Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Do you have an energy debt?

I am not sure if it is because it is winter or what but I always feel tired mid afternoon when my son goes down for a nap. I really liked this article about how to feel more energized w/o resorting to quick fixes that leave us feeling drained.

Article by Health columnist Lisa Byran

Many of us rely on “energy loans” to get us through the day.

Caffeine, sugar and nicotine keep us running, but they do so at a high cost, and for only so long. These temporary lifts will always leave us depleted because they are like a bank loaning out money at high interest.

We use these “energy loans” to get us through our immediate energy needs, but end up straddled with the “debt” of exhaustion at the end of the day. When these crutches are used over a long period of time, the cycle spirals and our body never has a chance to catch up on sustainable energy or to restore and repair itself.

How do we stop this cycle and begin to nourish and care for our bodies so they are full of vibrant energy all day, throughout the day?

Here are 16 ways to begin to bring more energy into your day.

1. Choose nutrient-dense, real foods.

  • Choosing nutrient dense foods are essential for our energy because they give more to our bodies than they take to digest.
  • Start by increasing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.

2. Balance your meals.

  • Our bodies need all the major nutrients (fats, proteins and carbohydrates) to function properly.
  • Include some protein, healthy fats and whole-grain carbohydrates together in each meal.

Photo by Sharon Mollerus

3. Increase your fiber in the morning.

  • When we eat a fiber-rich breakfast we stay satisfied and energized for longer, breaking the need for that mid-morning sugary snack or cup of coffee.
  • Try oatmeal, granola or fresh fruits - especially berries, apples, or pears in the morning.
  • Consider eating a lunch-type meal in the morning. I often eat avocado on sprouted grain toast or a bean and veggie soup for breakfast.

4. Consume more raw foods.

  • Raw fruits and vegetables have all the enzymes and nutrients intact (cooking food destroys some of the energy-giving enzymes and nutrients). The life energy of these foods leaves us rejuvenated.
  • Add more raw produce to each of your meals by having a side of raw cut veggies or fresh fruit every time you eat.

5. Eat your greens.

  • Focus especially on the dark leafy greens like kale, collard greens, bok choy, mustard greens, broccoli rabe and swiss chard.
  • These vegetables are full of vitamins, nutrients and phytochemicals (like chlorophyll) that improve circulation, purify the blood, and strengthen the immune system.
  • Associated with springtime, these vegetables increase vital energy and aid in detoxification.

Photo by Judith

6. Increase your physical activity.

  • Some daily movement is essential to healthy levels of energy.
  • Start by incorporating even 10 minutes of activity, like walking, yoga, or dance - preferably in the morning to jump-start your metabolism.

7. Reduce toxins.

  • Removing toxins requires a lot of energy and taxes the body. Manage your environment to reduce the toxic load on your body.
  • Begin by using non-toxic personal care products and household cleaners, and organic foods whenever possible.
  • Cleanse the air and water at your work and home with a purifier.

8. Oxygenate your body and mind.

  • Practice deep breathing techniques throughout the day to bring in more oxygen to your body and mind.
  • Try this simple breathing technique: Sit comfortably with your torso straight. Breathe through your nose, inhale a deep breath for as many counts as is comfortable. Now exhale slowly to double that count. So if you inhaled for four counts, exhale to eight counts. Repeat for five minutes throughout your day, or when you begin to feel tired or stressed.

9. Take a cold shower.

  • Well, not exactly. At the end of your shower, change the temperature of the water to slightly cooler. You only need a slight decrease in temperature to get the benefit. The cooler water (after the warmth of the shower) will essentially close your pores and “massage” your nervous system.
  • When your nervous system is engaged and stimulated in this way, it is prompted to flush toxins and increase circulation- which brings more oxygen to your tissues. This translates to a healthy energy boost that leaves you feeling refreshed.

10. Twist and stretch.

  • Engaging and “massaging” any of your internal organs or systems will leave you invigorated - this is one of the many benefits of a full body massage.
  • Try this simple “Tom Tom” stretch to engage your lower organs and reduce stagnation: Stand up straight, knees soft and legs hip-width apart. Let your arms dangle softly by your side, hands in soft fists. Slowly twist your torso, looking right and then left. Allow your arms and hands to rotate freely and softly hit your lower back and lower stomach. Gain momentum and twist farther as your body loosens up to the degree it feels comfortable.
  • This is a wonderful stretch to do when you have been in one position too long, especially sitting at a computer.

11. Hydrate.

  • We all know there are many benefits to staying well hydrated, and retaining a high level of energy through our days is one of them.
  • Be careful to not only drink enough water throughout the day, but to also avoid the major dehydration culprits - caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.

woman sleeping with a cat
Photo by Agnese

12. Get enough rest.

  • Seems obvious enough - we will feel more energized if we have enough rest, but most people have a hard time getting enough restful sleep.
  • Your body must produce melatonin to sleep properly. Overstimulating our senses, especially with artificial light, can prevent this chemical from being made.
  • About an hour before you want to go to sleep, dim the lights, and shut off the TV and computer screen. Create a calm mood with candle light or soft music. Engage in calming activities like light reading or taking a bath.
  • Naps work! If you aren’t able to get the right amount of sleep at night, utilize midday power naps. Most people need between 60-90 minutes to feel fully refreshed, but even mini-naps can help recharge our batteries.

13. Use your sense of smell.

  • The power of scent is often under appreciated. Research shows the certain scents have a profound impact on our mental and emotional states.
  • Use pure essential oils of peppermint, orange or lemon to awaken all your senses. Put a couple drops in your palms, then cup your hands around your nose and breath deeply.

14. Listen to your body.

  • Sometimes the key to feeling energized is knowing when to slow down, stop, or say no. When we consistently overextend ourselves we burn out. It’s okay to have a mellow day, to take it slow and not push yourself. In fact, it is a sign of wisdom to know your limits and to honor them.

15. Reconsider draining relationships.

  • Some relationships that require a lot of energy are necessary, rewarding and important (I’m not tossing my two-year-old out the door any time soon), but some simply zap us of energy and bring negativity into our lives.
  • There may be relationships in your life that are exhausting and draining. When you identify a person that is draining, think of ways you can re-establish boundaries or transform the relationship to be more positive in your life.

woman walking alone
Photo by Patrick Kennedy

16. Connect inwardly.

  • Our lives are increasingly interconnected with others, yet disconnected with ourselves. Through the people we live with, work with, interact with on our daily errands, and communicate with on the internet - we often spend most of our days with an outward focus. Cultivating an inward focus in order to know ourselves and our spirit is essential to feeling renewed and energized for the work of our days.
  • Take time daily to sit still with yourself, learn to hear your inner thoughts, come to know your spirit’s voice - its dreams, fears, longings, needs. Give your whole self the opportunity to grow and be cared for.

The next time you are feeling a lull in your day, try something from this list to help boost your energy. Or better yet, be proactive and begin to incorporate some of these techniques throughout your day to stay at the top of your game.

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