These days, everyone readily admits that “doing it all” is an impossible life goal, yet society is slow to act on ways that counteract that detrimental mentality. Even a quick scroll through your Instagram feed will encourage you with quotes like, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished” (thank you, Lao Tzu) while also bombarding you with photos from friends who appear to be juggling motherhood, a successful career, and a beautifully decorated home without batting an eyelash.
Being continually exposed to contradicting paradigms can be frustrating. We’re told to rest, relax, and just do the best we can, while constantly being reminded that someone else is doing it better than we are. So we cram more into our days. We go to bed later and wake up earlier. We burn the candle at both ends, but we’re not feeling more accomplished. On the contrary, we’re exhausted. Spent. Just plain tired.
It’s time to get out of the downward spiral of energy-draining behaviors. Here are three big mistakes most people are making on a daily basis—and advice for how to counteract them in your own life:
You “Check In” Before You Turn In
Reality check: You’re staring at your smartphone more than you want to admit. You’re far from alone, but remember that just because everyone else is doing it certainly doesn’t make it any healthier. In fact, this seemingly harmless habit is likely to be sabotaging your sleep patterns at night and contributing to low energy levels throughout the day.
Research has shown that staring at the cool blue and white glow of phones, tablets, and other technological devices lowers the body’s production of melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone. Basically, it messes with your internal clock, sending signals to your brain that it isn’t time to go to sleep yet, and making falling and staying asleep difficult.
Sleep is a biological need, not a luxury. The majority of people require seven to nine hours of sleep each night, and not just to feel well-rested. Sleep supports your brain’s detoxification mode, including glial cells, which are responsible for cleaning up neurotoxins in the brain. These toxins build up throughout the day, and are cleared out at night while you sleep. If you don’t get enough shut-eye, glial cells don’t have a chance to do their job, which is when you start to experience foggy thinking, lack of focus, and impaired memory. Even your insulin levels will be thrown out of whack. Your brain isn’t functioning normally, so it goes into overdrive, adding to your daily exhaustion.
To up your overall energy levels, avoid all technological devices for at least one hour before bedtime. You can still read, but choose a magazine or an actual paperback (novel idea, right?). You can even revamp your bedtime habits to be more like a child’s. Think about it. Parents create calming routines for their children to help them wind down at the end of a busy day. When it comes to falling asleep, adults are just big children. By creating a relaxing bedtime routine for yourself, you’ll signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep.
If you still find it difficult to get a good night’s rest, try a natural sleep solution. While some people like melatonin and valerian, there are some lesser-known, highly effective sleep promoting herbs like lemon balm, lavender, mandarin, and ravintsara that are known to do the trick.
You’re Not Moving Enough
Here’s a sobering thought: You could be training for a marathon in your off-hours, but if you’re logging the recommended eight hours of sleep each night and working a job where you sit between eight and ten hours per day, you’re still living a mostly sedentary lifestyle. For the majority of Americans, it’s time to get moving.
But the more you exert energy, the more drained you’ll feel, right? Not necessarily. People often use the excuse that they’re too tired to exercise, when they should be thinking they’re too tired NOT to. Being sedentary for long periods of time causes blood vessels to constrict and makes you feel tired, even if you’re getting plenty of restful sleep at night.
Physical activity triggers your brain to release uplifting endorphins, those “feel good” chemicals that boost your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Even a little bit of movement increases blood flow enough to help more oxygen reach your cells, making you feel more alert and centered throughout the day. Anytime you start to feel an energy slump, take a moment to stand up and walk around.
You can also try an energizing yoga pose, like “rag doll.” In this standing pose, you align your feet under your hips, slightly bend your knees, and hinge forward, allowing gravity to pull the crown of your head toward the floor. Bring your hands to the opposite elbow, and let your head hang lower than your heart. Anything that brings your head below your heart is a great way to get your blood recirculating throughout the body. More blood to your brain equals more energy!
You Think Sugar Won’t Hurt
Your energy level has taken an afternoon nosedive—it’s 3:00 p.m. but you feel like you’ve been at work for 17 hours straight. That Snickers bar in the breakroom vending machine has been calling your name for the last 45 minutes and your willpower is about to fall by the wayside. Your brain lights up at the thought of sinking your teeth into some sweet chocolatey goodness. A little sugar boost can’t hurt, right?
Wrong. The excessive amount of sugar found in candy bars isn’t your friend, no matter how you spin it. The best thing sugar will ever do for you is offer a temporary high—which inevitably results in a sharp low-blood-sugar crash and leaves your energy levels even lower than before. This begins a vicious cycle, because your body starts to crave even more sugar to get your blood glucose levels back in check. Basically, sugar is an energy loan shark.
So what should you eat in the event of an afternoon energy slump? One to two ounces of protein can stabilize your blood sugar for hours. Healthy energy-boosting snack options include a handful of nuts and seeds, a piece of string cheese, or apple slices slathered in nut butter.
Another way to boost your energy at this time of day is with adaptogens like ashwagandha and rhodiola. These clinically studied botanicals have the unique ability to increase alertness and focus without causing jitters. You’ll feel balanced and revitalized instead of exhausted and strung out. Plus, adaptogens benefit your health in other ways as well—they can relieve depression, counteract insomnia, and boost immune health.
Incorporating healthy botanicals into your daily routine can help you increase energy levels naturally.
To feel alert and focused:
- Ashwagandha can relieve fatigue, exhaustion, stress, and depression.
- Rhodiola is both mentally stimulating and emotionally calming.
For deep, restorative sleep:
- Lemon balm has been used for centuries for its calming properties and ability to melt away the effects of stress.
- Lavender is known for its ability to promote sleep and overall well-being.
- Mandarin is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to relieve stress and promote restful sleep.
- Ravintsara has been used traditionally to promote relaxation.