Energy has always been a mom's top commodity, and that's never been more true than right now. Mothering during a pandemic is frankly exhausting. Hustling after little ones, juggling all the to-dos on your list, managing remote learning, balancing your needs with your family's—it all takes work, and that work is way harder when you feel depleted.
No mom can do it all. But when we focus on maintaining our energy levels, we can do what really matters to us and do it well. Here's how to maintain your energy.
1. Put your phone (and the TV remote) down
It may feel more tempting than ever to scan the news headlines every few minutes, or grab your phone for distraction when you feel anxious. And I love Netflix just as much as the next mama. But, man, can screen time be a time suck.
If you want to chill out with a movie on a Saturday night, that's one thing, but be mindful of how much time you're spending on a device or in front of a screen without any real purpose, especially at night. Experts recommend unplugging from screens at least one hour before bedtime for the most restful sleep.
2. Get your body moving
Exercise raises levels of dopamine, the feel-good hormone our bodies love. Get out in the fresh air for a walk with your kids, have a dance party in the living room or throw on an online yoga or Pilates tutorial. Put movement and motion at the top of your must-do list, aiming for at least three sessions per week, even if you're in your pajamas with a 2-year-old at your hip. Your body and your mind will thank you for the extra get-up-and-go.
3. Stop multitasking
Even though most moms pride themselves on the ability to multitask, studies show humans are actually horrible at concentrating on multiple tasks at the same time. When we think we're multitasking we're actually task-switching, shifting our attention back and forth from one task to another. This forces our brain to work much harder than it would if we focused on one mission at a time. We end up less efficient and more drained in the process.
Instead, practice single-tasking. When we're at home with our kids, that means letting the laundry pile up while we finish Candy Land with our toddlers or play peek-a-boo with our babies, leaving them for later. At work, it means removing as many distractions as we can while we finish an email or a task.
4. Give yourself 5 minutes of downtime
Sometimes it feels like using every spare moment to check a few items off your ever-growing to-do list will make you more efficient and satisfied. But without a few breaks, our days can get exhausting fast.
Be intentional about being unproductive for small intervals throughout the day—even if you can only sacrifice five minutes at a time—so your brain gets the breaks it needs. When you pace yourself, you're left with more reserves at the end of the day for your family and yourself. The added bonus? Life feels more enjoyable when you're not rushing through it, stressed at every turn and letting mental overload get the better of you.
5. Prioritize what matters most and leave the rest to someone else (or for another day)
Instead of spinning your wheels on obligations you'll never get to or will never remember, delegate to the others in your house or in your proverbial village. If you've got a partner, put them in charge of some of the must-dos (it will be one of the best moves you ever make). Take full advantage of technology, like online grocery shopping and bill autopay. Delegate, delegate, delegate and stop feeling so guilty that you're not superwoman—no one is.
6. Take care of yourself first (seriously)
You've probably heard the phrase, "You can't pour from an empty cup." It's cute, but Penny Reid's quote, "Don't set yourself on fire trying to keep others warm," captures the necessity of self-care for moms much more accurately.
It turns out there are no brownie points for motherhood martyrdom, though we all try to earn them from time to time. You can't fill other people up and you can't be your best self to the rest of the world (including your children) if you are not doing the things you need to do to be content, whether that's dancing around by yourself in your house to your favorite Lizzo song or taking time to write, read, exercise, draw or organize—whatever makes you feel a little more like yourself right now.
The world says we can have it all if we do it all, but that's exhausting. Finding energy as we mother is about learning how to take care of ourselves, working smarter, not harder, and spending time on what matters most.