Staying On Top of Your Game When You Are Tired

Everyone around here is a little tired these days.  Adjusting to a new little one in the house takes time and some rather creative sleeping habits.

It seems like every mama goes through a season at some point in her life when she is tired.  Not just the I-didn’t-get-enough-sleep kind of tired, but the all out I’m-utterly-exhausted-to-the-core tired.  For the homeschooling mother, it can be especially distressing when you find yourself falling asleep every time you sit down.

So, what is a mama to do?  How can you still manage a household when all you really want to do is go back to bed?

To be flat out honest with you, there have been many, many times when I have relied on caffeine {soda} and sugar to get me through. Considering I am hypoglycemic, this cycle of sugar highs and subsequent crashes is thoroughly damaging to my system.  That sort of vicious cycle gets you nowhere.

First off, you need to determine if you are tired from a lack of sleep or if there is a deeper problem. For me, it is a deeper problem…one I don’t take care of like I should.  My iron stores are insufficient and it is imperative I take iron and folic acid on a regular basis.  But, I am the world’s worst about taking medication…even medication I need.  I’m being totally candid with all of you here, because I need to hold myself accountable.  In fact, I’m going to stop typing right now and go take my iron and folic…

OK…done!

Secondly, you need to give yourself some down time each day. As busy mommies, we tend to just keep going and going and going and then when we do take time to unwind, it is done in front of the computer or the TV, neither of which really facilitate relaxation.

One thing we do quite often in our household is Rest Time. It usually occurs shortly after lunch and lasts about an hour.  Everyone grabs a book or paper and a pencil and heads to a quiet place (like their beds or the chairs downstairs).  Quick Note: The first few times you try to institute this, you will not get any rest because you will have to stand over the children and make sure they stay put.  It is also a good idea to set a timer or alarm so everyone knows they cannot get up until the buzzer sounds. Eventually, you will be able to rest as well. One of my favorite things to do during Rest Time is head to my own bed with the baby and nurse…those feel-good, sleepy hormones are just the thing a tired mama needs!

Another idea is to simply read a book or turn on some soothing music and just sit a while.  Give your brain and your body a chance to slow down.

Also, do your very best to eat healthy. Eat your greens and your proteins and your good fats and drink plenty of water.  I’m terrible about drinking enough water (probably because I’m filling up on that nasty soda!)  Okay, another break to go get some water…

Done!

Now, specifically for the homeschooling mama…some practical tips to get you through until you get your body back on track:

*Pinpoint what time of day is the worst for you {for me, it is late afternoon} and come up with ways to cope with this time of day.

1) Go outside. You sit while they play.  Breathe deep and take one of those brain breaks I talked about earlier.

2) Let them watch a movie. Yeah, I know, not what you’d expect to hear from me, but there are tons of great educational movies and even some great non-educational movies out there that will not make you a bad mother if you allow your children to watch them.  And why not let them watch them during your most difficult time of day?

3) Listen to books on tape or radio dramas. Same concept as #2.

4) Create a Special Box. This can be anything from slips of paper with creative play ideas (one of our favorites is Picture Plays) to a box full of games and toys that only come out at this time of day.

*Secondly, NEVER schedule the bulk of your school day during your worst hours. Don’t think you can somehow push through (or *should* somehow push through).  If your worst time is in the morning, DO NOT school in the morning.  Or at least don’t schedule the subjects that require the most from you in the morning.  {For more on scheduling, read my series on Setting Up a Homeschool Schedule}

*Pare down your school day and limit outside commitments. Again, this is about not pushing yourself.  It really is okay to refrain from doing everything in your curriculum’s lesson plan, and it really is okay to not go on every field trip offered by your local homeschool group.  In fact, if you need to, let an entire subject or two go for the month.  Homeschooling, by its very nature, is flexible and elastic…easily bent to adjust to life’s circumstances and easily snapped back into place in very little time.

*Focus on Scripture. If you do nothing else but steep yourself and your children in God’s Word during this time, then you have done the utmost.  Have them read Scripture to you to practice their reading skills.  Find geographic locations from the Bible on maps.  Have them build Solomon’s temple out of Legos.  Have them watch Moody Science videos or other God-honoring movies.  Focus on discipling your children and leading them to the foot of the cross.

*****

You really can stay on top of your game despite obstacles.  Your game won’t necessarily look like Susie-so-and-so’s down the street, but you aren’t supposed to be comparing yourself with her anyway! ;)

Quit pushing yourself to the brink and then expecting to not fall over the edge. If your body is needing to heal, let it.  If you are needing to create healthier habits, put your focus there before forcing your focus elsewhere.  Have your children hold you accountable to drink your water and take any vitamins you might be needing.

