Whether it’s the food you eat, the friends you keep or the state of your house, small actions you make every day can have a big effect on how positive and energetic you feel when it comes to tackling the day ahead with your family. Here’s what could be holding you back from feeling fantastic…
1) Toxic friends
No one can get by without a good support network, but sometimes it’s healthy to re-evaluate your friendships. “There are certain friends in life who don’t make us feel as good as others, but who we keep up with out of habit,” says life coach Lynette Allen, author of Behind with the Laundry and Living off Chocolate.
“Make a list of your friends and mark out of 10 how you feel when you leave them,” says Lynette. With anyone who regularly makes you feel bad or drags you down, find ways to distance yourself. “Doing this can feel scary,” admits Lynette. But it doesn’t have to involve all-out confrontation or cutting them out completely. “Create distance by sending fewer text messages, calling less often, and finding different things to fill your time. But you may also need to be prepared for the fact that you’ll feel like you’re ‘losing out’ for a few weeks as you readjust.”
2) The laundry mountain
Laundry soon mounts up – in your mind and in the basket. If you’re at a stage where it’s run away with you, declutter expert Beverly Wade (www.cluttergone.co.uk) suggests declaring ‘laundry bankruptcy’.
“Bag it up and take it for a service wash,” she says. “It doesn’t cost that much and it comes back clean, dry and folded. This gets you back to square one.” The rest of the time, routine is key. “You need to be disciplined,” says Beverley. “For example, make putting the washing on part of your breakfast routine, and putting it away something you do at lunch or tea time.” How you organise things is also important. “Decide whether you want a communal laundry bin, or one for each of you,” says Beverley. “If you’re a big family, you may find it easier for each child to have their own basket, otherwise you’ll be forever sorting socks.” And for the days when the mere thought is dragging you down, Lynette suggests tackling it within a set time. “Set a timer for three minutes – you can get a lot done in just a few minutes.”
3) Bad time management
Always in a hurry with a huge ‘to-do’ list? “We tend to assume that the way to get more time is to speed up, but speeding up can actually slow us down,” says Lucinda Everett from training team The Mind Gym (www.themindgym.com).
“Instead of always trying to multi-task, focus on putting all your attention in what you’re doing now,” she says. “Don’t let your mind rush on to the next task until you’ve finished the one in hand.” Also take time to plan. “Take five minutes to write down every task you have for the week ahead, no matter how small,” says Lucinda. “Then consider what’s urgent and what’s important. People often rush around doing urgent tasks, with no time for the important things. If something is both then act. If not, prioritise.”
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4) Clutter that needs clearing
Clutter doesn’t just bog you down physically, it invades your head, too. “Clutter is unmade decisions” says Beverley. “It’s there because you don’t know what to do with it and you’re clogging up your thoughts.”
First, deal with clutter by throwing out or giving away what you don’t need or no longer use. “Then ask yourself ‘what’s annoying me?’” says Beverley. “If you can’t find your keys, make a place to hang them. “If there are things you can’t decide what to do with yet, box them up as ‘maybes’. “But put a date on the box for when you’ll next go through it,” says Beverley. Meanwhile, stop more clutter building up by acting quickly on the things coming into the house. “Deal with post as it arrives. Keep a shredder set up and shred what you don’t need, and recycle junk mail. And when you decide to throw something out, put it in the car boot so you don’t just end up putting it somewhere else in the house!”
5) Too much caffeine
Can’t function without your daily cuppa? It’s normal. But what can give you instant added zing may actually be making you feel worse in the long run.“Caffeine gives you a short-term energy burst and boosts adrenaline, but also causes your blood sugar levels to drop later, with the result that you’ll probably want another cup after 45 minutes – this time with a snack, too,” says Ian Marber, nutrition consultant at The Food Doctor (www.thefooddoctor.com).
And if you’re stressed, the adrenaline you get from caffeine can make you more stressed. “If you’re consuming lots of caffeine it’s likely your adrenal glands will be overworked, which means you’re less likely to sleep well,” says Ian.
If you’re a coffee addict, rather than going cold turkey, switch to tea. “It contains about 50-70 % of the caffeine in coffee, so is ‘safer’,” explains Ian. And if you love your tea, try switching to green or white tea. “It still contains some caffeine but not as much, so ‘withdrawal’ will be at a minimum.”Alternatively, change to caffeine-free tea or coffee. Ian recommends ways to make these drinks more attractive: “Brew up a jug of herb or fruit tea, leave it to cool and then keep it in the fridge. Or, for a hot drink, try Rooibos (red bush) tea.”
6) Too much sugar
Eating sugary foods is a big energy sapper, and sets up a vicious cycle that can be hard to break. “Eating foods with a high glycaemic index raises your blood sugar level very quickly, so you get short-term energy but feel tired soon after,” explains Ian. “Take breakfast for example: something like cornflakes has a high GI so you’ll be more likely to feel tired and hungry later – and more likely to grab a coffee and a biscuit mid-morning.”
It’s almost impossible to cut out sugar altogether. Instead, Ian suggests first swapping sugary snacks with fruit. “Apple and banana cut up into pieces is the ultimate grown-up fast food,” says Ian. “Better still, throw in some protein such as a few Brazil nuts or a small handful of pumpkin seeds. This slows down the speed at which sugar reaches your bloodstream. “When you do indulge in something sugary, Ian recommends waiting until after you’ve eaten a main meal, when the sugar is absorbed more slowly. “But remember, the more sugar you have, the more you want! So, it’s probably best to try to avoid having pudding whenever you can,” he adds.
7) Your evening tipple
A glass of wine at the end of a hard day is lovely. “But,” warns Ian, “it acts just like a simple sugar – it makes your blood sugar level spike and then fall, so you’re more likely to want a second glass, or to eat badly or more than you need, after having it.”
What’s more, if you’re also on the caffeine and sugar treadmill during the day, your adrenal glands will be overstimulated. “In this instance having a drink in the evenings will probably get in the way of a good night’s sleep,” says Ian.
When you want a tipple, Ian suggests having your drink with your main course and not before. “The alcohol will slow down the absorption of sugars,” he says. ‘And I often suggest to people that they stick to a policy of alcohol just at weekends and on Wednesdays!”
“I used to drink about 12-15 cups of tea a day. I cut right down when I was pregnant, but once the twins were born it went right up again. I was unhappy with how much caffeine I was drinking, especially as I was breastfeeding. Then I came across decaffeinated Earl Grey tea, which I loved. Rather than reducing my energy, changing to decaffeinated tea has made me feel healthier and more energetic.”
Rachel Edmonds, 33, from Swansea, mum to Ben and Will, 4 months
“I’m a single mum to three kids, all under 4, look after the house and work weekends, too. With all that going on, I found that the best way to cope was to understand that I can’t stay on top of everything. So I focus on what needs doing the most. I think, ‘Washing needs doing today, so I’ll clean the bathroom tomorrow instead.’ ”
Kristy Ranson, 28, from Gateshead, mum to Charlie, 3½, Nicole, 21 months, and Summer, 4 months