Though not surprising – or ideal – we all go through seasons of life where we can feel extra drained with lower than usual energy levels, and maybe even an uptick in stress. So if you’ve been experiencing these low-energy waves, you’re not alone. Whether it’s from stress during an extra busy time of year, seasonal changes, an ultra-busy time at work, or just that afternoon energy slump, your daily habits may play a role in your overall energy levels.
Ahead, more on some of the daily habits that may be zapping your energy, plus some simple tips that may help you feel refreshed, motivated, and totally re-energized.
4 Daily Habits That May Cause Low Energy
#1 Drinking Too Much Caffeine
Are you one of those people who wakes up and the first thing on your to-do list is to pour yourself a big mug of coffee? You’re not alone.
Coffee is the second most consumed beverage in the world, only second to water. And while that cup of Joe can provide us with a much-needed energy boost when consumed in moderation, caffeine is a tricky thing — it can actually be the cause of low energy.
Studies explain it only takes 45 minutes for caffeine to be absorbed into our body, which explains the rapid boost in energy. But a special, or not so special, thing happens when we have the stimulant too late in the day — our energy levels can crash.
A chemical in our brain called adenosine affects our sleep-wake cycle, and it binds to receptors in our brains that prepare us for sleep. However, when caffeine is present in our bodies, the adenosine receptors bind to them instead, which tricks the brain and causes a spike in energy. Then, once the caffeine wears off, adenosine can connect to the receptors and thus a sudden depletion in our energy levels.
And, if you’re pairing your coffee with a spoonful (or two or three) of sugar, this energy dip is going to get expedited. The added (and excessive) sugar affects our blood sugar, causing a rapid spike and then crash. This not only causes fatigue, but it can also lead to irritability, anxiety, and increased hunger cravings.
Another reason for the coffee crash? The caffeine in our cup affects stress. In a 2017 research study, participants who ingested coffee experienced a 2-fold increase in our stress hormones, epinephrine, and cortisol.
That’s not to say you need to break up with your cup, but be mindful of how much coffee you’re drinking and what time you’re drinking it. To avoid disrupting your sleep, it may be best to keep your coffee consumption to morning only!
#2 Overdosing on Screentime
Do you ever find yourself scrolling through social media right before bed? Unfortunately, that seemingly harmless little habit could be the cause of low energy.
Screens — from our smartphones to our TVs — suppress the production of our sleep hormone, melatonin (aka the hormone that’s responsible for helping us feel tired) because they emit something called blue light. And that pesky light can decrease the amount of time we spend in REM sleep, a period of rest critical for our cognitive function.
#3 Eating Processed Foods
Food is supposed to fuel our bodies and provide us with long-lasting energy, so we avoid being hangry all the time. But not all food is created equal.
As a matter of fact, certain foods (think: processed, sugary, artificial foods) aren’t the best for supporting sustained energy. While they may provide a temporary spike in energy, they end up causing a crash, resulting in low energy, later.
The first thing people think of when they hear the word “processed” is “fast foods,” which is true, but it’s also refined sugars. When a food has too much sugar, it’s oftentimes missing the necessary fiber. And more sugar leads to a craving for more sugar later on. Hence, a vicious cycle.
What you really need for that boost of energy are nutrient-dense, satiating foods, such as:
Protein-Rich Foods: Like nuts, seeds, legumes, and lean meats
Fiber-filled Food Choices: Like raspberries, avocados, and complex carbs
Colorful Fruits and Veggies: These are rich in phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals
#4 Creating Unnecessary Stress
As mentioned above, stress wreaks havoc on our energy levels, mood, and really… our life! All thanks to the stress hormone we love to hate: cortisol. It has numerous functions in the body and plays a role in immune system regulation, metabolism, our inflammatory response, and it’s most commonly known for the role it plays in our body’s stress response.
Though not all stress is bad (such as exercise-induced stress), it becomes problematic if we’re experiencing stress on a consistent basis. And today, it seems we’re stressed all the time — work, social media, relationships, a pandemic. And, when our cortisol levels are too high, we may notice that bout of mid-day low energy.
The Best Energy-Boosting Hacks to Bust Low Energy
If you find that those daily cups of coffee end up causing an energy crash later in the day, consider limiting the amount of caffeine you consume or swap it out with a slow-release caffeine beverage such as Matcha. According to research, L-Theanine, an amino acid found in matcha, slows the release of caffeine, providing a more sustained and balanced effect while also promoting a feeling of calm. This means less cortisol, and thus, a lesser chance of experiencing caffeine-induced fatigue!
But if you do drink coffee, try to stop all caffeine consumption at least six hours before sleep to help prevent it from interfering with your sleep, which is crucial for energy!
Instead of coffee, try these healthy swaps:
Up Your Hydration: Give your water a splash of flavor with freshly squeezed lemon juice, if needed.
Try Matcha: If you’re craving a hot beverage, try sipping on herbal tea or matcha instead.
If You Do Drink Coffee, Try Adding a Stress-Busting Boost: Try adding adaptogens and superfoods (like ashwaganda, maca, etc.) to your cup to reduce stress and boost your energy.
Cut Back on Screen Time
Too much screen time zapping your energy? Try taking frequent breaks, especially if you work on a computer all day. Get up and stretch or even get out for a brisk walk.
Also, consider decreasing nighttime computer, phone, tablet, and TV use. If you must use electronics before bed, consider blue light blocking classes, or set your phone to night-mode and try limiting it at least an hour or two before lights out.
Enjoy Energy-Boosting Foods
Nutrition is everything when it comes to finding natural energy boosters! There are so many ways to support better energy through the foods you eat. For starters, try eating whole foods that will help keep your blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day.
Start by looking at your breakfast. Are you starting your day with a balanced meal with enough protein? Try swapping things like cereal for overnight oats, or whole-grain toast with mashed avocado and eggs.
When choosing your mid-day snacks, reach for food combos that contain protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs. Something like a cup of unsweetened Greek yogurt with berries and a drizzle of honey is great or hummus with sliced veggies and a hard-boiled egg.
And, reaching for healthier alternatives can help, too!
Skip the white rice and have a sweet potato or quinoa.
Ditch the cookie for a piece of 70% or darker unsweetened dark chocolate with a handful of almonds.
Swap out the ranch dressing for hummus.
Instead of chips, grab some edamame or popcorn.
Incorporate More Stress-Busting Habits
Stress is an energy-depleter, and while we can’t avoid all sources of stress in our lives, there are things we can do to help control it.
Here are some ideas:
Declutter Your Space: Research shows a messy space can cause feelings of stress, so if your workspace is cluttered, consider decluttering it!
Set Boundaries: Set healthy boundaries in all aspects of your life. Do you constantly say yes to everything, leaving little time to take care of yourself? If you need some help setting healthy boundaries, try these tips.
Do More Things That Make You Happy: Find a new hobby, try a new workout, or just take time for yourself.
Sweat it Out: Move your body daily, and switch things up! Find workouts or trainers that energize you, and try incorporating more mindfulness into your day with yoga or meditation.
Everything In Moderation
Don’t get me wrong. I love my coffee, social mediais omnipresent, and I divulgein the occasional sweet treat. And cutting out any of these things entirely won’t magically change our energy levels.
But when we make small adjustments to our day, we can moderately reduce those bouts of low energy. Everything in moderation!
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Be Intentionally Well!