And give it all over to the Lord.  He is well aware of how you are feeling and He has a solution…

Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

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23 thoughts on “Staying On Top of Your Game When You Are Tired

  1. This brings tears to my eyes! After my second son, I was, as you said, tired. No amount of sleep ( I only got two hours in a row for about 10 months) really helped. I would just cry, not from depression but exhaustion. On top of that, some family started to act like I was just lazy. It really changes you, please don’t judge yourself, and know this is a healing time! It does get better. Now my little guy sleeps through the night (at 2.5 years) and I am wired and excited about school!

  2. I totally understand this tiredness problem. Not only do I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but just recently my son has been suffering from insomnia (at 4 years old), and keeping me awake for hours in the night to the point where I felt I could go cray with the exhaustion. In fact that’s what my last blog post was about. I just try to take my days slowly and only do the things that REALLY need to be done. Some things can wait.

    • Amy,
      Thank you for the suggestion – I tried to email you back, but the email wouldn’t go through. I hope you don’t mind me responding here… :) After having a brief look online at what your suggestion does, I noticed that it is also an appetite suppressant… Does it suppress your her appetite? My son is on the edge of being underweight and he can’t afford to have a decreased appetite, so I was just wondering how it worked for her? If it doesn’t affect appetite, I’ll definitely take a look around and see if I can find some to try for my son!
      I really appreciate your taking the time to email me and share this information. My sister and some other people in the extended family have insomnia problems – I wonder if there is an amino acid deficiency in our family?!
      Blessings,
      Clara

      • Sorry the email wouldn’t go through. I’ll just respond to you here…
        It does not suppress my daughter’s appetite that I have noticed. From what I understand, it does take away carb cravings and cravings for empty calories. I have a friend who’s son takes it for that purpose along w/ sleep issues. But, I wouldn’t want to say definitively that it is right for your child. Please pray about it and research further. It could be something else, but I did want to throw that option out there. :)

  3. Great list! I have one to add… Take time to exercise! It may sound crazy to those who are not exercising who wonder where to get the energy to exercise… but what actually happens is that exercise increases energy level. It also helps so much with depression (which can result from exhaustion) that major depression clinics (where people go to live to recover from severe depression) make it a manditory part of their day to exercise. Exercise is therapy for depression and lack of energy! :D

    I think it is important though, that we as busy women choose exercise that we ENJOY. Exercise should be something we do because we love ourselves and our families. We are doing it to take care of our bodies… and we should take care of our mental state at the same time. :) Exercise can be something that we look forward to as time for ourselves doing something that we enjoy (group fun… zumba, biking, rollerblading, yoga… whatever we enjoy) and can look forward to with joyful anticipation. And even when it is difficult to get started or in the habit – the blessings are so worth the sacrifice to make it happen.

    Amy, Good luck to you with your new baby and your energy needs. I hope it all works out great for you, and good job for taking care of yourself for you and your family. This is a great example to share. ;)

    Corine

    • Corine,
      Very good points! I’m nearly 3 wks postpartum and beginning to think about such things. It is so hard to squeeze exercise in when you are a busy mama and have a fussy baby and homeschooling duties to boot. Hopefully, things will regulate out here and I can find some exercise time!

      • I find that just a few minutes of stretching makes a HUGE difference to me! When I think I am too tired to do it, that’s when it works the best!

        Thanks for this page full of great advice. No matter how many articles I read about moms who are tired and overwhelmed and have trouble taking good care of themselves, I always appreciate hearing that I’m not alone and realizing that you made time to write about it and encourage others to keep going!

  4. This is hands-down the best post I’ve read all day! There are so many good tips, ones that we often forget as busy moms. I will be bookmarking this for future reference for sure!

    I enjoy your blog a whole lot!

    I hope you’ll stop over and visit sometime over at Free 2 Be Frugal.

  5. Love the pic of Ty and Garin sleeping. I have SOOOO many photos of Adam snoozing with the kids…daddies somehow recognize that tired feeling and succumb to it while mommies just keep going and going and going until we collapse. We need to learn from our men!

  6. I so needed this post this week. Thanks. Life is crazy, hectic and I am physically and mentally worn out. These things are things I have been doing this week. Trying to do enough school to get by, resting. Thanks for helping me know that I shouldn’t feel guilty about not being able to do “everything”.

