Arianna Huffington speaks to Kelly Pietrangeli of Project Me for Busy Mothers about balance.

Arianna Huffington’s Personal Advice for Busy Mothers

I recently had the pleasure of attending an inspirational talk in Madrid by Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and author of the wonderful book ‘Thrive’.

The subject of her talk was one very close to my heart: Balance & Mindfulness.

When she asked if anyone had any questions, my hand shot up. Before I knew what was happening, a microphone was thrust into my hand and I was told to stand up and introduce myself.

I’m a huge admirer of Arianna, so my face burned and heart raced, but I believe it went something like:

Hi Arianna, I’m Kelly Pietrangeli of Project Me for Busy Mothers and I help women find a happier balance between the kids – and everything else. (Whew! All of those months of memorising my ‘cocktail line’ paid off!)

My busy mother readers and clients all say the same thing:

‘My to-do list is never ending! There are never enough hours in the day to get it all done.’

They go to bed feeling exhausted and guilty for everything they haven’t managed to get done.

Arianna, what would you say to the mother with the never-ending to-do list?

Her answer:

There’s always going to be your to-do list. But you also need a gratitude list. Every single day, write at least three things you’re feeling grateful for.

The more gratitude you have for all of the people and things you have in your life, the more grace you’ll extend yourself for not ‘getting it all done’. Focus on what you achieved each night before bed, not on what you didn’t manage to do.

Of course, this made my heart sing, and if you’ve been following Project Me for any length of time you’ll know that I’m always banging on about gratitude as a daily practice.

There’s even a place to write gratitude at the top of my Design My Day action sheet. Never leave that box blank to just focus on your to-dos. 

Arianna beautifully reminds us:

“Life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen.”

We feel guilty as women because we find it hard to balance our needs with everyone else’s, but we need to educate this inner voice. It’s never going to be perfect. It’s about learning to dance with it, moving from struggle to grace.

Don’t judge yourself if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do. Take small steps toward your goals. Model a baby who is learning to walk. If babies reacted like adults when they fail, they would give up and never walk.

We are all burst out laughing when she said:

When mothers give birth, the baby comes out, and the guilt goes in!

We need to honour what we want, not what others or culture expect from us.

Arianna shared a powerful story of when she literally crashed and burned-out eight years ago and encouraged us to learn from her mistakes.

She pointed out that we all know how much battery power we have left on our phones. When we fall to around 20% we start to get twitchy and look for a way to charge it back up again.

But how many of us pay the same attention to our own energy levels? Do we notice when we’re running on low? Do we stop and do something to recharge ourselves?

Many of us are running on dangerously low levels and don’t realise that there’s not an infinite supply. We will burn out if we’re not careful.

Sleep is the number one way to recharge your battery.

We all need varying amounts of sleep to wake up feeling 100% and that ranges between 7-9 hours of sleep. There is a rare 1% of people who can honestly get by with less than that.

It’s important to pay attention to what your ideal number of hours of sleep are per night. For Arianna, it’s eight and a half hours. For me, it’s eight.

If I get to sleep eight hours before I need to get up, I wake up naturally and feel my 100% physical and mental best.

If I get seven hours, I’m operating slightly substandard and I can feel it.

Six hours, I’m fuzzy-headed, unfocused, lethargic and irritable.

You don’t even want to know what I’m like when I get less than six hours. But I’ll tell you anyway.

I’m a horrible bitch.

The voice in my head goes negative towards myself and others. I completely lack motivation. I feel down and I take it out on those I love the most.

If you’ve got a child who still wakes in the night, you have my sympathy.

Sleep deprivation is an evil thing. It clouds your thinking, affects your mood and makes you behave irrationally.

It wasn’t until I began getting full nights of uninterrupted sleep that I began to feel human again.

But what about self-inflicted sleep deprivation? Staying up too late even though you know you have to be up early.

Many of the women in my programmes are now past the baby and toddler stage, yet they’re getting to bed too late out of habit. They’re depriving themselves of the deep benefits that come from getting enough sleep.

Arianna’s now so devoted to good sleep that her next book is dedicated to it.

Arianna Huffington’s tips for getting the right amount of sleep to keep you feeling your very best:

  • Experiment with sleep times until you know how many hours of sleep you need.
  • Determine what time you will need to turn the lights out based on what time you need to be up the next morning.
  • Thirty minutes before lights-out, set an alarm as your ‘shutting down time’. No computers, phones or TV allowed.
  • Create a before-bed routine to wind down. Have a bath, climb into bed with a book. (Avoid business books or anything too serious or disturbing.)

So busy women, take a lesson from Arianna and take care of yourself. Put your own oxygen mask on first. It’s not selfish, it’s essential if you’re going to continue to give your best energy to your family.

