Thayer Allyson Gowdy
As a new mom you face certain inevitable truths: You will no longer sleep for eight uninterrupted hours. You'll also devote untold time to activities such as contemplating the color, scent, and consistency of your child's poop. The end result: You are zonked. What can you do to perk up -- short of putting yourself on a Starbucks IV for the foreseeable future? "Regaining energy is about making a slew of little changes that quickly add up to a powerful shift in the way you feel," says Mary Ann Bauman, M.D., author of Fight Fatigue. To combat a case of the Wiped Outs, heed these rejuvenating bits of wisdom. There's not a single latte in the lot.
Practice saying no
"It's a huge energy preserver!" says Dr. Bauman. Ixnay any extra obligations you can. Send your regrets for that party you're not jazzed to attend; put off those visitors you're less than thrilled to entertain. "New moms get trapped when Baby arrives and everyone wants to meet him," Dr. Bauman says. "You end up cooking and cleaning, which takes effort."
Let go of all expectations
"The more you try to control, the more exhausted you'll be," says Pamela Peeke, M.D., author of Body for Life for Women. "The fact is, things are different. Don't fight it! Wake up each morning and tell yourself you're going to approach the day as if it were a box of Cracker Jack: You just don't know what surprise you're going to get. It could be your kid's first gummy smile or a screaming-all-day colic-fest. You'll save energy if you go with the flow." Mommyhood is, after all, a daily (sometimes hourly) lesson in the art of being more chill.
Be nice to yourself
Dr. Bauman's orders! "You are constantly giving of yourself right now," she says. "Your energy bank will hit empty if you don't refill it."
Eat for oomph
Make sure every meal or snack contains both protein and a fiber-rich carbohydrate. This combo takes a while to digest, delivering sustained energy and keeping you satisfied longer. Nosh on low-fat Greek yogurt with blueberries and walnuts for breakfast; an apple with almond butter for a snack; and a tasty salad (bagged lettuce is as easy to pour into a bowl as chips), dried fruit (fiber!), and precooked rotisserie chicken for lunch. Try to eat every three or four hours to keep your blood sugar up. If you lose track of time, set your phone to ping reminders.
Put one foot in front of the other
Worried about wasting what little zip you have left have on the elliptical machine? In fact, expending energy actually gives you energy. Studies have shown that regular, moderate exercise (like a 30-minute power walk) fights fatigue and releases feel-good endorphins. Plus, when you're fit, your body works more efficiently, so everything you do will feel easier and you'll be better able to get through your day without hitting a wall of exhaustion. In fact, working out for 20 minutes three days a week lowers feelings of fatigue by a whopping 65 percent, according to a University of Georgia study. New mom Cheryl Rogers, of Colorado Springs, rises at 5:40 a.m. five times a week to go running. Yes, that's early, but "afterward, I feel energized for the entire day!" she says. Not happening? Join a pal for a stroller walk once a week, then gradually add a few more meet-ups to your calendar. Your friends won't let you miss a gabfest, er, workout.
Make a weekly date
Have lunch with a friend, join your sister for a movie, or try that tapas bar with the girls. Experts say estrogen time can keep you from dragging. "It helps you feel connected, gives you an opportunity to vent worries and frustrations, and just plain maintains your sanity," Dr. Peeke says. It's easy to let the week slip by without making plans -- after all, you've got your hands full -- so plot out a bunch of get-togethers several weeks ahead, Dr. Bauman suggests. Once "Mani with Monica" is on the calendar, consider it nonnegotiable!
Take a power nap
Between 10 and 30 minutes of shut-eye is optimal for rejuvenation, a study from Brock University, in Ontario finds. Just closing your eyes for ten minutes without sleeping can recharge you as much as a catnap, Dr. Peeke says. Doze longer than a half hour, though, and you might wake up even more wiped out than before. "You'll enter a long cycle of deep, slow-wave sleep, and if you get up in the middle of it, you're going to feel fuzzy," Dr. Peeke explains.
See some green
"I like to sit in the yard with my baby," says mom Amy Wyatt, of Waynesville, North Carolina. "I find it refreshing both physically and spiritually." Research bears this out. Being in the sunshine can make you happy: It increases brain levels of serotonin, a chemical linked to mood. There's also evidence that the vitamin D your body produces when you're outdoors helps with mental acuity (so long, mommy brain). Finally, Dr. Peeke says, it's beneficial to simply bust out of the house: "The stimulation of being around other people and looking at something different is revitalizing on its own."
Call in a sub
Okay, no one is more awesome than you. Truly. Mom rules. But still, you need -- and deserve -- a break now and then. Blow the whistle, run off the field, and call in your partner to change the diaper, warm the bottle, or spend a few hours cooing to Baby while you nab "me time." Go for a jog, or just take a long, uninterrupted bubble bath with a book you'd be embarrassed to read in public. Hire a babysitter for an evening so you and your honey can steal off for some coveted couple time. MVPs need a breather once in a while too!