Forget about getting ahead in life: you feel as if you’re running just to catch up! If you don’t have the energy to do what you want to do—or even the energy to do what you have to do—try these seven strategies to feel more invigorated.
How many times have you come home from work at 5:30 p.m., wondered what to make for dinner, put on the spaghetti sauce, and then realized you don’t have enough pasta? Time for a dash to the store—or a phone call to order pizza. Mealtime can be a real energy zapper, unless you’ve planned ahead. Before the week starts, take time to plan your menu to minimize the last-minute rush. Let your family members each choose one meal a week (they’re more likely to eat it, then, too!). Once you’ve finished your menu, check your cupboards, make a list of what you need, and then buy only what you need. You will save time by not buying and unloading groceries you don’t need, and you’ll save money by not buying things you don’t have plans to use.
Maybe the reason you feel like you have too much to do is simply that you do have too much to do. If you feel out of control, ready to give up before you even start, it’s time to delegate.
Elizabeth Prinzen, a homeschooling mother of eight, was recently feeling overwhelmed. She wanted to be able to give her undivided attention to the children during the day, but often the mundane got in the way. After talking to her husband about this, they realized laundry was one of the biggest culprits. Now three of her children do the laundry, and the house runs more smoothly.
Take an honest look at all the chores you do––both at home and at work––and ask if somebody else can do some of those instead. Start by thinking of ways to delegate at home. Even 4-year-olds can dust. Though they may need help now, with practice they’ll be pros by the time they’re 5! A 10-year-old can be taught to make a simple meal or do laundry. An 8-year-old can sort socks while watching TV. You may have to tie these chores to an allowance to encourage kids to help—and they may resist the responsibility—but it is best for everyone if all the family members help. So don’t give up until everyone is playing a part.
Now take a look at work. Are you doing tasks someone else should help with? After the downsizings that commonly occurred during the past decade, often one employee is asked to do the job of two. If you’re regularly staying past 5:30 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. just to finish, it may be time to speak to your employer about delegating some of your tasks to someone else.
Where does your energy come from? Children know, because we tell them all the time: “You’d better eat your breakfast, or you won’t have any energy at recess!” You get energy from food, yet bad eating habits can rob you of energy instead of providing the boost you need.
“We can’t overstress the importance of eating breakfast,” says Peter Vash, endocrinologist at the University of California (Los Angeles) Medical Center. Don’t skip breakfast, but don’t grab a doughnut or pastry because you’re in a hurry, either. Eating nothing first thing in the morning signals your body to store fat, leaving you lethargic. But eating high-fat foods increases insulin levels, also leaving you tired. Instead, eat low-fat food with some protein to help your body “rev up” for the day. The same logic applies to lunch: if you eat high-fat foods, you’ll be tired in the afternoon. So even if you’re in a hurry, eat something healthy such as fruit, whole-wheat crackers, or granola.
Stephen R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, claims that many people spend their lives “putting out fires,” dealing with the fallout of arguments, upset people, or daily drama. If these things are consuming your energy, it could be because you’re not putting your energy into the things that will prevent such crises, including nurturing your spiritual side and spending time with people you love. Take some time today to do something to refresh your spirit––even if it’s only for 15 or 30 minutes. Have some quiet time with God. Take a bath. Read from a motivational book. When you don’t feel spiritually empty, you’ll be better equipped to handle whatever comes your way.
5. Say no
Look in the mirror and repeat this 10 times: “No.” It seems deceptively easy. Yet many people have trouble saying the word.
When someone calls for a favor, do you automatically say yes so they won’t be mad at you? Do you let your children call the shots on playdates and obligations, even though it leaves you with a crazy schedule? Perhaps there are other commitments you have accepted that are wearing you out. It’s time to decide what’s really important to you and to say no to the rest. Take some time, either with your spouse or by yourself, to write down the activities
you think are reasonable and important for you and your family to be involved in. Then decide how to start eliminating commitments that don’t fit. Put everything on the table––even your job. Many people work because they think they need the money, yet when they add up all the extra expenses of working (such as child care, business clothes, and a second car), it often is hardly worth the money. Get rid of the things that bog you down. Then practice saying no. It gets easier with time.
Before electricity, pioneers tended to sleep 10 hours a night. In today’s round-the-clock society, you can watch late-night TV at midnight and buy groceries at 3:00 a.m. And what happens? You get sick more often, feel exhausted during the day, and are more accident-prone.
Some people feel proud of the ability to survive on six hours of sleep. Lisa, who has three preschool children, routinely stays up until midnight or later doing all the housework she can’t do while the children are awake. Yet according to James Maas, author of Power Sleep, if you’re getting less than eight hours of sleep you’re likely sleep-deprived and have less energy during your waking hours.
So what’s the answer? Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, and sleep for at least eight hours. This trains your body to be alert at specific times of day. It’s tempting to stay up late and sleep in when you don’t have to go to work or school the next day. Resist the temptation and give your body the rest it needs. You’ll reap the rewards.
One surprising reason you might be tired is because things are always the same. You have the same job. The children have the same routine. Your errands and chores are the same. Adding something different to the mix can give your life some excitement and leave you energized.
What have you always wanted to do but have never done? What have you always wanted to learn more about? Financial planning? Gardening? Another language? Where have you always wanted to volunteer, but never felt you had the time? Find something that’s been nagging at you, and do it. You’ve already said no to superfluous things in your life, but it is not superfluous to learn and grow. When your mind is occupied with something new and fun, it will energize you. So go to your library and check out a book. Explore community college or continuing education classes. Search for service opportunities. Try to expand your life, even if it’s only for a short time each week.
Enlarge your horizons.
Don’t be content to just read about these energy-boosting strategies or to try them just once. Change won’t happen overnight. But if you make these things a priority, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find you have more energy to embrace the life you’ve been given.
Sheila Wray Gregoire writes on health issues from Belleville, Ontario, Canada.