Whether it’s a mid-afternoon slump or just an overwhelming feeling of the blahs, we have all experienced the feeling of just having no energy. When you need a quick pick-me-up, it’s easy to reach for an energy drink or quick cup of Joe, but in the long haul, these may actually do more harm to your energy levels than help them. Sure, they provide a quick boost but are often followed by a crash and may even interfere with your sleep. There are, however, a number of natural ways to boost your energy levels and give you the kick-start you need.
Here are 7 great ways to naturally boost your energy levels.
Next time you need a quick afternoon pick-me-up, instead of reaching for an energy drink, try taking a brisk 5-10 minute walk instead. If you can walk outside and get some fresh air, all the better. If you don’t have time for a full 5-10 minute walk and can’t get outside, just walking a power lap around the office or even quickly to the printer and back can give you a surprising boost of energy.
Activity not only oxygenates the brain, but as little as 10 minutes of exercise can also potentially release a rush of excitatory endorphins. Not only can endorphins boost your energy levels, they can also give you a boost of self-esteem as well. Whether you lack energy, have a case of the blahs, or even a case of the blues, even short bouts of exercise may be the best prescription.
Get plenty of sleep
A lack of sleep can create an unhealthy cycle. When you are not getting enough sleep, you feel tired and run-down. That often makes you reach for those same pick-me-ups like caffeine and energy drinks. Caffeine can build up in your system, however, making it even harder for you to get a good night’s sleep.
But sleep does not come quite so easily for some people. Women in particular not only need more sleep than men, but often have more trouble getting it. There are a number of different reasons for an inability to get a good night’s sleep ranging from biological causes to the physical conditions of the room or bed you are trying to sleep in. One way or another, however, if you aren’t getting enough sleep you are unlikely to feel energized throughout the day.
If you sleep fairly well overall, but just aren’t quite getting enough sleep, here are some tips to help you get a full night’s rest.
- Try taking a bath before bed. This will help calm you down and relax you, preparing you for rest.
- Make sure the room is cool but not too cool. Overall, most people sleep better in a cooler room. If the room is too cool, however, your body will need to expend energy keeping itself warm, which means it can’t relax into sleep.
- Try dimming the lights one hour before bedtime and turn off the TV. Your body need time to “wind down” before sleep
- Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime. While alcohol can help you fall asleep it can also prevent you from staying asleep
- Make sure your bed, bedding and pillows are comfortable. If your mattress is too hard, too soft or lumpy, you may have a hard time sleeping. Similarly, if your pillow is too hard, too soft or lumpy or your bedding hard or scratchy, it may make it difficult to sleep.
- If you find yourself unable to sleep because you are stressed out, worried or have a hard time “shutting down your brain,” try keeping a notepad and pen by your bed. Write down anything that stresses you out, worries you or that you suddenly think about. Sometimes just the act of writing it down can cause your brain to relax knowing it no longer has to remember the thing you just wrote down.
If you have a difficult time sleeping all the time or struggle with insomnia, here are some methods to try
- Make sure you give yourself plenty of time for sleep. Remember that there are different stages of sleep so it is important to give yourself plenty of time to fall asleep. If you need 5-7 hours of deep sleep, you need to give yourself 8-9 hours to get it.
- Try melatonin. Melatonin is not actually a sleeping pill, but rather a substance your body produces naturally that you can also take in pill form. Melatonin helps regulate your sleep cycles.
- Make sure and spend at least 15-30 minutes a day in direct sunlight – even if it is cloudy. This will help your body synch to the sun. In addition, try and time your sleep to nature rather than a clock. You will have a far easier time sleeping if you try and sleep closer to when the sun goes down and get up closer to when the sun does.
- If you are desperately tired early in the evening but wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to sleep, you may have a thyroid condition or adrenal fatigue. You may want to consult a physician to have them help you address the problem.
