people advise me to sleep when the baby sleeps or just go to bed earlier. But, rather than write yet another rant about it, I thought I'd do a little research and find five tips for boosting my energy and beating fatigue -- preferably tips that don't involve ridiculous amounts of caffeine, sugar, and/or anything illegal -- and share them here with you. Ready?

1.) Work in a work-out. It may seem counterintuitive (why expend energy when you feel like you have none to spare?) but a little bit of exercise can bring a big energy boost. You don't have to devote a big chunk of time to it, either; just 10 minutes can make a difference. Try taking baby steps: Park your car at the far end of the lot and power walk to the office door, stand up and stretch at your desk, or try any of these great work-out suggestions from Work It, Mom! members.

2.) Eat protein. Don't marathon runners eat a ton of carbohydrates for energy before a big run? Sure they do, but they're running, and I'm not so much running as... well, sitting here. If you're looking for mental energy and alertness, tuck into an egg at breakfast and munch on a protein-rich snack mid-afternoon. ("Protein-rich" doesn't necessarily mean "highly caloric" either; 10 almonds or a cup of low-fat cottage cheese will do the trick).

3.) Take a three-minute meditation break. A few minutes of meditation can help combat fatigue, according to Dr. Judith Orloff, psychiatrist and author of Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear. She suggests finding a quiet place and mentally focusing on an image that brings you pleasure -- your child laughing, your favorite flower, a crackling fire, whatever -- while breathing deeply (roughly 10 seconds for each inhale and exhale). Practice maintaining your focus for maximum revitalization. (For other ways to work a little meditation into your day, check out Karen Murphy's great post over at Catch Your Breath.)

4.) Try self-acupressure. According to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, students who were taught to self-administer certain acupressure treatments were more alert and less fatigued. University of Michigan Medical Center research investigator Dr. Richard E. Harris offers this trick: Press down on and rub the muscle between your thumb and your forefinger for three to five minutes; it's a well-known stimulation spot.

5.) See the light. A little natural light can go a long way to making you feel more alert and energized. You can't do anything about the fluorescent tubes above you at the office, but a small desk lamp with a full-spectrum bulb or one that mimics sunlight can help (especially if you can't get outside for a short walk).

What do you do when you need a boost? Please share your tips, caffeinated or otherwise, in the comments!

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