10 Ways to Go From Tired to Terrific
Must. Stay. Awake.
Yes, it's the 3 o'clock mantra. And who hasn't mumbled it while fighting off midday yawns and drooping eyes?
Fatigue and flagging energy seem to be epidemic, especially among women who burn the candle at both ends (and who doesn't?).
Instead of moping, pump up your mojo with these 10 strategies from experts in sleep, fitness, nutrition, psychology, and alternative medicine.
See the light
Getting the right light can be a challenge, given the poorly lit offices we sit in and the scant doses of daily sunlight we get.
Lift your shades the minute you get up or take a 30-minute walk first thing in the morning, and go outside as often as you can during the day.
Get pumped with protein
Unless you plan to run a marathon, carbo-loading for energy is out. Instead, eat protein to increase mental alertness and energy, says Debra Hollon, MS, RD, a clinical nutritionist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Protein contains tyrosine, an amino acid that elevates the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine.
Eat plant- and animal-based protein throughout the day—an egg or high-protein cereal for breakfast, 10 almonds midmorning, a cup of low-sugar yogurt in the afternoon—and your stamina should stabilize.
Lend a hand
Research shows that you get a “helper’s high,” a rush of endorphins that lasts for hours, when you volunteer, says Kimberly Kingsley, author of The Energy Cure: How to Recharge Your Life 30 Seconds at a Time.
Judith Orloff, MD, a Los Angeles–based psychiatrist and author of Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear, agrees, and she often folds anonymous good deeds into her day. “When you make someone happy, you feel filled up again,” Dr. Orloff says.
Find volunteer opportunities that suit you.
Breathe hard—more often
That post-workout rush of energy you feel is well-documented: Movement sends oxygen through the bloodstream to invigorate cells.
Lift weights, roll out the exercise ball, or do five minutes of yoga in the morning. Climb a few flights of stairs at lunch and jog after dinner. To add an extra kick to your workout, breathe deeply for your first one or two minutes of cardio, says Gerald K. Endress, fitness director at the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.
Bag a new brew
Boost your energy with white tea, which has a delicate flavor that requires little sweetening. “Of all the teas, white tea goes through the least processing,” says Iman Hakim, MD, PhD, a leading researcher on the benefits of tea.
As a result, white tea has the highest concentration of L-theanine, an amino acid that stimulates alpha brain waves to boost alertness while producing a calming effect.
And because a cup of white tea contains less caffeine (15 milligrams) than other teas (up to 50 mg) and coffee (120 mg), it’s more hydrating, another key for sustaining energy.
Tackle the blahs in bursts
Shake up your routine for 15 minutes at a time to get an energy boost. Change your walking route, sample a new food, garden for a few minutes, or pick up a pencil and draw. “It’s all about taking baby steps to replenish yourself,” Dr. Orloff says.
Start small; tackling a really big new project may just pile on more stress. And think of your mini–task as a chance to renew, not another thing on your to-do list.
Get hands-on help
Therapies like acupuncture and Reiki (pronounced ray-key), a Japanese massage technique, may help, says Eva Selhub, MD, senior staff physician at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Chestnut Hill, Mass. “These therapies may remove the blocks that create emotional and physical problems in our bodies,” she says. “When the resistance is gone, energy flows.”
Don’t have time for a 30-plus-minute session? Rub the muscle between your thumb and your forefinger for three to five minutes; you should feel a little ache there and then an overall sense of ahh.
Take a tech-free break
Being at the mercy of electronic devices keeps us in “fight-or-flight mode,” Kingsley says. Cell phones, in particular, put increased stress on women, research shows.
Even though both men and women say that their cell phones allow job worries to affect their home lives, only women experience the opposite effect—the spillover of home concerns into work.
The solution: Give yourself at least an hour a day when you completely unplug from electronic devices. That chance to check in and connect with yourself will re-energize you, she says.
Meditate for a minute
Time-crunched? Reap the benefits of meditation—a hike in alertness and attention—in three-minute mini-breaks. “They’re like little tune-ups,” Dr. Orloff says.
She recommends an a.m. session before you start your day and a noon meditation before that typical 3 o’clock crash hits. Find a quiet place and mentally focus on an image that brings you pleasure; continue to keep the image in your mind’s eye as you breathe deeply.
With a little practice, Dr. Orloff says, you’ll become more skilled at maintaining focus and can add more short meditations to your day.
Clean up your sleep
The buzzword in sleep science these days is sleep hygiene, and it’s about more than clean sheets—it helps you create an atmosphere that’s restful, so you’ll sleep well and wake up energized without the need for sleeping pills, Campbell says.
Sleep hygiene usually includes three areas: fully darkening your bedroom (turn your alarm clock away from you if the display gives off too much light), regulating room temperature to a moderate coolness (too hot or too cold, and you’ll wake up), and using white noise (a fan or quiet music) to help induce sleepiness.