It’s the key to being the best version of you.

Are you up for a challenge? How about setting an evening alarm every weeknight for when you’ll shut down all electronics and get ready for bed? In the comments below, tell me if you’ll give it a try. Or share how many hours of sleep YOU need to feel 100% the next day. 

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  1. Cara on February 22, 2016 at 9:30 AM

    It is so great that you were able to speak to Arianna Huffington! I read her book and it inspired me to start seeking a better work life balance. It was seeking this that brought me to Project Me, so it kind of feels full circle now!

    I love how you both write about the importance of taking care of yourself. I was close to burn out and wasn’t even seeing it. Now I get to bed early, wake up and meditate and give more attention to my diet. I’m a much better mum because of it. Thank you Kelly and Arianna for the inspiration.

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on February 22, 2016 at 11:03 AM

      Cara, how wonderful to read that Arianna’s book inspired you in this way and led you to Project Me! Good for you for making yourself a priority now. Thanks for sharing your story here. x

  2. Sue on February 22, 2016 at 10:55 AM

    I’m up for the challenge! I know I stay up too late and I always plan to get to bed earlier, but it rarely happens. I’m just wasting time flitting around on social media and then I’m incredibly tired and grumpy the next morning. Going to set my alarm for 10pm as my cut off time. Wish me luck! 🙂

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on February 22, 2016 at 11:04 AM

      Good luck Sue! You can do it!! Please give us a progress report. x

  3. Sophie on February 22, 2016 at 10:59 AM

    okay okay – me too! I also stay up too late. I need 8 hours too and I rarely get that which is stupid because my kids are older now and not waking me up at night anymore. Thanks for the challenge. x

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on February 22, 2016 at 11:08 AM

      Sophie, so many of the women I work with say the same thing. Their sleep deprivation is no longer caused by their kids. It’s self-inflicted! Old habits die hard, so you’ll need to set that bedtime alarm and use your willpower to stick with it and create a new, healthier habit.

      Try keeping a great book on your bedside table so you actually look forward to sliding into bed and reading until you doze off. Or use a meditation app with calming, bedtime music and words to send you peacefully into la-la-land. 🙂

  4. Lynne on February 22, 2016 at 11:57 AM

    I definitely need this challenge. I’ve been tracking my sleep but am not getting to bed before midnight and feel exhausted all the time. My son is older too and has a great bedtime routine! I also don’t really know how many hours I need but guess around 7-8. I’m starting tonight alarm for 9.30 pm. Thank you Kelly

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on February 22, 2016 at 9:42 PM

      Good for you Lynne! I’m replying quickly as my own shutting down alarm just went off. Gotta practice what I preach, right? Report back on how it goes for you 🙂

  5. Mariah Dolan on February 22, 2016 at 2:33 PM

    Got my alarm set on my iPhone now! I work a lot at night since I have 4 kids ages 9 and under. But then I keep going and going and get to bed way too late. Thanks for the challenge, Kelly!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on February 22, 2016 at 9:43 PM

      I hear you on the going and going and going….. it’s always ‘just one more thing and THEN I’ll shut down…’, right? That’s how it is for me anyway!

      Here’s to knowing when to quit and getting those much needed zzzzzz’s xx

  6. Ceri Steadman on February 22, 2016 at 8:28 PM

    My sleep pattern is something i have been trying to work on for a while but with a 2 1/2 year old and a 15 month old sleep deprivation is still an issue. Last night my darling children went to bed at 7:45 and both woke at 11pm full of energy. I already know they need to go down around 8ish even when waking at 7:30am but I’m not sure of MY pattern. So this week I will be recording my sleep and wake times and keeping a record of the day and my emotions…hopefully I will find my pattern.

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on February 22, 2016 at 9:46 PM

      Excellent idea to track it and make notes about how your emotions and their link to sleep. (or lack of it!) I know there’s not much you can do when your kids are still getting in the way of a good night’s sleep, but I wish you well! SWEET DREAMS CERI! xx

  7. Zoe on February 22, 2016 at 11:24 PM

    I’m up for the challenge!! Looking forward to it actually. I usually stay up watching tv when I should be winding down. The thought of reading for half an hour sounds like heaven 🙂

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on February 23, 2016 at 1:23 PM

      Fabulous Zoe! My winter luxury ritual is to take a candlelit bath with oils or bubbles and play zen-like music on my iphone (using the Calm App). Then I slide into bed with my book. It all feels so indulgent and spa-like! Let me know how you get on with the challenge xx

  8. Yvette on February 23, 2016 at 1:54 PM

    I have used SleepCycle for 2 years now, but despite knowing my score (as a % of sleep quality) somehow it has not helped me manage my sleep better. Last night I had a 63% score – I was on Amazon – the night before that I had a 41% score – my youngest was ill in the night. I know I should have gone to bed earlier, I could have recovered and got 100%… so Kelly, I accept your challenge and will put an alarm on my phone from now on for 10pm!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on February 23, 2016 at 2:21 PM

      It’s interesting that you’ve used this app for two years, but your scores aren’t actually inspiring you to make any changes or take action. It’s almost like an interesting stat, but nothing more.

