If you were to ask women to identify their biggest health concern, what would you expect most of them to say? Probably breast cancer or heart disease, or even excess weight would immediately come to mind. And yet, according to a 1998 study at Toronto’s Women’s Health Sciences Centre, women’s top health concern is far more mundane. Women–and men too –are simply too tired.
If you feel as if you’re always running just to “catch up,” try these strategies to minimize the frantic pace of your life and help you to feel invigorated.
Step 1: Plan
How many times have you come home from work at 5:30, wondered what to make for dinner, put on the spaghetti sauce, and then realized you don’t have enough pasta? Time for another dash to the store, or perhaps a phone call to order pizza.
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 for ingredients and make a list of what you need. Then buy only what you’ll use. You’ll save time by not unloading groceries you don’t need, and you’ll save money by not buying things you won’t use for months!
Step 2: Delegate
Maybe the reason you feel as if you have too much to do is simply that you do have too much to do. You feel out of control, ready to give up before you even start. It’s time to delegate.
Elizabeth Prinzen, a home-schooling 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, Bernie, about this, they realized laundry was the biggest culprit. Now three of her children do the laundry, and the house runs more smoothly.
Take an honest look at all the chores that you do–both at home and at work–and ask if somebody else can do some of those instead. Three-year-olds can dust. Though they may need help now, with practice they’ll be pros by the time they’re 5! A 9-year-old can be taught to make a simple meal such as spaghetti, and can certainly start to do laundry. A 5-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 major changes. But it is in everybody’s best interests that everybody helps, so persist!
Then take a look at work. Are you doing tasks that someone else should help you with? After the downsizing that’s occurred during the past decade, often one employee is asked to do the job of two. If you’re regularly staying past 5:30 or 6:00 just to finish up, then it may be time to speak to your employer about delegating some of your tasks to somebody else.
Step 3: Eat
Where does your energy come from? Children know. 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 often your eating habits rob you of energy instead of providing the boost God intended.
“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 Danish 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, 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 stock your cupboards with pieces of fruit, whole-wheat crackers, bagels, rye bread, and granola. Eat in a hurry if you have to, but today, promise yourself at least to eat.
Step 4: Relax
Stephen Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, claims that many people spend their lives “putting out fires”: loved ones storm out of the house, big blowout fights occur, you have nervous breakdowns or crises with your in-laws. 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: taking time to nurture your spiritual side, and spending time with people you love.
Take some time today to do something just for you–even if it’s only for 15 to 30 minutes. Have some quiet time with God. Take a bath. Listen to a motivating tape. Do those things that will refresh your spirit so that you feed your soul to be able to handle whatever comes your way.
Step 5: Say No
Look in the mirror and repeat this 10 times: “No. No. No. 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 that they won’t be mad at you? Do you let your children be involved in all kinds of hobbies and lessons, even though it leaves you with a crazy driving 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 what you think is 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 you add up all the extra expenses of working (such as child care, extra 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!
Step 6: Sleep
Before electricity, pioneers tended to sleep 10 hours a night. In today’s 24/7 society, you can watch Jay Leno at midnight and buy groceries at 3:00 a.m. And what happens? You get sick more often, fall asleep driving, and are accident-prone.
Some people feel proud of a deluded 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 says she can’t do while the children are awake. Yet according to Dr. James Maas, author of Power Sleep, if you’re getting less than eight hours of sleep you’re likely sleep-deprived and you’ll have less energy.
So what’s the answer? Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, and sleep for at least eight hours. This gives your body the rest it needs and 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!
Step 7: Expand
One of the reasons you often feel so tired is that 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 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 make sure that you are always learning. When your mind is occupied with something new that you find fun, you have something to look forward to. 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. See how high you will soar!
Now you have seven strategies to boost your energy and enthusiasm. Don’t be content just to try each one once. Changes won’t necessarily happen overnight. But if you make these things a priority, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much less stress you’ll experience, and how much more energy you’ll have to embrace the life you’ve been given!