Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.Full Bio
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I know I have to slow down. You most likely know the same thing about yourself.
The proof was last week, when I came down with a case of all sorts of pesky annoyances – a major headache that refused to quit, stomach cramps and nausea, fatigue and general malaise so powerful that it sidelined me for much of the week.
And that's not like me. I usually try to deny that I'm feeling bad; instead opting to do something stupid like go to the gym (I did, and later regretted it) or carry on with my usual schedule (I tried but gave up when I was totally unproductive and uninspired). So, instead, I spent two days dragging myself around the house, indulging in much-needed afternoon naps.
And now that it's a new week – and hopefully whatever was inhabiting my body got tired of me and retreated – I realize it's time to zone in on ways to get my energy back, and keep it up.
What to do when you're dragging and crave nothing but some energy?
Eat. It's incredible how much my body reacts to food. By about 3:00 yesterday I was absolutely, pathetically dragging myself around, silently bemoaning the fact that I STILL needed a mid-day nap, asking myself why I felt so damned awful. And then it hit me. I hadn't had any protein all day. Zero. An english muffin and fruit for breakfast…and no lunch, since I rushed off to do some errands with my husband. After some Greek yogurt – which happens to have a whopping 13 grams of protein - I felt like all was right with the world. I perked up like a wilted flower after being watered. Really, that's what I felt like. It was the proverbial you-need-to-put-gas-in-the-tank moment.
Other good things to eat for energy: Complex carbs and protein, like a whole grain cracker with low-fat cheese or a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread.
This matters> Don't skip meals (especially breakfast). And go for the high-fiber, high-carb kinds. When researchers studied the effects of two carbohydrate-rich breakfasts, they found that people who started their days with high-fiber and high-carbs had the highest level of alertness between breakfast and lunch. Click here to get the recipe for a yummy high-fiber bread I make at home.
Eat a frog. I love this expression. It's from a book about procrastination called - you guessed it - Eat That Frog! It's based on the premise that if you tackle the most challenging task of the day (like eating a live frog), you can get things done more effectively.
This matters> Think about it: those bills that are sitting piled up on your desk? You know, the ones you keep eyeing with dread? Getting that pile out of the way gives you the feeling of triumph and power to move on.
Take a break. I think that's what water coolers are for. But since I don't work in an office with a water cooler and can't do the water-cooler-chatter, I try to remind myself - no matter how engaged I am in a project – to take a walk to the kitchen and pour myself a big glass of water, and take 5 or 10 minutes to scan the newspaper. Which leads me to my next point:
Drink more water. If you're dehydrated (which, a lot of times, you might not even realize), you can feel incredibly tired and kinda cranky. Try filling up a few 8-ounce containers and keeping them next to you while you work so you remember to drink.
This matters> Taking short breaks throughout the day can help fight fatigue and make your more productive and energized. Even a quick ten-minute walk outside or a break to sit and read goes a long way.
Move your body. Some intense stretches, a short walk, running in place – whatever it takes. I promise you that you'll feel reinvigorated and much, much less tense. It really works. After listening to Dr Oz. speak about stretching, I've gotten into the habit of incorporating some quasi-sun salutations (I really do need to get back to yoga!) into my day - it's startling how energizing and refreshing it feels.
This matters> You might feel too tired to even attempt to move. What to do? Push yourself if you can. As soon as you begin, you'll feel infused with energy you didn't know you had. I promise.
Eliminate clutter. It's amazing how clutter zaps energy and takes over your life. Trust me, I know this firsthand. When things are a mess, my mind is a mess and my body soon follows suit. I don't know if it's because just seeing it reminds me of how much I need to do to get it the way I want it, but when my office is neat and organized, it infuses me with much-needed energy. It just feels calmer. And calm translates to energy.
Know your body clock. You might be more energetic in the morning, so if you are, why not take advantage of all that stored up power and do the things that demand the most energy? Then you can save the low part of your day for easier projects. – or that 10-minute walk or stretch.