      I believe the key for you is to create some kind of consistent routine / bedtime ritual and by that I mean a RULE for yourself, such as NO electronics / TV after a specific time.

      In order to drop a bad habit, you need to replace it with something pleasurable and satisfying. Why not brainstorm on paper (or in the comments below) some pleasurable pre-bedtime activities you can choose from each evening to motivate you to stick to your rule.

      Mine are: Luxurious candle lit bubble bath
      Great books on my bedside table that I crave reading
      Journal and pen on bedside table
      Meditation apps on my phone (BE CAREFUL. It’s tempting to twiddle on social media instead!)
      An added bonus of climbing into bed early is often more intimacy with hubby too 🙂

      I’m happy you’ve accepted the challenge Yvonne! A 10pm alarm is a great start! STICK TO IT!! x

  9. Corinne on February 23, 2016 at 7:20 PM

    Dear Kelly,

    up for the challenge. I have been getting better at this as I have realized over the last six months, that if I get up an hour before everyone in the house (yes at 6), I actually manage to do more work than say for the two hours I spent in front of the computer from 10pm to midnight.
    So up for the challenge! 10 Pm cut-off time it is for the week 🙂 (well maybe not tomorrow. Are you coming?).

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on February 23, 2016 at 8:40 PM

      Love that revelation Corrine! Good for you. 10pm sounds like a very sensible cut-off time.
      Sadly I won’t be able to make the IWB event tomorrow as I have to help my teenager study for two tests AND I have a Master Your To Do List workshop client booked in from 8-9pm. She’s in L.A. so I needed to offer her this appt time.

      Enjoy! 🙂 Good luck with the challenge!!

  10. Evelyn on February 23, 2016 at 7:39 PM

    Great idea Kelly. I’m up for the challenge. I usually pick up my kids from school (they are day pupils at a boarding school) at 9:15pm then often get sucked in to watching rubbish on TV until the wee hours. I’m going to set my alarm to disconnect for 10:30pm.

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on February 23, 2016 at 8:42 PM

      Glad you’re up for the challenge too, Evelyn. Check back in and tell us how it affects you the following day 🙂

  11. Fiona on February 24, 2016 at 3:25 AM

    Oh this post is so close to my heart & mind at the moment, a lovely nudge from the universe. I rise early @ 5 & love it, but feel I am burning the candle & definitely running lower than 20% battery most days. I try for bed by 9.30 but with darling baby nursing all night the quality of zzzz isn’t there. On school nights I will commit to get in bed by 9, see if that makes a difference. Thankyou for the post Kelly x

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on February 25, 2016 at 1:16 PM

      I love those lovely nudges from the universe Fiona! Running lower than 20%?!! This has to change. I love your commitment – please let us know how it goes for you and if you need any extra support. I’m here cheering for you! x

  12. […] Huffington and love her TED Talk on sleep (worth a click, if you haven’t yet seen it). Kelly’s blog post went on to talk more about the importance of sleep and keeping our batteries charged, and by the […]

  13. Liz on February 26, 2016 at 9:57 AM

    I’m in!
    Great post, and very envious of your having heard Arianna Huffington speak – it sounds like a brilliant talk.
    I’ll be switching off from 9pm-9am and will blog about how it goes next week – good luck everyone!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on February 28, 2016 at 4:12 PM

      Yay Liz! I read your post this week – thanks so much for mentioning the Get To Bed Early Challenge 🙂 Yes, please report back after your week of more sleep. I can’t wait to hear how it goes and how you feel! xx

  14. Louisa on February 29, 2016 at 11:57 AM

    Bit late but I’m signing up for the challenge too! No-more-devices alarm = 9pm, get-your-backside-into-bed alarm = 10.30pm. 😀 Will report back. Thanks Kelly. xx

  15. […] decided I could simplify things slightly. So, inspired by a timely blog by Kelly Pietrangeli of Project Me, I attempted a 9pm-9am electronic switch-off, plus a few squirts of a relaxing lavender scented […]

  16. […] Transforming Your Life, One Night At A Time. I had the privilege of attending her live talk and I’ve summed up her tips here for getting the right amount of sleep to keep you looking and feeling your […]

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