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Money may make the world go round, but energy is the true currency of life.
This becomes all too clear when you’re no longer able to do the everyday things you used to do on autopilot. Getting dressed, eating breakfast or having a conversation, it all requires energy. And people with chronic illness only have a limited supply of energy, as the spoon theory famously explains.
Now obviously, treating the underlying cause of your fatigue should be the first step you take. Also, the combination of restorative sleep, good nutrition and regular exercise is a proven recipe to boost your energy levels. The problem is, that when you suffer from health problems, those fundamental habits aren’t always easy to attain. Pain keeps you up at night, which means you have even less energy to make healthy meals or go for a walk. Not to mention that pushing through the fatigue often only worsens your symptoms.
So if you suffer from all-consuming tiredness from chronic illness, is there anything you can do to feel more alert and productive? Have a look at these 10 spoonie-proof ways to boost your energy.
1. Take contrast showers
A cold shower is a sure-fire way to wake yourself up in the morning. But alternating between hot and cold water has more benefits. It boosts your blood and lymph circulation, and by transporting oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to every corner of your body, you’ll feel more energetic. What’s more, regular cold exposure speeds up your metabolism, improves your quality of sleep and increases your alertness. So fight off sleepiness with a contrast shower or splash cold water on your face for an energetic start of your day!
Be cautious with sudden changes in temperature if you have heart disease or related conditions. Please consult your doctor before starting any new practice.
2. Drink green tea
If coffee is your go-to drink for a quick pick-me-up, you might want to try green tea for a change. Green tea contains less caffeine than coffee, giving you a gentle buzz without the jittery feelings. Besides a small amount of caffeine, green tea also consists of L-theanine. And those two ingredients combined gives green tea its brain-boosting powers, both short-term and long-term.
3. Catch daylight in the morning
You may have heard me say it before, but exposing yourself to natural daylight in the morning is a simple way to improve your overall wellbeing. The light traveling through your optic nerve signals to your brain that it’s time to start the day. This leads to a chain of physiological reactions, including the release of hormones that boost your mood, mental alertness and productivity.
Instead of scrolling through social media when you wake up, open the curtains and let the daylight in. If you can, have your breakfast on the balcony or by the window. In winter time, you could consider switching your alarm clock for a wake-up light with sun simulation. And of course, there’s nothing like beginning your day with some gentle movement outdoors to boost your energy.
4. A hint of mint
Did you know that the scent of peppermint can effectively ease fatigue? Small studies suggest that inhaling peppermint essential oil helps to increase your energy and improve exercise performance. Citrus scents, such as lemon and sweet orange essential oils, can make you feel more energized by boosting your mood.
You can learn more about how you can use essential oils, adaptogens and herbal medicine to amp up your energy levels here.
5. Keep your blood sugar levels stable
Do you reach for the cookie jar when the afternoon slump rolls around? As tempting as that is, high-sugar snacks will only give you a temporary energy boost. Yes, your blood sugar levels and energy will spike – but that spike is followed by an all-too-known crash.
To sustain your energy levels throughout the day, it’s best to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Swap simple carbohydrates like crackers and chocolate bars for snacks that contain a mix of complex carbs, protein and healthy fats. Munch on a healthy trail mix, unsweetened yogurt with fruit or veggies with a dip for a subtle but significant change in energy.
6. Listen to upbeat music
Mankind has known it since the dawn of time: music has the amazing power to influence your mood. Research confirms that listening to positive music for two weeks can improve your happiness. That’s because music affects your body’s neurochemistry. Loud songs, for example, can increase your adrenaline levels, whereas calming classical music reduces the amount of noradrenaline, making it easier to fall asleep.
The good news is, you can use this knowledge to your advantage. Feeling groggy in the morning? Put on your favorite upbeat song and let the music work its magic. Bonus points for singing and dancing along!
7. Take a deep breath
Going for that extra cup of coffee? Ditch the caffeine and take a deep breath instead. Being stressed and overwhelmed often leads to shallow breathing. Deep belly breathing, on the other hand, balances the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your blood – which is vital for feeling energetic and alert.
For a quick pick-me-up, simply take a deep breath or practice a specific breathing exercise. Alternate nostril breathing balances your nervous system for a calm energy, while the Breath of Fire will invigorate you.
8. Stay hydrated
More than half of your body consists of water. No wonder that staying hydrated is key to fighting fatigue.
Of course the simplest way to hydrate yourself is to drink a glass of water before or with every meal. It also helps to carry a bottle of water with you (or put it on your night stand if you’re bed bound). If you’re not a fan of the taste of water, you could also try infused water, veggie juice, (plant)milk and (herbal) teas. Water-rich foods like watermelon, cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes and yogurt also help you stay hydrated.
Keep in mind that hot weather and exercising make you sweat more, so you’ll have to make up for lost fluids.
9. Take a power nap.
It may be frowned upon in our fast-paced society, but getting some post-lunch shut eye actually has several benefits. Napping boosts your alertness and productivity, improves your memory and supports your immune system.
For an energising power nap, close your eyes for 10 tot 30 minutes. If you doze off for more than 30 minutes, you’ll reach the deeper stages of sleep and wake up feeling groggy. Need more midday sleep to recover? Then it’s best to nap for a full sleep cycle of roughly 90 minutes to avoid ‘sleep drunkenness’ upon waking.
10. Guard your emotional energy.
Most tips on boosting your energy focus on the physical side, but have you ever realized that your emotions play a (big) role too?
Who hasn’t felt drained after an intense discussion or watching horrible news events? That’s because your emotions aren’t just feelings in your mind – they also trigger a chemical response in your body. For example, when you’re stressed, your brain’s wired to activate a fight-or-flight response, releasing adrenaline and cortisol to help you deal with the ‘threat’. Positive feelings like joy, on the other hand, produce feel-good chemicals like endorphins and dopamine. But dopamine isn’t just a ‘happy hormone’, it’s also heavily involved in your attention span and motivational drive.
Through these neurotransmitters, your emotions have a big impact on your energy levels. So if you want to feel productive and alert, make sure your guard your emotional energy too. Mind your mental diet, learn how to deal with negative feelings in a constructive way and actively cultivate positive emotions, no matter your circumstances.
How do you subtly boost your energy levels, even if you’re struggling with chronic illness?
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