Being a dad is awesome; kids are inspiring, energetic and instill a greater sense of connectedness. But let’s face it, it’s also really tiring. Early mornings, pick-ups and drop-offs, late nights at the office… it all adds up and many dads I see in clinic find it increasingly difficult to feel like they’re bringing their A game. This leads to fatigue, low mood, low vitality and even burnout. The good news is, you have the capacity to reverse things.
To reboot your health and feel awesome again you don’t need a major overhaul, you need to make a few small tweaks to your regime (I know, it may have been so long it’s hard to remember!). The secret is knowing what small things to change. Here are my six fundamentals keys to rebooting your energy, health and feeling like a “Super-dad” again.
1) Set Boundaries for Work
In today’s connected society you have the option to work 24-hours a day, whereas in generations past the world decided for you (i.e. the office closed and it was time to go home). Today, you have to actively make the decision. If you don’t consciously set a boundary, work will filter into your family time, blurring the lines between work and play. Research shows this dramatically increases your stress levels (bad news for productivity, mood and libido).(1)
Solution: Take 5-minutes and outline when work “starts” and “stops” throughout the week. You’ll be amazed at how setting defined limits dramatically improves your focus, energy and productivity.
2) Back Off on Caffeine
You’re tired… so you reach for more coffee. It’s an intuitive reaction but unfortunately, your mid-afternoon coffee buzz takes long time to leave your system, the half-life being 6-8 hours for most people. This means you still have caffeine in your system when it’s time to sleep, a major roadblock to result and regenerative sleep. Too much caffeine can lead to poor focus, anxiety and negatively impact sleep.(2)
Solution: Prioritize coffee before 12h00pm, one to two cups. In the afternoon, switch to a much less caffeinated green tea, or better yet, try a cup of bone broth loaded with the amino acid glycine that helps to relax your nervous system.
3) Reset Your Breakfast
The typical north American breakfast is heavy in carbohydrates – orange juice, toast, cereals, bagels etc. – that rapidly drive up blood sugar levels, giving you a quick boost first thing in the morning, but leaving you “hangry” by mid-morning and looking for snacks. This blood sugar rollercoaster, highs and lows throughout the day, is a perfect storm for poor energy, low mood and poor productivity.
Solution: A low-carb breakfast is a great way to balance blood sugar.(3) Ditch the jus, cereal and bread for a higher protein and fat alternative. Try eggs with avocado and a piece of fruit, plain yogurt with walnuts and berries, or leftovers from last night’s dinner (i.e. steak and broccoli).
4) Get Moving
It’s easy to get stuck into the same routine; sit in the car, sit all day at work, sit while the kids do after school activities, etc. Unfortunately, most dads don’t get enough movement in their day. This worsens your perception of stress, which negatively impacts your energy, mood and work.(4)
Solution: Start adding more movement into your day; standing desk rather than sitting all day, walking meetings rather seated phone calls, running around (and rolling around) with your kids instead of watching them play, etc. Find moments in your day to “move more” and you’ll soon find the benefits invigorating.
5) Antioxidant & Resiliency Support
A pint of beer or glass of wine can help “decompress” after a long day, but it can easily lead to a few too many, worsening the perpetual cycle of fatigue. To offset the negative effects of stress and oxidative damage in the body, add more antioxidant support.
Solution: Colourful vegetables and fruit are a great place to start to get your antioxidants, but dark chocolate (70% or more) is also one of the top sources of polyphenols, helping to quench all the free radical fires in a stressed body.(5) Adaptagen herbs like maca are also great to add when you’re busy, working long hours, or fighting through cold and flu season as it increases your body’s capacity to cope with stress (it may also improve libido, a nice side-effect!.(6)
6) Get Some Sleep!
You probably give your kids… “it’s late, get to bed!”. Now it’s time to heed your own advice. It feels good to unwind for a few hours once the kids are down, but at least 7 hours per night is an easy fix for fatigue, low mood and poor performance (at work or at the gym). If that’s not enough motivation, men who are stressed have low testosterone levels (and subsequently more prone to low libido) and more sleep can be an easy fix.(7)
Solution: Add an extra 30-60 minutes per night and/or take a lesson from pro athletes and add a 30-minute nap on weekends between 1-4pm (if you can fit it in). It’s effective, simple and completely free!
Being a dad can sometimes feel like requires the strength and stamina of a superhero, but the good news is a few small tweaks – in your diet, movement and lifestyle – is all you need to get yourself back on track and feel awesome again. (And mom, if you’re reading this post, these tips apply equally to you too!).