Read an Excerpt
everyday Energy Boosters
365 tips and tricks to help you feel like a million bucks
By Susannah Seton, Sondra Kornblatt
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2012 Sondra Kornblatt and Susannah Seton
All rights reserved.
ENERGY BOOSTER 1
Understand Energy Cycles
Energy ebbs and flows during the day. In his book Calm Energy, mood scientist Robert E. Thayer cites research that shows how energy typically follows a pattern: low upon waking, rising to a high in late morning or early afternoon, declining in the afternoon, perhaps with a slight rise in early evening, followed by a steady decline until bedtime.
This information can be liberating. You're not supposed to feel perky all day long—it's natural for it to ebb and flow! Once you understand this, you can stop feeling something is wrong with you when you feel low energy in the late afternoon and evening. It's your biorhythms—and it happens to everyone, with slight variations. Now doesn't that make you feel better?
ENERGY BOOSTER 2
Track Your Energy/Tension Cycles
In Calm Energy, Robert Thayer points out that in addition to natural energy cycles we also have tension cycles: tension tends to be lowest when waking, and increases throughout the day, reaching a peak at about five p.m. "The relationship between energy and tension is critical for understanding our everyday behavior," he writes. "When our energy is high, we can withstand stress with relative impunity. But as our energy drops, stress can have its greatest effect.... One negative effect of this period of tense tiredness is that we often do things we would prefer not to do to self-regulate the unpleasant state." Things like eating or drinking, or not exercising.
When you put the two cycles together, in general, between ten a.m. and one p.m. is a time of the highest energy and lowest tension, the perfect time to do challenging tasks. If you are interested in tracking your specific cycles, you need to do it for three days. Pick typical days when you go to bed and get up at regular times and face ordinary tasks. Rate yourself on the hour, every hour from waking to sleeping on a scale of 1 to 10 for energy (1 being lowest) and a separate scale for tension (1 being lowest). Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to do it.
After three days, look at when your energy is the highest and tension the lowest. This is your peak performance time. Also look at when tension is highest and energy lowest. These are the times you are the most vulnerable to overeating or other unwanted behaviors. Then you can plan to use a more healthy energy booster or take a siesta.
ENERGY BOOSTER 3
Air Out Your Dry Cleaning
The cleaning fluids used to clean your clothes could be making you tired. Some can cause the thyroid to stop working properly. To avoid giving yourself a chemical blast, air your clean clothes outside. When that chemical smell is gone, it means the solvents have evaporated and it is safe to bring your clothes into the house.
ENERGY BOOSTER 4
What Your Fatigue Is Trying to Tell You
Debra Waterhouse suggests in Outsmarting Female Fatigue that we just write the question out—"What is my fatigue trying to tell me?"—and notice what comes up for an answer. There are no wrong answers, but in doing this, avoid blaming yourself: "It's telling me it's all my fault." Also don't assume that it means you have a dread disease. What you discover will help you decide which other ideas in this book you might want to try.
ENERGY BOOSTER 5
Make an Energy Elixir
When you hit the mid-afternoon slump, try a smoothie made with tea. It gives you a bit of a caffeine boost but at only half the strength of a cup of coffee, and it won't dehydrate you as much. This one is loaded with vitamins and fiber.
1 large navel orange, peeled and sectioned
½ cup iced tea
¾ cup orange sorbet
3 ice cubes
Place all ingredients in a blender and whir until smooth. Makes about 3 cups.
ENERGY BOOSTER 6
Just Do It
So much of our energy gets bound up in indecisiveness. Should I buy the car or put the money in my retirement account? Should I get that new sofa or not? We go round and round trying to decide, and days, weeks, months pass. Then there's the energy that gets lost in regret and hindsight—I should never have bought the house. If only I'd chosen the other couch.
One way around this is to set a time limit for a regret-free decision—I will choose by Tuesday. Then figure out what you need to make the decision: more information, input from others, or whatever it is. Finally, go get what you need by the deadline and decide, knowing that you will not look back with regret. Period. If you find yourself going down the "if only" path, remind yourself of your commitment and say to yourself, "I chose the best I could with the information at hand. Now I am here. What shall I do—live with it, or decide to change it?"
