Last week I handed all the patients who came into my office a checklist of health challenges that they face. They were asked to rate them by priority. The results: #1 was lack of energy. It even outranked weight issues, much to my surprise. So in May’s newsletters, I will share some of the ways we unintentionally zap our energy reserves, and more importantly, how to reclaim them. Read on to learn how to gather your reserves in a healthful way and participate in all the activities that you want and need to engage in without feeling exhausted and drained.
Patients tell me a lack of energy makes the day seem long, difficult, and unproductive. Does this pattern sound familiar? First, lack of energy leads to a loss of sharpness in focus and memory. Then, especially in the late afternoon when blood sugar gets low, less than optimal mindset and mood set in. Next come worry and guilt over not accomplishing enough, which in turn leads to mental weariness—further bringing down health and well being. This sequence of events quickly becomes an exhausting, vicious cycle.
The good news is, you can break the pattern. Most energy loss stems from unhealthful habits that sneak into our routines. Before we know it, they’ve become regular parts of our daily life. But take heart. If you recognize these behaviors, you can make a conscious effort to take positive steps and change.
Energy Zapper #1: Late-night work. Internet and email tend to blur the line between work time and personal time. You know who you are, the one who always wants to finish “just one last email.” Before you know it, you’ve found a “second wind” and spent an hour or longer working. But doing that requires overriding your body’s cues for rest and repair. This doesn’t just keep you up way past your normal bedtime, it also disrupts your body’s natural rhythms, setting the stage for energy depletion the next day.
Energy Fix: Make a pact with yourself to adhere to a time limit. Stick to it even if you have to set an alarm to remind yourself. When the time is up, stop working, period. And if you become tired before that time, listen to your body. Refuse to be lured into fatigue by the “just one more thing” syndrome. It’s a trap. (I know that myself from past experience). Start tonight!
Energy Zapper #2: Relying on caffeine. You know you’re in trouble when the entire Starbucks’ staff knows your order. Yes, a cup in the morning is a typical part of the wake-up routine, but continuing with cup after cup all day long to maintain your energy level will surely backfire. Caffeine creates tension by raising your stress hormone level. You may also crave sweets when you crash from the caffeine. And on top of that, caffeine is a stimulant that can potentially keep you up at night (leading, of course, back to #1 above).
Energy Fix: After one cup of coffee in the morning, switch to green tea. It has a far smaller amount of caffeine but also boasts antioxidant benefits coffee can’t claim. Or, if you are totally addicted, opt for a half-decaf blend. Your best beverage bet of all: herbal tea or water. Once you get out of the caffeine habit for a day or two, it will be easier to resist, I promise you. And without having that stimulant constantly circulating, you’ll feel better balanced, more relaxed, and stable during the day.
Energy Zapper #3: Creating unrealistic expectations (or none at all). Are you a list maker? This isn’t a bad thing. But if your lists are impossibly long, you are only setting yourself up for failure. Even worse is not making a list at all and figuring you’ll just do everything you can with the little time you have allotted.“Winging it” and overestimating both prevent you from having the satisfaction and peace of mind that come from a reasonably paced, productive day. Either way, you may find yourself lying sleepless in bed at night, thinking of everything that didn’t get done.
Energy Fix: Take time to get real. Have a good, hard look at what you sincerely want and need. Begin your list with necessities such as work, child care, errands, gym, and food shopping. (Please don’t forget to focus on YOU, too.) Then be honest. Only add as many extra duties as you can accomplish. You may have to reschedule the ones that just won’t fit that day, and that’s OK. You’ll still have tomorrow. Make a point of crossing off each task as you complete it, too. This is important: It empowers you, reminding you that you’re in control and successful.
These three tips are merely the beginning. Tune in to my next newsletter for additional measures you can take to boost your energy and reclaim your health and well being. In the meantime, I’m here to offer you more holistic techniques and encouragement. Give me a call at 212-686-0939.