|Congratulations to Alexandra and Kathy, the two winners of Healing Walks for Hard Times, by Carolyn Kortge. May you enjoy many wonderful walks!|
We're all likely familiar with that "feeling"—that wrung-out, got-nothing-left, all-out energy drain, when you swear you can't do another thing.
Pure exhaustion: it can reduce your ability to concentrate, play with your patience and make your frustration climb to frightening levels, even though the challenge or task might be quite simple. And it's not always purely physical, with achy muscles and all-out yawning dominating your day; instead, it's a low-grade type of general malaise or discomfort.
While there are lots of things that zap your energy, don't despair. There are ways—fun ways—to help restore it.
Many experts say that small, frequent meals every few hours beat three meals a day where your energy is concerned. Do you ever feel so tired you can't think straight? One reason is that your brain needs a steady supply of nutrients, since it has very few of its own. Also, eating every few hours helps maintain a normal blood sugar level, which can keep your energy levels steady.
I never go anywhere without carting along some snacks. This helps me avoid that overwhelming feeling of fatigue that sometimes seems to come out of nowhere, until I realize that it's coming out of actual hunger. My tank is empty and needs to be filled. Having small frequent snacks also helps keep me from being so ravenous come mealtime that I lose all sense of dignity.
But beware: eating more frequently doesn't mean you can eat whatever or as much as you feel like. If you're eating more meals during the day, make sure you adjust the quantities to reflect that. And speaking of quantity, don't ignore quality. Include healthful snacks like whole fruit, low-fat cheese, whole-grain crackers or a handful of nuts.
Caffeine certainly has its place in helping with an energy boost. Coffee helps increase alertness, so having a cup when you first wake up or before you go into a meeting or start a project does have its advantages. But remember, drink it too late in the day and you're risking insomnia.
Alcohol, on the other hand, can make you sleepy, so have a glass (or two) of wine with lunch and you're almost guaranteed to spend the rest of your day in a full-size slump. If you're planning on spending some hours after dinner hitting the books or catching up on work, that evening cocktail can do you in, too.
A word to the wise: alcohol can interfere with sleep. Even though it makes you tired, in some quantities it acts as a stimulant. It can cause you to wake throughout the night, destroying the quality of your rest. (And then you're right back to feeling that energy drain the next day.)
Steer clear of energy drinks, which can contain huge amounts of sugar and caffeine, not only contributing to weight gain but causing other health problems like increased blood pressure or nervousness. Better to stick with plain water. Remember, lack of water can lead to dehydration, which can drain your energy and cause feelings of fatigue. How much you actually need remains controversial, but it's easy to remember the "drink eight 8-ounce glasses a day" as a general guideline. You might be happy to know that all fluids (and foods containing water, too, like watermelon and tomatoes, which contain 90 percent or more water by weight) count toward this total.
Feeling sad and depressed is an energy drain. On the other hand, feeling happy is an energy boost.
Try smiling; even if you don't feel like it, force it. Studies have shown that our emotions are reinforced or even driven by their corresponding facial expressions. One researcher found that the facial changes involved in smiling directly affect certain brain activities associated with happiness.
And happiness can also come with the company we keep. Research shows that your chances of becoming happy are increased by hanging around another happy person; even a second-degree contact (like the husband of your friend) or third-degree connection (the friend of your friend) can increase your happiness with their own.
It's hard to argue with this quote from Swiss philosopher and poet Henri-Frederic Amiel: "Happiness gives us the energy which is the basis of health."
You might also want to read:
Seven Easy Ways to Boost Your Energy
Boost Your Energy Naturally