We all have good intentions of exercising and eating well when everything is going right, but what about those days when you just lack motivation?
And we often beat ourselves up for feeling this way. As mothers, we can get into a downward spiral, feeling like we aren’t doing enough.
There are lunch boxes to be made, laundry to be done, dinners to be cooked, housework, helping with homework, plus a million other things. But the truth is, we are doing too much already!
The fact is, we do more than we can manage as mothers and we are left tired, depleted, exhausted and yet we still ask ourselves why we can’t be more motivated!
You might be feeling unmotivated because your body needs to rest
Nutritionist Clare Marcangelo, who specialises in child and family health, is also a qualified sleep consultant and mum-of-three, so she understands the impact sleep has on energy, health and wellbeing
“I think the whole concept of feeling motivated or not motivated needs a shift,” she says. “We have lots of lists! There are all these things we should be enjoying but we are so obsessed with not dropping the ball. Mums feel like they have to do it all and end up going to bed with guilt.
“Maybe we just need to stop and reassess. If you really wanted to do something, you would’ve done it. There’s a lot in our lives we need to do, but it’s okay if today is not the day for that.”
It’s no wonder that mothers are exhausted both mentally and physically. But we often mistake the inability to find the time to perform a task with laziness. You’re feeling unmotivated because your body is telling you it needs to rest.
“Mothers are seriously depleted after pregnancy and birth. Then there’s the stress of being parents, plus sleep deprivation as well as everything else going on in the world” says Clare.
“The impact of sleep deprivation on the brain is enormous. The level of fatigue experienced as new parent can be likened to being intoxicated, you feel delirious all the time and often too tired to think how to help yourself. You can’t do it all. You have to let go of that. I’d say the next step is to stop and look after yourself.”
Coffee isn’t always the answer
Most people who are sleep deprived turn to caffeine as their crutch to keep them going. But this may not be the best drink to consume if you are lacking motivation, as much as you believe it will stimulate you and give you that energy boost you crave.
“Our brains release cortisol, the stress hormone which acts as a steroid to boost our energy, in the morning around 7am,” says Clare. “Ideally, the lowest amount of cortisol in our system should be around midnight when we should be sleeping.
“Your morning coffee helps release this cortisol for you, which should be great in theory as you get an energy kick. But because our bodies are so adaptable, our brains become too reliant on coffee.
“This is what we contribute to adrenal dysfunction, a disorder in which the adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones, leading to longer term fatigue or lack of motivation.”
We have our coffee because we are tired, but it might be making you more tired. The first thing you need to look at is your diet. When we are tired, we tend to reach for easy snacks to keep us going. But one of the best things you can do is to make sure you are starting your day with something filling and nourishing.
Why diet is so important
“Oats are brilliant, but if you don’t have time, pre-make a couple of days’ worth of energy-boosting smoothies. Aim for something with high good fat and protein, rather than a piece of toast or chocolate,” says Clare.
“If you get on the right steps first with a good breakfast, you’re more likely to follow that path than starting with just coffee. It’s important to set yourself up for the day.”
Another piece of advice Clare has, is to look at how you sleep. It’s not easy if you have a child that still wakes in the night – but it won’t be forever, even if it feels like it. You can still do things to support yourself and maximise the sleep you are getting.
“The best improvement to make in order to sleep better, is to limit screen time before bed. You don’t need to scroll on social media or read the news right before bed. We need to make melatonin, a hormone to help you sleep, and take it seriously,” says Clare.
“If you have coffee at midday, it remains in your system for six hours, so could still be in your system at 9pm and this will inhibit the production of melatonin.”
If you feel like you need a coffee fix, then opt for a turmeric latte, de-café or even dandelion coffee. Cocoa has coffee, so swapping to hot chocolate isn’t the answer.
“I see this eternal cycle most women get into. They’re everything to their little ones all day, and as soon as their kids go to bed, they need time to unwind and for themselves, which is totally understandable,” adds Clare.
“However, many mums are staying up past 11pm watching TV, which can be stimulating. This in turn means they are struggling to produce enough melatonin, they can’t settle down for bed easily, end up on their phone before dropping off and then wake up exhausted and feeling unmotivated”.
“It’s an endless cycle. I would suggest changing the family schedule, if you can. Have an earlier dinner. Do whatever jobs you need to do earlier on in the evening, get your children to bed for around 7pm or 7.30pm. Then you can relax and aim to go to bed early”.
“By doing this you might feel calmer and not over-stimulated. Better yet, you might wake up with more focus and energy and then motivation is less of an issue.”
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