We are constantly in search of more energy. We reach for coffee, supplements and sugar to help us through the day and cherish weekend mornings when we don’t have to feel guilty for hitting “snooze.” It’s faster to find ways to re-energize when we’re busy than examine the reasons why we have no energy in the first place. But hidden drainers exist in all aspects life, secretly causing exhaustion without giving us the chance to avoid it.
I spoke to Teri Goetz, MS, LAC, ACC a New York City-based acupuncturist, Chinese medicine practitioner and life coach about the biggest, sneakiest reasons you have no energy and how to minimize their effects on the body and mind.
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Social media is distracting. While it sometimes provides a welcome break from work, constant notifications flashing across a screen interrupts productivity. These disturbances build up and slowly overwhelm your brain. Turn off notifications and designate a specific time during the day for social media use. Avoid LCD screens at night. The blue screen contributes to insomnia. “It signals to the brain that its daylight and it should hold off producing melatonin, known as the relaxation or sleep hormone,” said Goetz. She recommended turning off your devices an hour before bed or dimming the light of the screen.
We all know our fair share of Debbie Downers. Sometimes we have no choice but to listen to their daily complaints, but Goetz warns that taking in too much negative energy can be physically draining. If you can remove yourself from the negative environment, that is always best. If not, she uses the mantra, “what they say is about them, what I hear is about me,” to remind herself that she can control the message she’s receiving. Do everything you can to transform the pessimism into positivity. Respond with empathy, and remember someone else’s attitude has nothing to do with you. “It helps your hormones to not go into fight or flight mode and de-stresses the whole situation for you,” said Goetz.
Eating Carbs/Sugar When You are Tired
Sugar and carbs are often go-to foods when we need a boost, but according to Goetz, that burst of energy you feel right after eating them is a trick. Sooner than later, you will feel worse than you did before because your pancreas will secrete a lot of insulin in response to the high sugar intake and pull all of the sugar out of your blood. Instead of sweets, choose foods high in protein and fat for energy.
Your brain gets just as tired of thinking as you do, sometimes. Meditation breaks throughout the day help increase productivity and creativity. Five to 10 minutes of slow, deep breathing will help reduce stress, as it signals the body to stop producing adrenaline and remain calm. Goetz also advocated for a change of environment. “Walking outside is also a huge help – looking at sky has actually been shown to increase brain volume!”
“Learning how to cope with a stressful environment is key to improving your energy,” explained Goetz. When faced with a stressful situation, again, focus on slowing your breathing. The key is to lengthen your exhalation to twice your inhalation. If you inhale to a count of four, exhale to a count of eight. Also, resist the urge to panic. “Your body doesn’t know the difference between a saber-toothed tiger coming after you and a work deadline.” Keep perspective to minimize the impact of stress on your body. Be careful not to wear stress as a badge of honor, it can be physically damaging.
Take notice of your energy level after eating certain foods. While exhaustion after a big meal is common, foods containing gluten, dairy, corn, soy, peanuts, alcohol and other grains can cause inflammation. “If you notice you get tired after eating, that is a good sign that something you ate took too much energy to digest,” said Goetz. If you’re tired after eating often, an elimination diet is the best way to narrow down the cause.
Exercising increases blood flow to the brain, providing your body with natural energy. Be careful not to overdo it. Short walks throughout the day can be enough. “My general rule is that if you feel exhausted after exercising, you are doing too much—that is different than a good workout,” said Goetz. She suggested spinal twists, handstands or even laying on your back with your legs against the wall to keep your blood flowing. Also, remember to stay hydrated throughout the day to avoid fatigue and headaches.