So in part 1, I talked about how you can start using your menstrual cycle to manage your energy over a month. You should read part 1 here first. And if you want a free energy tracker you can still email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now, I hear you saying...
That’s great for the overall look at a month, but what about the day to day?
I’m glad you asked. I want to be practical so this is the left-brain part of my article.
NO. 2 - KNOW WHAT TO PRIORITISE
There are 3 fundamental things I believe you have to get right before you can try to add something new or do something different.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP (at least 8 hours a night) When you’re well rested you’ll have more energy to do what needs to be done as well as knowing what you need to do for you. That being said, I know how hard it is to get the amount of sleep you need as a new mom.
If you’re a new parent with a newborn, don’t dismiss how tired you are. Sleep when your baby is sleeping. Get as much help as you can at home by paying for the extra help, call a family member or friend, even if it’s past your confinement. Need help figuring out how to get more rest? Email me at email@example.com anytime, I’m happy to help any way I can.
If you’re a working mom (like me), go to sleep at the same time as your baby or toddler, even if that’s at 9pm. Your body does its deep restorative work during the hours of 10pm and 4am so if you’re asleep at this time, you’ll automatically feel more rested in the morning even if you have fewer hours of sleep.
The amount of sleep you feel you need during your cycle can be different. When I’m on my period I’ll nap with my son and still need 10-12 hours of sleep at night (I’m not kidding). What I’m trying to say is to throw out what you think you know and let your body tell you what your normal is.
EAT FOOD THAT GIVES YOU ENERGY
There's so much I want to say about food and eating, but what it boils down to is this:
Understand what food feels good for YOU (and your family). Don’t follow a diet or a fad that promises to make you thin. Thin doesn’t equal healthy. It also doesn’t mean you’ll have lots of energy. If you’re curious about your relationship with food, try exploring mindful eating practices or intuitive eating. Generally speaking, all health professionals agree that eating less meat, less processed foods and sugar and eating more whole grains, fruit and leafy green vegetables is best.
Know what you’re eating that day. Meal planning is a real chore for families. Check out our volunteer contributor Zoey Siow’s article about how she cooks meals in under an hour or you can check out the Stone Soup blog - it was my go-to to learn how to meal plan and all of her recipes are 6 ingredients or less with plenty of options for substitutions.
KNOW WHAT YOU NEED TO DO EVERYDAY
When your kids are younger, you’re just fighting fires. Getting through the day, one feed, one nap at a time. Things can be a huge mess and you’re just doing what you can.
But when your kids get slightly older (my son is 3 now) you get a bit more structure back and the chance to deliberately decide where you want to spend your time. This is the first step to creating the kind of life that you want for yourself and your family.
So ask yourself:
What do you want to accomplish?
What’s important to you (your family)?
What things you simply have to get done?
Take some time to answer these questions, the answers may change over time, but that doesn’t matter. Once you have your answers, schedule those things into your week and month bearing in mind your energy cycle.
The best way to do this is to observe when you naturally do things.
For example, our cleaner always comes on Friday, so I make sure I do the laundry every Thursday so that when she comes she can fold and iron all my laundry. Then I won’t care if it piles up because I know I’m going to clear it all on Thursday. Once I know when I’m going to do it, it’s a thing off my mind.
Start with the easy things first, the stuff that just needs to get done. Then put in your non-negotiables. For example, outdoor play is super important for my son, so I make sure after I pick him up from school, we spend at least 1-2 hours outside either before or after dinner.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll see what time you have leftover. It may not be much, one evening here or an afternoon somewhere else, which brings me to No. 3.
NO. 3 - LISTEN TO HOW YOU FEEL
So now you know how your energy works over a month, you know what to prioritise, but what if it’s too many things to do and can’t be finished in a week?
What if you’ve already prioritised and you still feel angry, depressed, frustrated, exhausted, overwhelmed because of all the things on your plate?
If that’s the case I’d encourage you to get to the root of the issue. Answer these questions:
What’s making you feel exhausted?
What’s making you feel angry?
What’s making you feel resentful?
What’s making you feel frustrated?
What’s making you feel overwhelmed?
For each of the answers you write down, take a step back and examine each.
Is there something that you can eliminate entirely?
Could you hire someone to take over those tasks?
Do you have to do them at all?
Could you talk to your partner to share the responsibility?
For example; when my partner and I were still together I was always frustrated and angry about cooking our dinner.
I wouldn’t know what time he’d be coming home from work, he didn’t want to eat the same thing every night and I found out that we don’t generally like eating the same kind of meals (he’s Indian and likes meaty spicy food and I’m very English and am happy with a simple soup or salad).
I’m also not a fantastic or adventurous cook. Eventually, after months of trying to cook meals that we would all eat i.e. appropriate for baby, my cooking skill level and his taste. I realised it didn’t work for us as a family and I felt like a massive failure.
We had to talk. This was making us both unhappy. I was stressed about meal planning and frustrated that he wouldn’t try new things and he was nervous about disappointing me if he didn’t like dinner.
After talking it out with him, we realised that I had an expectation that we should all be eating the same dinner together every night. That wasn’t something he expected.
So we agreed to share a meal together 1-2 times a week and for those nights we’d eat out so I wouldn’t have to cook. For the rest of the week he’d buy and bring home his own food.
Our food bill reduced dramatically because I didn’t have to experiment anymore, I didn’t waste so much time meal planning and cooking anymore and more importantly, we actually began to enjoy our meals together.
Looking at the list of things that you wrote down, what can you do to remove that stress from your plate?
Then, I’d encourage you to find ways to replenish your energy.
If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, angry, and resentful, I’ll bet some rest and me-time is part of the cure.
As women, we’re giving all the time. To our children, home, family, husband, friends, work and helping anyway we can. But once you’ve given so much, where will you get your energy back? You can’t pour from an empty cup!
So how do you do that? Think about this, what makes you feel:
Also, think about this in terms of people you hang out with? After spending time with someone, how do you feel? Do you feel energised and happy or drained?
I know this might be quite a foreign thing so this is my list of things I do to replenish my energy:
Spend time walking barefoot outside
Spontaneous dance party to my favourite music
Taking a long shower or bathing with epsom salts
Getting a massage
Colouring or painting
Going out to dinner with friends
If you can make time to do one thing that gives you energy every day, you’ll immediately start to feel better.
To recap both articles:
Do you know where you are in your cycle?
Are you getting enough sleep at night?
Do you know what you’re going to eat tomorrow (and does it give you energy)?
Do you know what’s most important to you? And have you scheduled time for that?
Do you know what’s not important? And are you reducing or eliminating those things?
Do you know what your non-negotiables are? The things you must do to protect your energy?
If you’ve got any questions, comments, feedback or anything at all to say about this article please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more practical resources and unconventional wisdom for parents who want to do things their way, you can also join Holding Tiny Hearts, a curated monthly email for new parents by Abigail Lo.
Abigail Lo can sum up single motherhood to a toddler in one word: unexpected. She now spends her time learning how to take life as it comes, and playing as fiercely and curiously as her little one. She's ibu's Marketing Communications Coordinator and Bonda Blog Editor, and works full time as COO at Suppagood PR.