Originally published for Parents by Maridel Reyes
It’s normal for energy levels to vary throughout the day. But if you’re feeling more sluggish than usual, it may be time to change your habits. Try these tips for boosting your energy levels throughout the day.
See the light.
Crack the curtains before bedtime to let the sun shine in when it rises, and open the blinds as soon as your alarm goes off. Daylight signals your biological clock to stop producing melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy, says Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., co-author of The Serotonin Solution. If your family’s schedule requires you to get up when it’s still dark, consider buying an alarm clock that simulates dawn by gradually lighting up the room.
Get outdoors early.
Try to get outside within 15 minutes of waking for a 20-minute walk. Face east for the strongest sunlight, suggests Wurtman. If possible, arrange your kitchen so the table is near a window to shed some light on your daily breakfast routine. On weekends, read on your porch.
Keep a log to track your energy levels throughout the day. In general, energy tends to be low after waking, peaks around 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., drops from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and lifts again from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Its lowest point is before bed, says Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., author of From Fatigued to Fantastic. Plan your most difficult tasks when you have energy to burn, then switch to easier projects as your concentration wanes.
Stroll with it.
A brisk, 10-minute walk can give you oomph and reduce anxiety. Walking can boost your brain as well as your metabolism and cardiovascular system. To log more steps, loop around the block on your lunch break or park your car farther away from store entrances.
Poor posture puts uneven pressure on your spine and makes muscles work extra hard, draining energy. Sit tall to open the chest and increase oxygen intake, says Teitelbaum. To improve posture, imagine someone pulling up on an invisible string tied to your head. Or swap your desk chair for an exercise ball.
Fit in fitness.
Chicago-based personal trainer Jim Karas tells clients to squeeze in fitness moments to counter the enervating effects of sitting all day. “When we’re seated, the body shuts down, increasing risk of disease,” he says. Stand while on the phone, or try his slow squat to tone the lower body: Rise from your chair, shift your weight to your heels, engage your abs and, with your arms in front of you, sink slowly until your butt taps the chair. Repeat 10 times.
Are you IM-ing and chatting on the phone while reading this? Tackling one thing at a time is more efficient, says Noelle Chesley, an associate sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. The human brain isn’t designed to multitask, and while you may think you’re successfully juggling projects, you’re actually switching from one to the next. The back-and-forth forces you to reorient yourself to a “new” task over and over.
Incoming phone calls and emails can keep us in fight-or-flight mode. Constant hits of adrenaline with each ring or alert wear us down over time, says Chesley. Her research reveals that mobile phones are particularly stressful for women, especially when family-related calls interrupt work. For non-emergencies, request a text. Or try trading days off with your spouse; that way only one of you is on call for the small stuff.
Take mini breaks.
Set an alarm on your computer to remind you to get up every hour and move around, suggests Teitelbaum. Deliver messages to co-workers in person rather than via email or phone.
Take a drink.
Dehydration causes the cells in your body to shrink and function less efficiently, says Ohio-based nutritionist Ashley Koff, R.D. Combat fatigue by sipping water with a squeeze of citrus—the fragrance of orange, lemon and grapefruit can be energizing. Or jazz up water with ice cubes made with coconut water, frozen fruit or herbs.
Meditate for 3 minutes.
No ohm-ing required. Sit in a quiet place (the bathroom works in a pinch) and focus on your breathing to get endorphins flowing, suggests Teitelbaum. If your mind wanders, think of a single word (like “one”). Inhale deeply and slowly, forcing oxygen into your cells.
Move it (some more).
Researchers suggest that exercise stimulates neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which may enhance liveliness. Aim for 20 to 40 minutes of cardio four or five times a week.
Turn off the computer at night.
And your smartphone. And your e-reader. Bright light (like the kind emitted from electronic gizmos) can increase brain activity and make it harder to snooze. Shut down about an hour before bedtime and turn the face of your alarm clock away from you.
Strategize your sleep.
No excuses: Aim for seven to eight hours nightly, says Karas. To stay on schedule, go to bed (and get up) around the same time every day—give or take 30 minutes—even on weekends.