If you are like most busy women, the approaching holidays means your stress will be getting more intense and your energy will be dropping at an alarming rate. Getting things done—or even enjoying the friends and family around you—when you are stressed, tired, and feeling lackluster is impossible.
What if you could increase your energy—throughout the holidays, the winter, and the entire year? It is possible, and it’s not all that hard to do. Now is the time to look at the things you do every day that drain your energy and impact your ability to perform at your peak. Do these five things, and you’ll have plenty of energy this holiday season for your family and your friends.
1. Reduce or Eliminate Caffeine
It seems counter-intuitive that a stimulant would actually drain your energy, but it does for four reasons.
First – While caffeine, in coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks, can give you a temporary boost to get you through a slump, it disrupts your sleep. If you don’t sleep well, you won’t be rested, and you’ll repeat the low-energy cycle the next day.
Second – When your caffeine boost wears off, your energy levels come crashing down. This crash leaves you anxious, nervous, and restless. Why? Because caffeine activates your nervous system, a process that boosts energy on the short term, but isn’t necessarily sustainable.
Third - Too much caffeine can dehydrate you rather than quench your thirst. Dehydrated bodies are headachy, listless, and spacey.
Fourth - Caffeine can wreck havoc on many women’s hormone balances. A study of 524 pre-menopausal women showered that when comparing the highest quartile of caffeine consuming women compared to the lowest quartile, high caffeine consumers had 12-15% lower blood serum levels of estradiol, a key hormone in maintaining hormonal balance in women (Source: Caffeine Intake In Women). Eliminating it can even out your mood swings. When your mood is more even, you have more energy (and you’re in a better mood overall!).
Drink water instead. Our bodies are made of water, and we need it to stay hydrated. Drink it and your body will thank you with energy and focus—a much healthier energy boost than caffeine.
2. Stop multitasking
Eliminating the need to multitask may seem like an odd way to increase your productivity, which tends to correlate directly with our energy levels. The reason is that when you are multitasking you are not really focusing on any one thing—you are too distracted by all the other things you’re trying to do. An interesting segment from the Harvard Business Review:
Distractions are costly: A temporary shift in attention from one task to another- stopping to answer an e-mail or take a phone call, for instance – increases the amount of time necessary to finish the primary task by as much as 25%, a phenomenon known as ‘switching time’. It’s far more efficient to fully focus for 90 to 120 minutes, take a true break, and then fully focus on the next activity.
Your mind reads distraction as chaos. Chaos is energy draining and that negatively impacts your ability to get things done. This step is especially difficult for women, many of whom have become masters of juggling multiple activities at once.
There are some simple things you can do to focus on one task at a time, such as making a daily to-do list, setting specific times of the day to check e-mail, and turning off your phone so you don’t keep getting interrupted (and let’s face it, most of those message are not critical). These things work because they help you focus on the task and at hand and help you stay alert. You will be surprised by how much you accomplish, and how much more energy you have, when you start single-tasking.
3. Learn how much Sleep YOU Need – Then Get It
Most people need at least 8 1/2 hours of quality sleep—sleep that is solid and uninterrupted. So then, if you have to get up at 6:30, then you should go to bed by 10 p.m. To find out how much sleep you really need, for several days wake up without an alarm (the holidays are a good time to try this out). Note what time you went to bed and what time you naturally woke up. Over the course of a few days, you will notice a consistency to how long you naturally sleep. That’s how much sleep you need. You can understand how much sleep on average a person of your age gets using this chart.
4. Eliminate Sugar and Junk Food
Like caffeine, sugar doesn’t really give you an energy boost; it only appears to. Unfortunately, the standard American diet is very high in sugar and other chemicals (especially this time of year)—both of which drain your energy. Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or other sugar substitutes have little to no nutritional value, so they provide empty calories that your body can’t use to refuel and re-energize itself.
Why does this matter? Because nutrient-rich food is the fuel needed for every function of your mind and body—thinking, moving, and healing. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals will help your body perform at it’s best, both physically and mentally. You find these vital nutrients in whole foods, especially organic or locally grown, not in fast food or packaged meals.
5. Get some exercise
Getting up and moving will actually make you feel more energized. That’s because exercise increases the amount of your body’s serotonin and dopamine—chemicals that make you feel good.
If you dread the thought of going to the gym for hours, or don’t know how to work exercise into your busy schedule, don’t worry. Studies show that smaller bursts of movement can have a profound effect on your fitness and energy. This means taking the stairs at work, walking around the block for 15 minutes, or doing chair yoga in the car while you’re waiting for the kids. Just get moving.
Susan Rose is a Health Coach and owner of Gutsy Health, a health and wellness company focused on helping women over 40 reclaim their health and energy to transform their lives and prepare for a healthy future. She offers group as well as 1:1, personalized health and wellness programs. Learn about the Gutsy Holiday Sur-THRIVE-al to help you get through the holidays with your health intact! You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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