I used to struggle to find the endurance to make it through the day without crashing by the mid-afternoon and looking for external energy boosters. Before I discovered how to increase and then maintain my energy levels I was a bit of a pain to be around actually. When my energy was low I felt tired and tended towards mild headaches and lethargy, accompanied by sudden uncontrollable bursts of grumpiness and snapping at others. Everything seemed to annoy me and I was quick to act in unnecessarily negative and impulsive ways. I didn’t feel able or motivated to exercise, cook, socialize or efficiently get things done, in fact, everything took longer than necessary. I would crave time sitting on the couch in front of the TV eating cupcakes or drinking wine. These energy lulls would lead to bad food choices and time spent doing things that further drained my energy instead of boosting it.
That was all before I unlocked the appropriate diet and lifestyle practices necessary to keep myself happy, energized and productive all day long. Nourishment for the mind and body does not just come from the food we consume. It is also derived from the lifestyle choices we make on a daily basis. Everything we do or eat is a choice between increasing, maintaining or draining our energy.
Take a few moments now to assess and jot down some thoughts about your current relationship with energy. Do you sometimes struggle with not having enough energy? How do you feel when your energy is low? What challenges do you face when you lack your essential level of liveliness? What types of things do you do and eat when you feel this way? Do you think the choices you make are the best ones? How could your life be improved if energy were never an issue?
We often fall into behavior patterns that are not the healthiest but we struggle to break free from them and find a better way, even when we know we are not making the optimal choices. The first step is indentifying your triggers and the second is finding ways to deal preventively with them instead of reacting to them suddenly in the moment.
The following are my top five tips for increasing your energy:
1. Reduce or eliminate caffeine – it can cause ups and downs in mood, energy and blood sugar, in addition to dehydration. The need for caffeinated beverages to get you through the day or wake you up in the morning is a sign of inadequate rest or dietary nutrients.
2. Drink more water – dehydration can cause headaches, hunger and sluggishness. Only water is water - other beverages we consume can further dehydrate us, especially those containing sugar, sodium or caffeine.
3. Increase amount and quality of rest – when you are tired or stressed your body will crave energy. Keep to a regular schedule, waking up and going to bed at the same time and getting a sufficient number of hours of sleep (8 hours or more). Set the atmosphere for restful, quality sleep. Be sure you bedroom is neat, uncluttered, calming and comfortable.
4. Increase physical activity – at first it may seem hard to believe but over time you will learn that regular exercise will boost your energy rather than making you more tired, it will also offer the added benefit of better quality sleep. Start out slowly with 30 minutes of walking, Tai Chi or Yoga each day and increase the pace and time allotted for exercise over time.
5. Improve your diet – increase the amount of healthy fresh foods you eat and thus begin to crowd out the processed, chemicalized and junk foods you consume. Some great foods to try for increased energy are: vegetables (especially dark leafy greens), goji berries, coconut water, almonds, cashews, fresh and raw fruits, steel cut oats and whole grains.