It doesn’t matter how many espresso shots I have before leaving the house in the morning, without fail, by mid-afternoon I am ready to hit the sack. Unfortunately for most of us with this problem, our day’s responsibilities don’t end at 3:00 pm.
Head slumped over the desk, eyes barely open and fighting off a mental stupor that feels as if your brain has been filled with thick pea soup is not that best way to feel productive and motivated in your place of work or study. It also increases the feeling of burnout and apathy that comes with a lack of energy.
Rather than heading to Starbucks for your mid-afternoon venti coffee, here are some energy-boosting tricks that you can try to increase your vim, vigor and stamina and give you that extra lift you need to carry on with your day.
1. Drink some water. Even slight dehydration can make you feel tired and sluggish. Drinking water flushes out toxins, rehydrates and increases metabolism. Add lemon or cucumber slices to your water to increase its hydrating ability. Cucumbers have the added benefit of replenishing electrolytes that might be lost due to dehydration and mental overwork.
2. Go outside. Dark rooms can increase melatonin, a sleep hormone. High melatonin is great at night, when we want a dark room to help us sleep, but it’s not so great at 3:00 pm, when we still need to feel alert and get work done. Head outside, especially if it’s nice out, and take a quick, brisk walk. Daylight decreases melatonin levels, decreasing the feeling of sluggishness and lethargy.
3. Go for a brisk walk. While outside getting your dose of melatonin-reducing sunlight, engage in a brisk walk. Even short bursts of exercise have powerful effects at reducing excess blood sugar, especially after a meal. Using your muscles to reduce your body’s blood sugar levels reduces the need for insulin secretion, which not only helps prevent type II diabetes, but eliminates much of the lethargy-producing effects of excess insulin secretion. Exercise also gets your heart pumping, which increases circulation, including blood flow to the brain and increases mental alertness. Aim for one hour of physical activity a day but, during work, a quick walk around the block will do wonders for helping you to wake up.
4. Right nostril breathing. The human body has a powerful, free, unlimited medicine cabinet that can be accessed anytime through the breath. By changing the rate and depth at which we breathe, we can alter our mental state, hormone levels, energy and physical circulation. The right nostril governs the solar side (right side) of the body, which gives us fire, energy, motivation and wakefulness. It should be clear and active during the day, while the left side (the lunar side) should be clear at night time. Clear your right nostril by sitting upright in your chair, closing off your left nostril and breathing slowly and deeply in and out of your right. Once the right nostril is clear, inhale through the right, retain the breath, block off the right and exhale through the left, letting the slow, dark lethargy of the left side of the body clear away. Inhale energy through the right nostril and exhale stagnation and fatigue through the left. At night you can reverse this exercise (performing left nostril breathing) to help you relax for a good night’s sleep.
5. Skip the mid-afternoon muffin. Sugary foods and simple carbohydrates spike our blood-sugar, which leads to a release of the hormone insulin. Insulin can make us feel sluggish and tired while also contributing to weight gain. Many people with unidentified intolerance to wheat or gluten can also experience brain fog after consuming foods containing those ingredients. Instead, try rehydrating yourself first and, if you’re still jonesing for a munch, try chowing down on a protein and nutrient-rich snack such as a handful of nuts, a small salad, a small bowl of berries or a green smoothie.
6. Boost your immunity. Chronic stress can tax out the immune system, which means the body is never completely able to defend itself against foreign invaders and that we’re always on the verge of coming down with something. This causes us to feel sluggish and tired all the time. There are many herbs called “adaptogens” that help our bodies adapt to chronic stress while increasing our immunity and providing us with energy. Ask your naturopathic doctor or herbalist about rodiola, licorice (the real kind, not the candy), eleuthrococcus, astragalus, ashwaganda and reishi.
7. Get a good night’s sleep! Practice sleep hygiene by turning off electronics one hour before bed and sleeping in a cool, pitch-dark room to increase the release of melatonin, which helps provide us with a restful and rejuvenating night’s sleep. Supplementing with melatonin 30 minutes before bedtime is another healthy and safe way to improve the quality of sleep.
8. Visit your naturopathic doctor. Constant fatigue can be a sign of a greater underlying issue. If your lack of energy is not resolved by the above tips you might need to get some blood work done, especially paying attention to your thyroid hormone, iron and B12 levels, as any of these issues and more could be contributing to the issue.
This article is not meant to serve as medical advice. For a more individualized assessment, please see a licensed naturopathic doctor.