Here’s the thing with having more energy (or having no energy), it’s nearly always due to lifestyle choices. The beauty is that once you start making better lifestyle choices, it gets easier and then it has a positive knock-on effect.
Here’s a scenario for you. You’ve had a really busy week, you’ve been going to bed later than usual because you’ve been spending your evenings catching up on work or home admin and you’ve not made it to the gym once. You promise yourself you’ll go to a yoga class on Friday evening, followed by an early night. But when you look at your diary, you realise that you’ve got drinks arranged with your girlfriends. And you have to be up early on Saturday to take the kids to their various sporting activities because your other half has arranged a 4-hour bike ride with his cycling crew.
Do you a) promise yourself you’ll go to yoga next week as you pour yourself a large glass of pinot or b) email your friends to ask if they would mind going ahead without you because you’ve had a crazy week and you need an early night. If your answer is a), then it will not come as any great surprise that Saturday morning is a bit of struggle and requires at least one strong latte. If your answer is b), that slight feeling of guilt about letting your friends down will quickly dissipate as you stretch out on your yoga mat, letting the stresses of the week melt away. Trust me – so long as you don’t make a habit of cancelling plans, your friends will understand. And will probably wish they were chilling on a yoga mat instead of drinking in a pub.
Your lifestyle choices are key…
Here’s the thing with having more energy (or having no energy), it’s nearly always due to lifestyle choices. Your lifestyle choices largely determine your energy levels – the food you eat, the amount and quality of sleep you get, how frequently you exercise and whether you take time out to relax and unwind all play a crucial role in how much energy you have. In most cases, you have control over your lifestyle choices. Think about it…if you stay up late watching TV or scrolling through Facebook instead of going to bed early, if you grab a takeaway on the way home instead of throwing together a quick healthy stir fry, if you open a bottle of wine on a Monday night because you’ve had a tough day, or if you skip your spinning class because you are tired, these are YOUR choices. No one is making you do (or not do) these things. I know that it’s harder to make healthy choices when you are busy, stressed and tired but it’s by no means impossible. And the beauty is that once you start making better lifestyle choices, it gets easier and then it has a positive knock-on effect. For example, if you prioritise sleep, you are more likely to want to do exercise. And without the tired sugar monster on your shoulder, it becomes easier to make better food choices.
Choose the things you can control….
Even if you have an underlying medical condition which affects your energy levels, making some positive and healthy changes to your lifestyle can help you feel better and be healthier. And it may also help give you a sense of some control in what sometimes can feel like a situation that’s out of your control. When I was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, there were days when I felt like utter poop. On those days, it was hard to drag myself out for a walk in the woods or off to the swimming pool for a swim. But I did it because I knew I would feel so much better afterwards. It felt good knowing that I could control that little outcome (go for a walk=feel better) when there was so much uncertainty in the bigger picture. Life has a way of throwing curve balls at all of us from time to time. Having some constant practices or habits, whether it’s a daily walk, drinking 8 glasses of water a day or going to a yoga class, can help give you a sense of control and progress when life gets a bit overwhelming.
Making the healthy choice can sometimes feel hard, but from my experience, it is always worth it.
Here are my 5 top daily habits to boost your energy….
1. Prioritise your sleep – when was the last time you had a really good night’s sleep? 2012, before your kids were born??? I know the feeling! Or maybe you’ve just got into a habit of going to bed later so that you can watch the latest must-see box set. It’s really easy to slip into bad habits when it comes to sleep. We tell ourselves that we can get by on 6 hours of sleep but this usually means feeling groggy in the morning and having poor energy throughout the day. Getting a good amount of sleep, ideally 7-8 hours every night, will help you feel more energised and will benefit your health enormously. Your body loves and needs routine when it comes to sleep. So try to wake up and go to bed at a similar time every day, give or take half an hour. Don’t give in to the temptation to have long lie-ins at the weekend or on your days off (although there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a cup of tea and reading the paper in bed if you have that luxury). If you’ve had a late night, you are better to have a nap later in the day to catch up on sleep rather than snooze all morning which will throw your body clock out. Switch those screens off at least an hour before bedtime and avoid caffeine late in the day. Make sure it’s not too hot or too cold in your bedroom – the optimal temperature for sleep is between 17 and 18 degrees.
2. Stay hydrated – it amazes me how little water some people drink. If you are not drinking enough water, you’re going to feel tired and possibly experience a range of other unpleasant symptoms. Did you know our bodies lose between 4 and 9 cups of water every day just by carrying out basic functions like breathing, sweating and going to the toilet? So it’s vital to drink enough water. You should aim for between 6 to 8 glasses of water per day spread throughout the day. The easiest way to make sure you’re drinking enough water is to buy a big reusable water bottle, fill it up and keep drinking from it throughout the day. Or set a reminder on your phone to get up and have a glass of water every hour. Stick to plain old H2O for maximum benefits as sugary drinks and too much caffeine will play havoc with your energy levels.
3. Avoid the blood sugar rollercoaster – to have good energy throughout the day, you need to keep your blood sugar levels as stable as possible. Limit sugary food and drinks as these spike your blood sugar levels up and bring them crashing down not long afterwards. If you regularly experience mid-afternoon energy slumps, it might be time to reconsider what you are eating for lunch. Try swapping the sandwich meal deal for something containing wholegrain carbohydrates, lean protein, healthy fat (such as avocado, nuts or seeds, olive oil) and lots of veg. If you normally finish your lunch with something sweet, have a piece of fresh fruit instead of a chocolate bar or biscuits. It’s really important not to go too long without eating during the day as this causes your blood sugar levels to drop and your energy levels will start to suffer. Skipping meals and eating too little will also leave you feeling hungry and drained of energy – if you’ve been on a calorie limited diet, you’ll know the feeling all too well. Three healthy meals, two small healthy snacks, plenty of water and regular exercise is a pretty good formula for most people.
4. Move more – this is particularly important if you have a job where you sit for long periods. Get up from your desk and walk around at least once an hour, ideally outside as fresh air does wonders for boosting your energy levels. Exercise is an incredible energy booster, even on the days when you don’t feel like doing it. Aim for between 4 and 5 exercise sessions per week lasting between 30 and 60 minutes. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just something that gets your heart pumping and your muscles working. On the other 2 to 3 days, do something active – even if it’s just a couple of 10 minute walks each day or a cycle into town.
5. Recharge your batteries – most people are on the go all day long and they don’t take time out to properly recharge. Each day aim to spend 15 minutes when your focus is on switching off and doing something enjoyable, something that is proper “you” time. Scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed might feel relaxing but it doesn’t help you switch off and unwind. So put your phone away and find something else to do. Everyone has different things they like to do to unwind – it could be going for a walk, having a coffee with a friend, reading, gardening, drawing or painting or listening to music. Find what works for you and schedule it in to your day.
Aim for consistency not perfection…
You don’t have to become a paragon of healthy living to feel a difference in your energy levels. Even a few small changes, such as drinking more water and getting outside for 10 minutes twice a day, can make a really big impact on your energy levels if you are consistent with them. Consistency, not perfection, is key.
What things do you think you could change in your lifestyle that would help you to feel more energised? Write them down and then try them out for 30 days, even on the days when you don’t feel like it.