Imagine this. It’s 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon. You still have hours of work to go, but all you want to do is put your head down on your desk and take a nap. So you go to the break room, where you pour yourself yet another cup of coffee and grab a Snickers bar from the vending machine. You understand that caffeine and sugar are just quick fixes for more energy, but you don’t really know what else to do. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. A lot of us are suffering from chronic fatigue and low energy, largely because we function in a world that encourages us to “power through” any challenge we run into and often sees self-care either as selfish or lazy. But that way of thinking is detrimental, because the real secret to having more energy is rest!
No more Band-Aid fixes.
It’s true, sugar and caffeine do boost your energy. So what’s so bad about turning to them to have more energy when you’re feeling sluggish? Well, aside from the potentially negative health consequences and the fact that your spike in energy will just crash again in a couple of hours, downing a Red Bull doesn’t address the real issue. And what is that? Lifestyle. Many of us are so busy – from the moment the alarm jolts us awake in the morning until the time we collapse into bed again – that we don’t give our bodies a chance to relax or rejuvenate. It’s no wonder we’re always tired.
Less is more.
A lot of us imagine energy as being like fuel for a car—the more of it we have, the longer we’ll keep running. But that’s not actually the case. We don’t have tanks that can be refilled with more candy and energy drinks. In reality, energy is what results from having a balanced lifestyle – which includes allowing ourselves down time for activities that help us recharge – whether it’s reading a book, taking a long bath, going on a jog, or grabbing a laid back meal with a friend. So it’s not really about finding more energy, it’s about cutting back on unnecessary stress in order to make space in our lives for rest and relaxation.
Ditch the guilt.
Slowing down and getting more rest probably sounds fantastic to most people. So why don’t more of us do it? The answer, a lot of the time, is guilt. As a culture, we reward those who are constantly busy, because we make the assumption that someone who has been given a lot of responsibilities must be a high achiever. We’re taught, in a sense, to act like martyrs – to sacrifice our personal sense of well-being in order to accomplish more at work or take on more obligations at home. And the second we decide to make our own health a priority, we begin to feel like selfish slackers. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you want to be able to give your best to the people and activities you care about, you’ve got to make sure you’re not burning yourself out by having a balanced lifestyle. Having more energy for the things that matter, you first have to identify what those are. Where do you invest most of your time each day? What activities are most important? When it comes to the ones that aren’t priorities, can you delegate some of your responsibilities? It’s not easy to say “no” when others are making demands on your time, but getting your priorities in order will help you find a few minutes in your busy schedule to take care of YOU.
As fabulous as it is to spend an hour and a half at the spa, we can’t exactly do that every day. And even if we prioritize, there are still going to be days that are just really darn hectic. So what do you do when your to-do list is a mile long? Take several brief rest periods throughout the day. Walk around, look away from your computer screen, get some fresh air, meditate. Even a short break helps the mind and the body to become more centered. It’s like hitting the restart button.
You know this, right? Sleep is a no-brainer, but it’s something we often shove to the back burner. We all know how easy it is to stay up later than we should because we just need to answer a few more emails. And no matter how obvious it might seem, you’re not going to be able to follow through with getting more sleep if you don’t make a commitment to yourself to do so. You might even try setting an alarm at a certain time each night to let yourself know you have 20 minutes before it’s time to hit the sack. See sleeping as an investment—something you do so you can be at your best, like exercise or education. And remember that you deserve to go about your days feeling energized—you don’t have to be exhausted all the time!
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating © Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014
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