If you’re tired throughout the day, you aren’t alone. Everyone goes through the doldrums at work. You know, it’s that moment where you sit down for a minute, and before you know it your head is bobbing and your eyes are as heavy as tire irons. What’s worse is that when you’re feeling sluggish, you might be doing all the wrong things. Sure, you can reach for an energy drink for a temporary spike. Or you can buy another cup of joe, but that’s just another temporary solution. What you need is long-lasting energy. You need sustainable energy that’ll support you as you’re on your feet all day. Now, if you want to have long-lasting, sustainable energy, you may have to make some real lifestyle changes. Consider your current diet, exercise routine, the amount of time you spend outside, your sleep schedule, and your caffeine and sugar intake. Here’s our advice to get the energy you need to navigate your day to day without a crash:
Your diet fuels your body and your mind. The right diet will keep you vital, providing plenty of energy to cruise through the day. The wrong diet, on the other hand, will make your body sluggish, and it’ll make your mind muddled when you need to focus. So let’s talk about a real change in your diet.
As Lisa Guy, a nutritionist, points out in the article How to boost your energy levels, a high-energy diet should include plenty of iron, B vitamins, magnesium, and complex carbs. Here are some excellent sources for all the nutrition you need to unlock sustainable energy:
- Iron: Iron is in all sorts of food, and Guy notes that we can find iron in foods like “lean red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, wholegrain breads and cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables.” Iron is essential for producing energy on a cellular level, and this energy fuels both brain and body.
- B Vitamins: There’s a reason why energy drinks contain B vitamins; these vitamins convert carbs, fat, and protein into usable energy. Now, it’s best to source B vitamins from food, since you’ll get a better balance of other nutrition that your body craves. Guy suggests consuming B vitamin-rich foods, such as “wholegrain cereals, meat, poultry, salmon, eggs, milk and green leafy vegetables.”
- Magnesium: Magnesium helps the body to cope with stress, which can reduce the amount of energy that our minds and muscles utilize every day. Guy suggest adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet, including “tofu, legumes, nuts, seeds, wholegrains [sic] and green leafy vegetables such as spinach.”
- Complex Carbs: Carbohydrates provide sustained energy to the body, and they can normalize your blood-sugar levels. With the right amount of complex carbohydrates (which are far better for sustained energy than simple carbohydrates like sugar), you’ll notice that your energy levels don’t waver throughout the day. Guy noest that you can find the best carbs in foods like “wholegrain breads and pasta, whole oats and muesli, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and root vegetables such as beetroot, pumpkin and sweet potato.”
Lisa Guy also mentions that there’s an energy superfood out there that deserves some praise. Spirulina, an algae, is packed with almost everything you need for sustained energy. Guy points out that spirulina contains high levels of “vitamins B, C and D, as well as magnesium, iron, zinc and beta-carotene, for strong immune function.” You can find spirulina in health juice drinks and smoothies, and you can purchase raw spirulina in powder form from health food stores. A couple of teaspoons of spirulina per day can really put some pep in your step.
It’s ironic that energy-sucking exercise can actually boost your energy levels. But the science is out there. In their article entitled, How does exercise increase energy? exercise.com points out that “scheduled physical activity will actually increase energy levels.” Now, there’s a key word in that statement: scheduled. The same article notes that using energy can create energy, and working out regularly ensures that regular, extended periods of exercise boost energy levels the most. So it’s important to build an exercise routine, and it’s equally as important to stick to it. Exercise.com suggests a plan “starting with at least ten minutes of physical activity, and working up to 45 to 60 minutes, at least three times per week” for those who aren’t exercising already. If you do exercise, extend the duration of your exercises and their frequency in order to further boost your energy levels. In short, if you’re running out of energy while you’re on the job, it might be because you’re a couch potato when you’re at home. Get up, get out, and start an exercise routine. It doesn’t have to be crazy, even a brisk walk every day can help.
If you’ve heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), you know that the sun helps us to stay energized throughout the day. In the darker months of the year, many of us suffer from SAD. Beyond causing low energy levels, SAD can result in depression and social withdrawal. Now, SAD speaks to another problem that can happen year-round. If you work in an environment that’s void of sunlight, you can experience the same symptoms as SAD, simply because your brain and body aren’t receiving the light that they desire.
Sunlight boosts serotonin, as the Mayo Clinic points out. And serotonin increases brain activity. So, it makes sense that sunlight energizes us by stimulating the brain. If you’re suffering from low levels of energy, try to get some time outdoors during the day, or if you must, you can invest in an ultraviolet lamp to mimic the effects of sunlight.
Sleep & Nap
Your sleep schedule can have a huge impact on your energy levels throughout your day. As the National Sleep Foundation mentions in their article Diet, Exercise and Sleep, “though the exact mechanisms of how sleep works, how sleep rejuvenates the body and mind is still mysterious, one thing sleep specialists and scientists do know is that adequate sleep is necessary for healthy functioning.” Adequate sleep can improve your body and mental health, your weight, and, you guessed it, your energy levels. Strive to get regular sleep. Most adults should get between seven and eight hours per night. Napping is OK too, although it won’t provide the sustained energy that you need. If you do resort to napping, keep it to between 20 and 30 minutes; otherwise, you can wake up groggier and more lethargic than before you’d napped!
Moderate Your Caffeine & Sugar
Most of us reach for products that are packed with caffeine and sugar when we’re starting to crash. After all, you do get a rush of energy from caffeinated, sugary food products. However, we should be reaching for better stuff. Sugar boosts short-term energy levels, but after your blood sugar spikes, you’ll be right back where you started, or even more tired. And, as Lisa Guy points out in the same article mentioned above, caffeine “stimulates the production of stress hormones, which gives you a temporary boost in energy but can also contribute to anxiety, irritability, muscle tension, weakened immunity and insomnia.” When you need a pick-me-up, stick to an herbal tea, a glass of water, or an apple. You’ll get more energy, and you’ll improve your health.
Here at Selfcare for Healthcare, we strive to educate others to take care of themselves, especially caretakers themselves. In the healthcare field, there’s an unfortunate epidemic of doctor and nurse burnout. We aim to reverse that epidemic. That’s why we started the SelfCare for HealthCare program. We work with nurses and other caretakers, as well as their managers, in order to improve working conditions, team involvement, patient satisfaction, and most of all, the health of our nurses. Nurses too often neglect to care for themselves. That’s why we’ve built a year-long program which provides the resources and education caretakers need to improve their health. Learn more about the SelfCare for HealthCare program, and get in touch to get involved!