by Jennifer Weland, Owner of Evolve Fitness & Coaching, and People-OnTheGo Faculty Member
A day full of meetings and demands from boss and coworkers. The 7 p.m. dinner reservation. Picking the kids up from soccer practice at 5. Shopping for groceries. Keeping the house habitable. And everything else on the never-ending “to do” list. Trying to keep up with all of life’s demands can take a toll on your energy—physically and mentally.
Four simple practices—what I call the L.E.S.S. is more approach—can help you recharge and give your mind and body what it needs. So you’ll be able to accomplish more with energy to spare.
Technology is great for keeping us connected and managing our to-do lists. But the problem with always being connected is that you’re always connected. Which means that it’s much harder for you to separate your week from your weekend, or your workday from your evening. We need down time. When you don’t get enough, it can completely drain your energy, unravel your relationships, stymie your stress recovery and ultimately ruin your productivity, research suggests.
Not only can your devices drain your energy, they can also drain away time you could be spending doing other awesome stuff (like sleeping in, connecting with friends, or spending time with family). Can you go a day without getting on the computer, without picking up the iPad, and without constantly checking your phone? And did you ever notice how we’re sort of like Pavlov’s dog when we hear the ping of our device? We HAVE to check–we can’t help it! If you can’t leave your phone at home or in the car, one of my favorite tricks is to put it on silent so I’m not tempted to check it every time I hear the ping. Here’s a great article on why unplugging is good for our mental health.
I recommend turning off the TV, too. Television itself can be tiring, and the older you get, the fewer and fewer stress-reducing benefits you get from a session with the boob tube, a University of California, San Diego study says. Instead of numbing your mind as a way to rejuvenate, stimulate it.
Try taking a walk along a scenic trail. Spending time in nature can help restore your energy and focus.
Put on some music. Research shows it can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and decrease stress hormones, and that it may increase feel-good hormones like exercise does. Music + exercise? Even better!
Or, just curl up with a good book.
The food on your plate can be the deciding factor between a sluggish and a supercharged day. A few small adjustments can go a long way toward optimizing your energy intake, such as:
not waiting too long between meals (ideally, you would not wait longer than four hours between meals)
swapping simple carbs like those primarily made of white flour and sugar, for complex carbs like sweet potatoes, oats and whole grain bread.
adding in “super foods” including salmon, blueberries and almonds since they can actually help you stress less.
Your goal is to keep your blood glucose levels steady throughout the day. You don’t want to be on the glucose roller coaster. Once you spike it, you go through the inevitable crash and the cycle starts all over again.
And if coffee is your energy pick-me-up of choice, you may want to rethink how much caffeine you’re getting. Being over-caffeinated raises cortisol levels, makes you jittery and anxious and dehydrates you. Limit yourself to two cups a day, and for every cup of coffee you have, drink a glass of water.
Stand Up and Move More
Getting up and moving more throughout the day can benefit you many ways. From increasing blood flow to muscles, boosting productivity and creative thinking, to improving your posture. And it will help you beat back the effects of sitting disease, which zaps your energy and puts you at risk for a whole host of health problems.
Expending energy on exercise actually creates MORE for you to use, because it releases a flood of chemicals in your brain, like dopamine, that create feelings of greater energy. Maximize that feel-good response by getting at least 30 minutes of cardio four or five times a week and at least two, 30-45 minute muscle-strengthening sessions each week. Yoga can also be restorative because of the type of deep breathing that’s incorporated into it. Download cardio and strength workouts to try from my blog.
It’s ironic that one of the biggest energy consumers of our day has nothing to do with packed schedules or sweaty workouts. If you don't learn to manage your stress, little everyday stressors, like sitting in traffic, can cause a total energy meltdown. Not at first, because your initial reaction to stress is that your body starts pumping the hormone cortisol into your bloodstream, giving you an adrenaline rush. Your heart rate rises, your muscles tense, and your mind goes on high alert. But the rush is unsustainable, and before long your energy starts to crash, leaving you feeling foggy and unfocused.
Plus, when stress is always present, your body can’t get rid of the excess cortisol that builds up in your blood. It hangs around-sort of like the houseguest that won’t leave-turning your young fat cells into mature fat cells that stay with you forever. That excess cortisol can also increase your cravings for high-fat, high-carb foods because they cause chemical releases in the brain that make you feel good and counteract the stress side effects. Check out these tips to stress less.
Which tips sound like something you will try? What are your tips for recharging and reducing stress at work and at home? I’d love to hear what you tried and how it worked for you, or please leave your comment below.