In today’s 24/7 world, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid feeling sluggish every now and then. Your energy can get zapped by a night out here, a long day at the office there, chores and obligations, one too many doughnuts, running around after the kids– it all adds up.
While it’s perfectly normal to go through occasional periods of feeling overwhelmed when there’s a lot happening, feeling tired all the time is not normal. While most of us can’t afford to “eat, pray, love” our way through a sabbatical, taking a look at what’s zapping our energy levels and making changes to our lifestyles can make a world of difference.
1. Irregular sleep patterns
Lack of sleep is an obvious energy zapper, but so is too much sleep. Going to bed late and waking up early during the week, only to sleep well past noon in the weekend throws our circadian rhythms off, leaving us sluggish and woozy most of the time.
Even if you’re getting enough sleep in theory, the quality of your sleep is just as important. Waking up often during the night, tossing and turning, will leave you just as drained.
The solution isn’t as simple as just going to sleep earlier. Trying to sleep when you’re not tired enough will only make you frustrated and annoyed, which will prevent you from actually falling asleep. The first thing to do is setting a strict wake-up time and sticking to it. That doesn’t mean you should also wake up at 6 AM during the weekend too, but your week-end wake-up time should be closer to that– say 8 AM.
The next step is to make sure your bedroom isn’t too hot, as well as dark enough, especially if you live in a big city with lots of artificial lighting. Speaking of artificial lighting, make sure you turn off all electronics when you go to bed. Additionally, most gadgets today allow you to control their light emissions, so setting up a blue light filter and lower brightness before bed will help your body get ready for sleep.
2. Stimulants (like coffee and sugar)
When we’re tired, especially if it’s been a particularly short night, our first instinct is to caffeinate. While one cup of coffee is perfectly fine, downing five double-shot espressos before noon is not. Not to mention energy drinks, sugary fizzy drinks, energy and chocolate bars, too much fruit juice – sugar is a major energy zapper.
Beyond the obvious health risks of consuming too much sugar, it is also a major disruptor of energy levels. Sure, it may give you a momentary boost, but a spike in blood sugar levels will leave you agitated and unable to focus. When your blood sugar crashes, it will leave you even more tired than before.
The same goes for caffeine. Additionally, both sugar and caffeine are highly addictive. As your tolerance increases, they will leave you needing – or more accurately, craving – more.
Take stock of much you consume of each and slowly decrease amounts. It’s essential that you take your time with this step. Withdrawal can leave you completely drained, lacking focus and concentration, and dealing with physical symptoms like headaches and jitters.
3. Poor diet and hydration
We’ve already discussed the effects too much sugar has on your energy levels. But poor diet goes beyond too much sugar and caffeine.
Skipping breakfast only to indulge in a heavy lunch will zap your energy levels instantly, while a large dinner will disrupt your sleep. Your body will have to focus on digesting, rather than thinking or sleeping. Additionally, they throw off your blood sugar levels.
The human body needs smalls amounts of food every three to five hours for optimum energy levels.
What you’re eating is just as important as when you eat. After all, you may be eating often enough, but if it’s junk food that’s high in calories with little nutritional value, your body isn’t getting the fuel it needs.
Cut down on carbs, sugars, TV dinners, fast food, and vending machine fare. Increase your fresh fruit and vegetable intake, and give yourself time to eat.
Eating at your desk increases the likelihood of eating the wrong foods, but it also increases the likelihood you’ll eat more than you need. If you’re not focused on your food, you’ll likely not realize when you’re full.
Hydration, too, is vital. Most people don’t drink enough water and dehydration zaps your energy faster than you can imagine. After all, water is key to everything our bodies do.
While eight glasses of water may sound like way too much for many, it’s really easy to keep to it with a few tweaks. The first step is always having a bottle of water with you. Instead of plastic-bottled water, though, get a refillable a water bottle and keep it with you all the time: in your bag, on your desk, in your car.
On the one hand, it’s better for the environment. On the other, if you’re not forced to stop whatever you’re doing to go buy water, you’re more likely to stay hydrated.
Flavored water can also entice you to drink more, while cutting down on unhealthy sugary drinks. Add a few slices of fruit or cucumber or rich herbs like mint to your water and you’ll be hydrating right in no time.
Once you’ve cut these obvious energy zappers, it will be easier to eliminate more insidious emotional drainers like inactivity, clutter, information overload, and stress.