Hi, my name is Abby and I love Brandy’s writing. She thinks deeply and differently than me but I appreciate her thoughtful and convicting articles. I have always enjoyed her series on The Low Energy Mom’s Guide to Homeschooling; it was full of great general health advice, but I have never considered myself low energy. In fact, I tend toward high energy.
I told Brandy I could write a guide for the high energy mom and I was serious. I think most people believe that if they just had enough energy, time, health (like [insert name here]) that life would be easy or at least easier. This is not true. Our individual lives, energy levels, time, health are under the care and management of the Lord. He has called us to and for His purposes and ultimately His glory. For my part it always comes back to self-control, my will, my obedience. Managing that energy is a big task indeed.
I married when I was twenty and we had five children in five and a half years. My kids were 5, 3 and not quite 2 when my twins were born. I have been accused of being crazy or ignorant to the causes, but mostly I get asked, “How do you do it all?” The answer is, I don’t. Being young when I had my children helped, but also God created me with some extra energy. The first two years of the twin’s life we call the ‘fuzzy years’, because it was probably as chaotic as you are imagining. But we survived and my twins are now 10. It is so much fun having kids close in age.
Over the years I have learned that just because you have high energy, doesn’t mean all your problems magically disappear, energy isn’t the magic elixir. The high energy mom and the low energy mom have a similar struggle: both have the tendency to overextend and crash and burn. What moms need to remember is to make the best choices and put our energy where it matters, doing what needs to be done, but not stretching beyond our limitations. It isn’t a minimalist approach to have a life of ease and eliminate all friction or excess, but it is realizing limitations and depending, not on our own strength, but on the Lord.
There are six factors that contribute to overall health and they are essential to moms (and I am convinced all people). These aren’t in a particular order of importance, because they are all important but I think choosing one to focus on is the best practice. Trying to become a new person overnight is ridiculous. Making small improvements over many months and years is where I have had the most success. Starting small and building healthier habits. Understanding that changes I make need to be changes I am willing to do long-term (for the rest of my life).
If I don’t get adequate sleep for my body all the other areas of my life suffer. I make sleep a priority. I have a bedtime and I often will drink Calm before bed it helps me fall asleep faster. My best sleep (deep sleep) happens between 10 and midnight so I am in bed before 10 almost every night. I am a morning person and I wake up at the same time almost every day. It is very hard for me to sleep in so I prioritize my bedtime. I don’t drink caffeine after lunch, if I do it affects my sleep. Occasionally I will take melatonin after a full day or a long weekend.
2. Food and Water
I drink a mason jar of water before I drink any coffee in the morning. I am the early riser in my family so I make the coffee. While it is brewing I drink water.
There is so much information on diets that I hesitate to offer any advice. I have found I need adequate protein and I like vegetables. I eat 150 grams of protein daily — this is actually difficult for me to ,but when I hit this target my energy stays level, I feel better, I have better physical performance when I exercise, and I also tend to feel satisfied and have less cravings for unhealthy stuff. While 150 grams may be high for many women, most women get far too little protein in their diets. Try tracking your protein intake for a few days to see how much you are getting. I would suggest getting 80-100g of protein daily.
I feel better when I move, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too. I like going to the gym and lifting weights. If I had to choose an exercise to do for the rest of my life it would be lifting weights and taking walks. One of the best gifts I ever received was a Fitbit. Having feedback helps me stay active throughout the day.
I have friends I “walk with” that live all over the country. We encourage one another and cheer one another on. Some of us enjoy a friendly weekly competition. Getting outside and moving, even for just a few minutes, resets my attitude and gives me a break from my noisy house. I have come to believe the Swedish proverb that there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing. I have rubber boots and rain gear if needed.
Even good relationships take energy and time. Making time to do fun things with family and friends helps keep my energy up. I am an outgoing introvert. Often people think I am an extrovert, but I like to have quiet time away from people.
I also realized recently it is very good for me to spend time having fun with people. Last year I went to Charlotte Mason West Retreat on the Puget Sound. It was a fabulous weekend spent with friends laughing, ,and learning from one another. Even though I was exhausted after the retreat, it was also refreshing and encouraging meeting other moms in similar situations. Friendships and relationships build us up, no matter how introverted we are. We all need to connect; relationships are part of the good life.
I also need to foster a relationship with learning. Learning, reading, thinking — making connections is what Charlotte Mason called the science of relations. As silly as it feels to say this, I need to have a friendship with good books and great ideas. I need to spend time thinking. It shouldn’t be just another item on a to do list. Restful learning, “scholé” is life giving, just like good friendships and relationships.
Charlotte Mason also talks about not being a stagnant pool but teach from a flowing stream. I like this image better than having a cup filled or filling your own cup, or another — putting on your own oxygen mask first. A stream is abundant and full of life. A cup is small and limited by size and purpose. And I don’t really want to be in a situation that requires an oxygen mask.
5. Spiritual Health
Spiritual health matters. While our liturgies and denominations might be different, all Christians are called to be part of the body of Christ. My family is active and invested in our church. It doesn’t start and stop on Sunday. Every morning, when I make my coffee, I say a verse and pray for my family before I push the brew button.
I have eliminated decision fatigue and picked a daily Bible reading plan that has a checklist. I have successfully completed the Bible Reading Challenge twice and am on my third time through.
We pray at meals and for one another throughout the day. I model repentance and ask for forgiveness more often than I would like. We find ways to serve. The best advice I ever received when battling acedia is to be of service to others.
Rest is different than sleep but can include it. God thought rest was important enough for His people to remember it and keep it. This is one of the hardest things for me to do: rest when I am called to rest and work when I am called to work.
When I don’t rest as I should I get irritable and it affects my relationships, my spiritual health and my physical body. Just as I need to have rest days from exercise for my body to recover and be healthy, I need to rest from working and overdoing it. When I depend too much upon my ability, and I stop depending upon God and what he is calling me to do, I struggle with acedia, burnout, and escapism.
I am learning to practice the discipline of planned rest. It is so hard to stop when I am in the flow, but if I don’t take little breaks, I crash hard. Just like on a road trip I need to make planned rest stops and then use them. It doesn’t take that much longer to reach my destination, but it is more manageable and good to get up and stretch, use the restroom, and get a little fresh air.
Resting isn’t quitting or even stopping. It’s like hitting the pause button or refreshing the page (too many metaphors!). It only takes a few moments to regroup.
When I am overdoing it, I get overwhelmed and life gets chaotic. When I am focusing my energy on the right things, the ‘ordo amoris’, then I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. When my affections are not rightly ordered I put on a hard yoke and drag a heavy burden and I pull it myself. When I am doing what I ought, I still need to do the work, but the yoke is easier and the burden lighter because Jesus is helping and comforting me.
I have a lot of energy and I need to steward it because even though I might seem to have boundless energy, I am still human. I am finite and limited. I cannot do it all or have it all, whatever that means. I am learning to be content, when seasons are plentiful and when I am in want.
Right now my focus is on improving my intellectual relationships. I am using Brandy’s Mother Culture Habit Tracker and reading a variety of good books for 30 minutes each day so that I can enjoy the flowing stream.
What is one thing you want to improve? How can you plan to make it part of your day?