  7. This is a great post! Life as a mom is sometimes so… tiring.

    Right now I 8 weeks along and exhausted, queasy, and just blah. I am really relying strongly on our schedule. I’m so glad we went a little more textbook/workbook oriented this year. I can sit on the couch and go over each child’s work during their scheduled time and well, pretty much never leave the couch! They really enjoy their schoolwork, too, so that helps.

    I’ve been using the radio dramas some too when I’m really worn out, and letting music and some things go. I was able to find several that related to my 3rd grader’s history lessons and all the kids have very much enjoyed that.

    I’ve also been letting the older ones help with the toddler, keeping him happy and helping get him set up at the table for meals, etc. It helps.

  8. Wonderful post Amy… so true. I’ve even taken my children outside as well as a big towel and spread it out on the grass while they played and just dozed on the towel… they are safe in our garden and I seem tuned in to them anyway.

    I also love the verse “He tenderly leads those that are with young”… God is so tender in his care of new and pregnant Mummies!! He himself desires rest, peace and strength for us and he’s not the one pushing us to do more and condemning us when we just can’t do it all… that’s his enemy!

  9. You are right – there are great websites with terrific educational videos. Try United Streaming, Teacher’s Domanin or TeacherTube.
    Best wishes!

  10. I really enjoyed this post. Being extremely tired, especially I-just-had-a-baby tired, definitely makes it hard to “stay on top of your game.” (You have certainly stayed on top of your blogging game these past few weeks, by the way! Way to go! :-) ) I have definitely been known to employ the TV as babysitter when there are times that I just can’t push through without a little nap. And, I can also relate to your troubles with taking your vitamins and drinking your water. Abel considers it his job to remind me to take my vitamins (and I do, too!). :-)

  11. I was also feeling the same way after my third child was born. Found aout when she was two that my thyroid is all out of whack! I urge you ladies to check the symptoms online and if you are having those issues get your thryroid checked. Good luck to you all.

  12. Lots of good advice in this post, thanks.

    One thing stood out to me–folic acid. A non-trivial percentage of folks have a genetic variant that means the are quite inefficient at converting folic acid into real folate (real folate being the kind in food, and what our bodies use).

    If you *notice* skipping a folic acid supp, look into whether it’s possible you have this gene variant–MTHFR gene (Methylene Tetra Hydro Folate Reductase, funny acronym, but real), it plays a role in susceptibility to stroke, early heart disease, really a lot of other things too.

    There are a few brands of supplements that have real folate instead of folic acid, they could be more effective and helpful at preventing long-term health issues.

    Sorry for my odd first comment–I’ve really enjoyed your blog, your joy in life shines through, it is inspiring.

  13. Amy, I just thought of something that helps me remember to take my supplements. Add to your oldest’s morning mealtime jobs (or whenever) “Bring Mom pills”. Sometimes I divide them up among meals or children. My second oldest’s job is to bring me water bottles when sitting down to nurse. Eventually I remember, but for weeks at a time, it is their job on their chart to remember. Works for us!

  14. I have four children, ages 7, 3,2,&1, and I homeschool. The babies are each less than a year apart, so in the spring, I have two 2 yr olds, then two 3 yr olds for a short time…you get the picture. My biggest ‘tired’ times are mid-morning and mid-afternoon…..after the morning rush and after the lunch rush. I use my morning hours to get everyone dressed & fed and do the schoolwork that requires the most focus and energy–math, english, writing, etc.–while using all of my morning energy to bustle around in between these lessons keeping the little ones occupied and out of trouble. Then, of course, things move right into the lunch/storytime/nap period. I think to myself every day, “Wonderful! Now Gabe and I can do the rest of our school that requires quiet–history and reading.” I also use Sonlight, and I love it; I love how much reading of actual books there is, as opposed to textbook style. But by the time everyone is down for their naps, I’M so sleepy, especially if I was up late the night before cleaning my house to keep it from falling apart, that when I sit down to read to Gabe, I read myself right to sleep. Gabe thinks its funny when I start slurring my words and my head drops down on the page. I don’t blame him; my mom used to do the same thing. :) I end up having to call US a naptime. But that doesn’t leave us enough to time to finish everything before the babies wake up. And once they are up, concentration on these quiet subjects is out the window. I’ve just been trying to think of how to utilize their naptime for school without falling asleep myself?

    • Oh boy, do I understand this! Honestly, you might need to change your thinking and just rest when they do. At 7, school can really be streamlined, so I’d look there first and see if you can possibly get everything in in the morning. :)