Let’s face it, we’re constantly on the go, and a steady state “busy-ness” has become the norm — it’s no wonder that physical and mental fatigue is such a common complaint! The start of a new year is often the best time for reflection and to examine the parts of our life that function well and those that do not.
The good news is that there are some really simple and natural ways to increase your energy so you can keep up with all that busy-ness.
Winter is the element of Water in the Chinese medical tradition and in our bodies it’s associated with the kidneys, adrenal glands, bladder and bones. This is the time of year to consider cleansing and strengthening these areas of the body.
The kidneys are associated with willpower and the emotion of fear. When the kidneys are functioning well and are balanced, our motivation and willpower are at their best. We are able to make changes in our lives with greater ease and less fear.
Forget the coffee and stimulants, we’re talking blood sugar balancing, hydration, moving your body, and resting your body. Some might call these tips hacking your energy!
Get off the blood sugar roller coaster
One of the simplest ways we can boost our energy is to stabilize blood sugar. When we don’t eat enough food throughout the day or when we eat foods that are higher in sugar, our energy levels bottom out.
You can balance your blood sugar, and boost your energy naturally by:
● Eating every 3-4 hours to give your body the nutrients and fuel it needs to keep your blood sugar – and energy levels steady.
● Consuming foods that are low on the glycemic index (think fruits and veggies, whole grains) instead of the higher sugar white breads, crackers and pastas.
● Eating protein with every meal to slow down the release of carbohydrates into your bloodstream. Protein is broken down and released slower so you’re less likely to have a blood sugar spike and subsequent crash.
Before you reach for that coffee or energy drink to perk you up, consider switching to plain old water. While caffeine is usually the first choice for busting out of an energy slump, it can be dehydrating.
Even mild dehydration impairs our concentration, decreases our mood and zaps our energy.
How do you know if you may be dehydrated?
Check the colour of your urine. If it’s the colour of straw, you’re good to go. If it’s a darker yellow colour, it’s time to drink up.
Water intake is important for the kidneys to excrete toxins on a regular basis and to keep the body alkaline. The human body is composed of 75% water. Drink at least the equivalent of ½ your body weight in ounces. Divide your body weight in pounds by 2. This equals the number of ounces of water you require daily. A glass is approximately 8 ounces.
BUT, Also Take Time for Yourself. Spend at least 30 minutes each day doing something that you really enjoy and laugh daily. Rest, take a power nap, or meditate; taking some quiet time for oneself is important. It is good to rest more in the winter months as it is nature’s hibernation mode.
You like to move it, move it!
When you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is exercise. However, as hard as it can be to get your butt off the couch, it’s one of the best things you can do to fight fatigue.
And, it turns out that you don’t even have to commit to a long workout!
A California State University study concluded that even a brisk 10-minute walk can increase your energy for up to 2 hours.
Humans are designed to be active, it is important to move muscles daily. Ideally, engage in regular exercise for 20-45 minutes, 2 to 3 times per week.
Find something that you enjoy and try to spend time outside daily for at least 20 minutes. The winter sunshine and its vitamin D content will improve energy levels and mood.
Don’t Forget to Cover your kidneys in the winter. They are considered the root of the body’s energy in Chinese medicine supplying heat to all of the organs and are susceptible to the cold.
Wear warm layers and a coat that covers your low back, hips and buttocks.
So when you feel that afternoon slump coming on, skip the coffee and lace up your running shoes instead.
Up your sleep game
It may seem obvious that lack of sleep causes fatigue. However did you know that the quality of your sleep can have an even bigger impact on your daily energy? Even slight disturbances in our sleep can affect how rested we feel the next day.
Here are a couple of tips for a more restful sleep:
● Avoid tech in the bedroom, or within 1-2 hours of bedtime. Even the small amount of light, especially the blue light emitted from devices, interrupts your body’s circadian rhythm. Your brain still thinks it’s daytime and won’t wind down.
● Avoid caffeine late in the day – or avoid all together if this is a problem for you. Try to create a regular sleep/wake schedule to help your body develop a sleep routine = good sleep hygiene.
● Dab a bit of calming lavender essential oil on your temples before bed or put a few drops on your pillow. Breathe in the calm.
Dr. Rebecca Sagan, ND and Dr. Hajnalka Pinter, ND