In this fast-moving world, we often need to be at our top energy levels to deal with the challenges of our daily lives. However, there are many factors – foods, habits, mindsets and situations – that can leave us feeling like we’re running on empty. The more we push ourselves beyond our energy reserves, the more we are risking our health.
While everyone’s recipe for re-energizing is a bit different – some listen to music, some find energy in spending time with friends, and some recharge through quiet time alone – the following are seven pitfalls to avoid if you want to be at your peak performance, and some tips on how to deal with them.
Between running around all day to and from our jobs, errands, taking care of kids or other responsibilities, many of us forget to stop and drink a sufficient amount of water. Biologically, our bodies do not give us a very strong signal when we are thirsty until we are severely dehydrated, and when we are wrapped up in our schedules, it is sometimes hard to notice just how thirsty we are.
Dehydration, even mild dehydration, slows down circulation, and thereby the delivery of oxygen to the muscles. This can significantly deplete energy reserves. Severe dehydration can leave us feeling nauseous and completely out of commission.
Recharge tip: No matter how busy you are, be sure to drink between eight and ten glasses of distilled water each day. If you are exercising or doing a physically demanding activity, you may need more. If you drink coffee or tea throughout the day, you may also need to compensate with more water, as caffeine has a dehydrating effect on your system.
Sugar is one of those foods that can make us feel really good and energetic – for about five or ten minutes. Soon after you eat it, however, your insulin surges, your blood sugar drops down from its recent spike, and you may find yourself struggling to concentrate or even stay on your feet. When you drink a soda or other sweetened beverage, or grab a muffin to stave off hunger, you’re bound to feel more tired after – better to have avoided it in the first place.
Sugar is an addictive substance that hides under many names, and is in just about every processed food on the market. This “poison of our times” is a gateway to many chronic illnesses, as well as the perfect recipe for a sluggish, cranky day. Additionally, processed foods contain many other chemical additives and preservatives, which often function as anti nutrients that take energy away rather than providing it.
Recharge tip: Stick to real, unprocessed, preferably organic foods, and avoid added sugars. If you want something sweet, stick to whole fruits, or bake with dates, raw honey or organic coconut crystals.
This one is obvious, but worth stating: when we don’t get enough sleep (7 or 8 hours is the recommended amount for adults), we simply can’t be at our best. Besides affecting our ability to function on every level, sleep deprivation can impair memory, severely alter mood, increase our risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, and even encourage weight gain.
Some of us simply do not go to bed early enough, as we’re scrambling to get things done that we could not finish during the day. Others try to sleep, but toss and turn and lose out on precious hours.
Recharge tip: Try going to bed an hour earlier at night. If you’re severely sleep-deprived, make it two hours. While it may take a little creative scheduling, your health will thank you for it. Remove electronics from your bedroom, avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening, and try meditating before bed, even for just five minutes.
If you find yourself struggling with insomnia, try a cup of chamomile tea or massaging your neck and shoulders with some lavender essential oil. Taking a warm bath before bed may work wonders for some people.
It may be worth it to talk to a natural health professional about drug-free sleep remedies you can try. One is kava kava root, which has been found to greatly encourage the Z’s, but talk to a professional about how much is right for you.
One of the leading culprits behind an energy-less existence is stress. When our bodies respond to stress, a rush of adrenaline occurs, and cortisol (our body’s stress hormone) levels spike.
We are amped up, our hearts race and we become hyper-aware… for a short time. When stress becomes ongoing, however, all systems are affected, including the immune and cardiovascular systems, and our energy reserves become chronically tapped.
Stress can also lead to poor sleep, if anxious thoughts are keeping you awake to the wee hours of the morning. If it becomes a pattern, the stress-sleep deprivation cycle can be truly deteriorative to your health.
Recharge tip: The ancient practices of both yoga and meditation can do wonders for relieving stress. Physical exercise can also give you the rush of endorphins you need to counteract anxiety. Talking to a trusted friend, or a counselor if your anxiety is severe, can get you back on track and able to cope without stress sapping your energy and compromising your well-being.
Spending too much time indoors
If you are cooped up inside for most of the day, without sunlight and fresh air, you are very likely to find yourself fatigued. Indoor air is often stuffy, and often infused with toxins like chemicals from air fresheners and synthetic materials.
Artificial lighting can also wear down your energy, and mess with your circadian rhythms (natural sleep-wake cycles). Too much exposure to artificial light, especially in the evening hours, is one reason why many people struggle to fall asleep, and wake up still drained.
Recharge tip: Starting the day off by going for a walk or a run outside can do wonders for your energy. If you work in an indoor environment, going outside for lunch breaks, and other breaks you may have throughout the day, and soaking in the sun and fresh air is key. The healing power of the natural outdoor environment is not to be underestimated.
There are a plethora of ways in which sitting too much depletes your energy. First of all, a consistently sedentary lifestyle progressively weakens your muscles, making it harder and harder to do simple physical tasks. While it may seem like sitting would preserve energy, the opposite is actually true; it is quite draining.
Also, sitting has been linked to a higher risk of many illnesses, and is a primary factor contributing to obesity and can actually increase your risk of early death.
Recharge tip: Exercise! Go for a walk, hit the gym or sign up for a fun new dance class. The stream of endorphins you will enjoy will replenish your energy and improve your mood, likely from day one. As you get in the habit of moving more, your muscles will grow stronger, and you will find you have more and more energy to get things done.
This one may seem strange, but too much clutter around your home or office can actually cause significant anxiety and negativity. Simply looking around at a pile-up of “stuff” can make you feel tired, as it tends to remind you of all that you have to get done, and can be quite overwhelming. Clutter also puts a strain on our eyes, as there is constantly a jumble of things to look at, making it harder to focus on the task at hand.
In the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui, clearing away clutter is often the vital first step, as it helps you let go of your attachment to unnecesary things, and lets the energy flow more freely through your space.
Recharge tip: Start by getting rid of anything you do not need. Items that are nice, but unneeded, may find a great home with a friend or co-worker. You may also choose to donate clothes, decoratives and other household items to a nearby shelter or secondhand store.
Put away things you need that are out of place in drawers or space-saving organizers. Keep in mind the minimalist principle to only keep out what is absolutely essential, or deeply meaningful.
While there are many other things in our lives that may be affecting our energy levels, starting with the above-mentioned seven areas is a great start to feeling more refreshed, alert and ready to face all that our lives bring our way.
-The Alternative Daily