Eat energy boosting foods
Food is literally one of the best sources of energy there is, but often times the quickest and easiest foods will actually drain energy rather than increasing it. Vending machines are often filled with high sugar and high fat options and most fast food is laden with fat and empty carbohydrates. These will sometimes give you a quick rush of energy, but are generally followed by an even worse crash.
Conversely, a snack that is filled with the “holy trinity of nutrition” (protein, complex carbohydrates and good fats) can not only give you an immediate boost of energy, but keep energy levels high over the long term. Here are some snacks and foods that can give you a stable, steady boost of energy and keep it high all day long
- Whole wheat crackers and peanut or almond butter: The complex carbohydrates in whole wheat crackers begin to break down immediately the same way that sugars do, but they don’t flood your bloodstream and raise your blood sugar levels as drastically as sugary snacks will. Peanut or almond butter is not just packed with protein but also good fats. Protein breaks down even more slowly than complex carbohydrates, providing energy once the carbohydrate energy has burned off.
- Beef Jerky: If you need a quick and easy snack on-the-go, you can’t beat beef jerky. Packed with protein, it will boost energy levels and keep them high.
- Almonds: Almonds are basically something of a perfect food in themselves, containing an essential blend of fats, proteins and carbohydrates all by themselves. You can eat almonds by themselves or mix them with dried fruit for additional complex carbs.
Get some sun
People that live in cold climates are often affected with something very aptly named SAD – or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Vitamin D is sometimes known as the “sunshine vitamin” for two reasons. The first is that your body needs sunlight to process Vitamin D and the second is that Vitamin D is known for boosting both moods and energy levels. There is a reason people sleep less and are far more active in the summer. If you’re either needing a quick pick-me-up or experiencing a more longterm bout of the doldrums, you might want to find a way to spend a little more time in the sun.
Close your eyes and breathe
If you find yourself yawning and can’t stop it might be because you are tired, but it also might mean that your brain needs additional oxygen. One of the ways in which exercise creates energy is by boosting your heart rate, which in turn causes you to breathe more deeply and more often. This, in turn hyper-oxygenates your brain, which causes you to be more alert, which makes you feel more energetic.
In addition, when your eyes are open, your brain has to process all of the sensory information it is receiving. The more senses you can close off, the more of a rest you give your brain. Just like the rest of you, the more rested your brain is, the more energetic you will feel. Too much sensory input can also make you tired. If you work in a noisy, busy, bright office, you might try donning noise-cancelling headphones (with no music), closing your eyes and practicing a few deep breathing exercises.
Socialize with the right kinds of friends
Introverts are often thought of as being people who don’t enjoy social interaction. They often even think of themselves this way, but it’s actually not true. Introverts simply enjoy deeper, more intimate one-on-one conversations as opposed to chatting casually with a group of people at a party. Extroverts, on the other hand, often find the kind of deep, intimate conversation that introverts enjoy to be draining and exhausting.
Conversely, there is also such a thing as an “emotional vampire” that will drain both introverts and extroverts. When you find the right kinds of people to socialize with in the right kind of situation, it can give you a major boost of energy. If you find yourself drained and exhausted at the end of a social encounter, however, it’s time to find different friends or a different means of socializing.
Somewhat alarming studies are showing that driving while dehydrated can be just as dangerous as driving while drunk. Even just mild to moderate dehydration carries with it a long list of symptoms, including being tired, grumpy, irritable and even more prone to gain weight. The next time you’re feeling sleepy or run down, try downing a big glass of water. The best part is, if that doesn’t work, it also doesn’t hurt.
There are a number of natural ways to boost energy levels that don’t involve reaching for a caffeinated drink. While there is nothing inherently wrong with caffeine, if you consistently use it to solve a chronic problem, it can actually just make the problem worse. Instead of reaching for a cup of coffee or energy drink next time you feel fatigued, grab your water bottle and head out into the sunshine (or the cloudy weather) and take a brisk walk. Your brain will thank you.
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