Lack of sleep isn't the only thing sucking up your energy. All of the little things you do (and don't do) can exhaust you both mentally and physically, and can make getting through your day a chore. When that happens, many of you may turn to a pick-me-up like coffee (which, personally, I can drink and still go to sleep) but others turn into the energizer bunny. Or, they turn to energy pills or energy drinks to get the energy boost they so desperately need. Did you know that the energy drink market is a 20 billion dollar per year industry? That’s an absolutely mind boggling number! Monster, Redbull, Rockstar, and other companies have created a multi-billion dollar revenue stream off of nothing more than a potent mix of water, sugar, caffeine and other legalized stimulants.
Energy drink companies have managed to seriously profit off of an underlying systemic problem within our society: a lack of energy. This lethargy that many of us experience is a by-product of a get-up-and-go society—one in which we must work more to earn less—all while still managing our daily obligations. It is more common nowadays for someone to have two jobs, get less sleep, and have less leisure and family time. In other words, there are too many things to do and not enough time to do them.
Our habits are what ultimately build who we are. If we build positive daily habits, we generate a positive and thoughtful direction for ourselves. If we build negative daily habits, we find that we wake up in deep holes, while at the same time wondering how we got there in the first place.
The key, then, is to identify and understand how these energy-zapping habits come to be—and having the awareness of what you can do to CHANGE them.
1. SKIPPING EXERCISE WHEN YOU ARE TIRED: Believe it or not, skipping your workout because you are tired actually works against you. Many studies have shown, sedentary but otherwise healthy adults who began exercising lightly three days a week for as little as 20 minutes at a time reported feeling less fatigued and more energized after six weeks. Regular exercise boosts strength and endurance, helps make your cardiovascular system run more efficiently and delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues—all this on top of the fact that it helps you sleep better at night so that you are actually rested the next day! So next time you're tempted to crash on the couch rather than get up off your booty, at least go for a brisk walk—you won't regret it!
2. NOT DRINKING ENOUGH WATER: Being even slightly dehydrated—as little as 2% of normal fluid loss—takes a toll on energy levels. Dehydration causes a reduction in blood volume, which makes the blood thicker. This makes your heart pump less efficiently, reducing the speed at which oxygen and nutrients reach your muscles and organs. In order to calculate your normal fluid needs, take your weight in pounds, divide that in half and drink that number of ounces of fluid a day… simple!
3. YOU AREN’T IRON MAN… OR WOMAN: An iron deficiency can leave you feeling sluggish, irritable, weak and unable to focus. It makes you tired because less oxygen travels to your muscles and cells. Boost your iron intake to reduce your risk of anemia: load up on lean beef, kidney beans, tofu, eggs (including the yolk!), dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, and peanut butter, and pair them with foods high in vitamin C (vitamin C improves iron absorption when eaten together). Note: an iron deficiency may be due to an underlying health problem, so if you're experiencing these symptoms of iron deficiency, you should visit your doc.
4. YOU SKIP BREAKFAST: The food you eat fuels your body and when you sleep, your body continues using what you consumed at dinner the night before to keep your blood pumping and oxygen flowing. So, when you wake up in the morning, you need to refuel with breakfast. Skip it, and you'll feel sluggish. Eating breakfast is like starting a fire in your body by kick-starting your metabolism! Eating a breakfast that includes whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fat is just what your body and mind needs to get moving! Good examples include oatmeal with protein powder and a dab of peanut butter; a smoothie made with fruit, protein powder, low-fat milk, and almond butter; or eggs with two slices of whole-wheat toast and low-fat Greek yogurt.
5. YOU LIVE ON JUNK FOOD: Foods loaded with sugar and simple carbs (like the ones you'll find in a box or at the drive-thru window) rank high on the glycemic index (GI), an indicator of how rapidly carbohydrates increase blood sugar. Constant blood sugar spikes followed by sharp drops cause fatigue over the course of the day. Keep blood sugar steady by having a lean protein along with a whole grain at every meal. Good choices include chicken (baked, not fried) and brown rice, salmon and sweet potato, or salad with chicken and fruit.
6. NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP: Our hectic lives can most negatively affect our energy levels. Simply put: sleep is absolutely essential to brain health, energy, and physical health. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) links sleep deficiency to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. The NHLBI recommends at minimum 7-8 hours of sleep a day. However you may need to arrange your schedule, make sure to accommodate for this. Doing so will increase your energy, efficiency, and overall well-being.
7. YOU THINK YOU ARE A SUPERHERO AND CAN’T SET BOUNDARIES OR SAY “NO:” People-pleasing often comes at the expense of your own energy and happiness. To make matters worse, it can make you resentful and angry over time because you may feel people are taking advantage of you. Which very well may be because you have shown people through always saying yes that you don’t have any boundaries … just saying. So whether it's your kid's coach asking you to bake cookies for her soccer team or your boss seeing if you can work on a Saturday, you don't have to say yes. Train yourself to say 'no' or maybe try it in Spanish, “NO!
8. NOT GETTING PROPER VITAMINS AND NUTRITION: Food is fuel for our brains—literally. Mass-produced, packaged, and processed food is saturated with fat, sugar, salt, and preservatives that are harmful to your brain and body. Add super-foods to your diet to increase your odds of maintaining a healthy brain. Some examples: blueberries, salmon, nuts and seeds, avocado, whole grains, beans, pomegranate juice, and even dark chocolate. The benefits of these foods range from increased energy to a reduced risk of serious disorders such as dementia and heart disease. Also don’t forget healthy proteins and fats to round out a perfect nutrition plan.
Don’t know what healthy proteins and fats are? Try my book Transform for a step-by-step guide on a complete lifestyle change to achieving your perfect body. Or, you can always find a ton of information on healthy proteins, fats, and carbs online.
9. WORRYING, WORRYING, AND MORE WORRYING: Worry is the biggest enemy of the present moment. It does nothing but steal your joy and keep you very busy doing absolutely nothing at all but worrying about things that may or may not happen. It’s like using your imagination to create things you don’t want and making yourself believe they are true. Break this negative habit! It is far better to be exhausted from exercise or working towards something positive you desire. Don’t waste your energy on what may or may not be, but rather focus on what is good and what your goals are.
10. NEGATIVE SELF-TALK: Don’t believe everything you hear—even in your own mind. Choose to be miserable and you’ll find plenty of reasons to be miserable. Choose to be happy you’ll find plenty of reasons to be happy. It is this simple 99% of the time. Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break this negative habit. Talk about your joys, your loves, and your dreams instead. Be outrageously and unreasonably positive. Be funny and creative and ridiculous and joyful all at the same time. It’ll make you feel better.
If you practice complaining about what sucks in your life, you will become a pro at what sucks and live that reality. If you practice thinking and talking about what is good and what your desires are, then positivity and aspiration will become your reality.
I don’t know about you, but focusing on my what makes me happy and what I desire in life is much better than focusing on what sucks. Just saying.
The choice is yours…