Energy: that wonderful, refreshed feeling is something that many of us want to experience more of in our lives.
Today, more than ever, when we are juggling the demands of increasingly busy lives, it’s natural that many of us find ourselves with depleted levels of energy.
The good news is that improving and maintaining your energy levels is achievable for all. As part of our Year of Selfcare we’re taking a deeper look at the many factors that can influence our energy levels and how we can practise selfcare to improve and maintain energy in our lives.
Learn to tune in
Before we can learn to improve or change our approaches we need to tune into our body and recognise what’s actually going on. Let’s take a few moments to do nothing other than listen to your body. What is it telling you?
Are you regularly tired?
Are you stressed or feeling overwhelmed?
Are you functioning well or are you pushing through and telling yourself “I’m fine”?
Most of us know that feeling of being absolutely shattered. But what about if we dig deeper, we might begin to recognise signs of low level energy drainers that can leave us feeling depleted in the long term.
Do you find it hard to concentrate, is your patience wearing thin, or do you find yourself feeling easily frustrated with everyday tasks?
Our body sends more messages to our brain than our brain sends to our body – are you listening?
Once you tune in to what your mind and body are telling you, you can begin to move forward and make changes to help restore balance.
Moving towards more energy
To better understand how we can make changes, let’s first look at the many factors that can influence our energy levels.
It’s important to recognise that there is rarely one quick fix solution. A mindful approach requires us to look at the whole picture.
Stress can be a big drain on our energy reserves. Our nervous system responds to the demands of daily life in different ways.
When we feel relaxed and energised, we function out of our Parasympathetic Nervous System. It’s known as a place where we are able to rest and digest, a place of personal growth.
However, if we are constantly stressed and multi-tasking, we are functioning out of our Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). Just to be clear, the Sympathetic Nervous System is not a bad place to be, it’s essential for our survival – it’s just not a good place to be all the time and can leave us feeling depleted and drained.
Please remember that we are all different, it takes more for some of us to be pushed into our Sympathetic Nervous System than others and we have a window where we are able to function optimally, known as a window of tolerance.
By recognising and acknowledging which system we are functioning in, we can learn to sooth ourselves using positive, healthy techniques and change our nervous state / window of tolerance.
Shifting focus and introducing rest
For us to have more energy we often need to learn to simply rest. Please note a distinction between rest and sleep. Rest is what we should do when we are tired or feel stressed, sleep is what we do when we are sleepy. Rest can take many forms and helps us to feel rejuvenated. In fact, simply shifting your focus, can help your body to rest and move into our Parasympathetic Nervous System.
Can you find strategies that you can use throughout your day?
They can even be so subtle that no one else would even know what you are doing.
Remember we change as we develop so what hasn’t worked for you in the past may work now. Take time to explore a range of different approaches.
As with many forms of selfcare we return to our senses to sooth your nervous system and help us rest:
Does touching a particular texture help sooth you?
Some people are soothed by soft velvet, while others prefer rough net, while others love bubble wrap. There is no right or wrong, it’s all about finding something that works for you.
Sometimes smells can help to sooth us and make us feel more balanced again.
Some people love the smell of coffee while others prefer lavender or citrus.
What smells would you find soothing?
Often when we see loved ones, we feel a connection and enjoy memories of time together, your body releases chemicals that make you feel good which can help soothe and restore calm.
Could you introduce photographs of families, pets, friends or nature to your environment that might make you feel happy?
Can you take a few minutes to make a folder on your phone so that special pictures are in easy reach?
We’ve all heard the saying that ‘music is good for the soul’ and I’m sure we’ve all felt positive effects when we hear a favourite tune.
Maybe it might help to set up a soothing / uplifting playlist to have close at hand?
What sort of music makes you feel soothed?
When engaged in a hobby, doesn’t time fly? That is often a sign that you are functioning from your Parasympathetic Nervous System as you feel relaxed and content.
Do you have a hobby that you love?
Could you practise selfcare by planning time for your hobby into your daily life?
Generally, enjoying a meal or snack can help to refuel your body and increase your energy levels. However, many processed foods or foods high in sugar can have a negative effect on your energy levels in the long term, by giving you a quick burst followed by a sharp drop, leaving you feeling drained or craving more sugar.
Grains and whole foods rich in carbohydrates, provide a slow release of energy to your body that can help maintain energy for longer.
Could you replace any of your food with wholegrain or natural alternatives instead?
Staying hydrated throughout the day will help to keep your muscles energised and significantly improve brain function.
It’s recommended that we drink 8x glasses of water a day, but the amount can be influenced by your body size, how much activity you carry out and genetic make-up.
Could you try replacing one of your alternative drinks with water?
Could you invest in a bottle that allows you to be track of how much water you’ve drank during the day?
Too little or too much exercise can equally impact energy levels. So how do we find a balance?
The NHS recommends that ‘adults aged 19-64 should do some sort of physical activity every day with at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week’.
Any type is good for you, it all helps to raise your heart rate and release endorphins, which help improve your energy levels and mental wellbeing.
It’s also worth noting that exercise doesn’t always need to be intensively cardio based. Other forms of exercise such as yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi, can also help increase and maintain energy levels too.
A final note…
When making any changes to our lives, try to be kind to yourself and be patient.
These things may take time.
We should try to remember that we are all different so we should adapt and tailor our approach. If something doesn’t work the first time, give yourself time.