Many of us are feeling tired and burnt out after the year that was 2020. Struggling with energy levels can influence us physically and emotionally. If you feel like your energy levels could use a lift, here are some practices you can implement to help naturally boost your energy levels in 2021.
Manage Day-to-Day Stress Levels
Stress can be fatiguing. When we go through periods of increased stress levels, we can set off a cascade of stress hormones that generate physiological changes in our bodies. This is known as our sympathetic nervous system, also known as the “fight or flight” response. In this state of stress, adrenaline flows through our bloodstream causing our body to become solely focused on fighting off perceived threats. You might notice this response as the tightening of muscles, a pounding chest, fastening breath, or an increase of sweat production. The sympathetic response is crucial for us to adapt and respond to threatening situations. Unfortunately, non-threatening situations can also set off this response.
The opposing nervous system is the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” phase. It helps our body to calm after a stressful situation. This branch of the nervous system decreases breath and heart rate and increases digestion. Studies have shown that slow breathing may help shift your body towards parasympathetic dominance (rest and digest state). (1,2)
Try building up to 4 counts on inhalation (breath in) and 6 counts on exhalation (breath out).
Sound aid can be a useful tool. “The breathing app” uses sound queues to time your breath. It can be downloaded on your smartphone via the App Store for free!
Drink More Water, Get More Energy
Between 50-80% of the adult human body is water. Water is essential for body temperature regulation, digestion, absorption of nutrients, and transportation and removal of waste products. Thus, dehydration due to lack of water intake, decrease in total body water due to fluid loss or both, can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, headache and difficulty concentrating. (3) The Australian Government recommends between 8-10 cups of water per day for an adult and 4-8 cups for children. (4) As a result, drinking more water helps to increase your energy levels.
Try starting 2021 off by carrying a water bottle around with you. I like to add slices of lemon into my water for flavouring, the options are endless!
Increase Your Physical Activity for More Energy
Among an endless list of health benefits, exercise has been shown to boost energy, improve mood and increase stress resistance. These amazing benefits occur through a complex set of different signalling pathways that are activated with even a short period of physical activity. (5) As a guide, Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Adults (18–64 years) recommends the accumulation of 2.5 – 5 hours of moderate-intensity physical exercise, or 1.25 – 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity exercise each week, including strength training 2 times per week. Moderate-intensity exercise can include walking, cleaning, or golf. Meanwhile, vigorous physical activity includes exercises that gets you to ‘huff and puff,’ such as organised sports, running or cycling. If you are new to exercise, are unsure where to start, or have a condition that may influence how you exercise it is best to speak to your chosen health care professional to ensure you receive appropriate advice. (6)
Why not grab a coffee and take a stroll through the park with a friend for a catch up, rather than sit in a cafe?
Take advantage of the internet. There are so many free at-home classes you can try on YouTube.
Arrange a physical activity with a loved one! This will help to keep you accountable and a great excuse to catch up with a friend or family member (which is also great for our mental health).
Join a social sports team. Being a part of a team is a great way to have some fun while exercising.
Sleep Hygiene Helps Improve Energy
We know that our sleep patterns have a direct impact on our energy levels. As such, the quality of our sleep is important. Sleep hygiene essentially means creating habits that may help you to have a better night's sleep. Although sleep hygiene was originally created to help in the treatment of insomnia, it is great to incorporate it into your evening routine to promote a better night's sleep, even if you generally sleep quite well. (7)
Have sleep time regularity – Irregular sleep schedules have been associated with poor sleep.
Avoid alcohol – Even though drinking alcohol allows us to fall asleep more readily, acute bouts of alcohol disturbs our sleep during the second half of the night.
Don’t lie in bed awake – If you are having difficulty falling asleep in bed for more than 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. The stress of being unable to fall asleep can make it more challenging to get to sleep.
Get some sunshine – Natural daylight is essential for sleep regulation. Try to get a minimum of 30 minutes of natural sunlight a day (and be sun smart!).
Reduce bedroom noise – Research shows that even though we habituate to noises, electroencephalography (EEG) detection of electrical activity in the brain persists.
Keeping your bedroom on the cooler side has been suggested to help you sleep better.
Take time to relax and wind down before bed (that means no screen time) for 30 minutes.
Avoid caffeine – Consuming caffeine close to bedtime disrupts sleep.
Avoid large meals before bed as it can cause indigestion which may disrupt sleep.
For more on health and wellness, head over to our Incite Health blog.
Dr. Naomi Erickson, Associate Chiropractor at Balanced Body Chiropractic
Russo, M., Santarelli, D., & O’Rourke, D. (2017). The physiological effects of slow breathing in the healthy human.Breathe, 13(4), 298-309. doi: 10.1183/20734735.009817
Tanaka, M., Tajima, S., Mizuno, K., Ishii, A., Konishi, Y., Miike, T., & Watanabe, Y. (2015). Frontier studies on fatigue, autonomic nerve dysfunction, and sleep-rhythm disorder.The Journal Of Physiological Sciences, 65(6), 483-498. doi: 10.1007/s12576-015-0399-y
Shaheen, N., Alqahtani, A., Assiri, H., Alkhodair, R., & Hussein, M. (2018). Public knowledge of dehydration and fluid intake practices: variation by participants’ characteristics.BMC Public Health, 18(1). doi: 10.1186/s12889-018-6252-5
Basso, J., & Suzuki, W. (2017). The Effects of Acute Exercise on Mood, Cognition, Neurophysiology, and Neurochemical Pathways: A Review. Brain Plasticity, 2(2), 127-152. doi: 10.3233/bpl-160040
Department of Health | Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines and the Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines. (2021). Retrieved 13 January 2021, from https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines
Irish, L., Kline, C., Gunn, H., Buysse, D., & Hall, M. (2015). The role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health: A review of empirical evidence. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 22, 23-36. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2014.10.001