ENERGY BOOSTER 7
A Moment to Be
We all know that meditation is "good for you." It can lessen anxiety, stress, and depression; quiet critical thoughts; free up energy; and promote concentration. So why don't we do it more? For one thing, we build an identity around being busy and productive, so we resist what seems to be just sitting and not doing. For another, the process of meditation—noticing self-criticism and resistance—isn't always as pleasant as the resulting sense we get of ourselves beyond the self-criticism and resistance.
Enlightened masters say that the purpose of meditation is beyond purpose, just to be. But until we get there, our minds need a purpose to grasp. We need an answer when our minds protest, "Why sit here when you have a stack of dirty dishes up the yinyang?" Meditation can have many purposes: Stilling the body. Taking time to notice yourself on the earth. Relaxing. Visualizing emotional or physical healing. Discovering what we believe. Becoming aware of the reality beyond our concepts. Learning to concentrate so the mind gets less disturbed by things out of our control. Touching in with God, a deeper wisdom, or higher essence. A moment just to be, not do.
If this sounds good to you, see the next entry for a way to begin.
ENERGY BOOSTER 8
Refresh with Awareness Meditation
Meditation wasn't designed as an energy restorer, but that certainly is one of the side effects. Because it allows your brain to produce more alpha and theta waves, which are at a slower frequency than our "paying attention" beta waves, it actually restores your mind.
There are many ways to practice, but here's a typical beginner's technique. Sit comfortably in a chair with your body straight but not stiff, and your shoulders relaxed. Place your hands comfortably in your lap or on your knees. Allow your eyes slowly to close. Feel your belly gently expand and recede, rising with each in breath and falling with each out breath. Notice your body touching the chair or floor. Now become aware of your breath as it passes by the nostrils back and forth, in and out.
When thoughts arise, notice them and then let them go. If sensations appear in your body, notice them and let them go, too. Bring your attention back to your breathing each time it wanders off and simply experience each in breath as it comes into your body and each out breath as it leaves your body. Feel or imagine the breath moving through your body, down into your chest, into your belly, your legs, and your toes on each in breath. As best you can, avoid judging yourself or your thoughts or feelings. Just note them, trying not to pursue them or reject them. Return to the breath, maintaining moment-to-moment awareness as it continues to move in and out of your body.
ENERGY BOOSTER 9
Do you recheck the oven to be sure it's off or the door locks because you can't remember if you've locked them? A quick energy-saving tip is to say aloud: "I'm turning off the stove" or "I'm locking the door." The sound of your voice will remind you that you've completed a routine task.
ENERGY BOOSTER 10
Learn "Square" Breathing
Square breathing is a simple way to get the most from your breath. Talk radio psychologist Dr. Joy Browne swears by it. You can use square breathing to sidestep anxieties that drain your energy (like the what-ifs that crowd your brain while rushing to the airport), as well as simply clearing away the cobwebs when you need to focus.
Why is it called square breathing? Because you divide the breath into four parts—inhale, hold, exhale, and hold—for equal lengths of time. You do it like this: inhale (one, two, three), hold breath in (one, two, three), exhale (one, two, three), hold breath out (one, two, three). Repeat the cycle two or more times to get the best effect. Of course, longer counts help you get a fuller breath, but it's not a contest! Go gently.
This is an easy one to teach children to do. And a calm child is an energy booster, too.
ENERGY BOOSTER 11
You May Suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The Center for Disease Control estimates that 500,000 Americans are suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). CFS is a mysterious condition that has no known cause and no diagnostic lab test. Rather, it is diagnosed through a constellation of symptoms that include unexplained fatigue, joint pain without swelling or redness, muscle aches, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, loss of short-term memory, insomnia, and headaches that can't be explained by depression, obesity, substance abuse, or other disease. For years, physicians dismissed sufferers as being depressed or hypochondriacs, but now medical science takes the condition seriously despite the wide range of severity and various combinations of symptoms.
If you are constantly exhausted for no particular reason, you should check out www.cde.gov/ncidod/diseases/cfs and consider seeing your doctor. Treatments vary depending on symptoms.
ENERGY BOOSTER 12
Believe it or not, being cooped up in the house can drain your energy. Research has shown that people need one half hour of natural sunlight a day to keep the brain producing the correct amount of serotonin, the feel-good hormone.
ENERGY BOOSTER 13
Cut Down on Alcohol
A glass of wine may make you feel less tired, but the effect is very temporary because it's a sedative—you're feeling less of everything.
Alcohol saps energy in two ways. First, it dehydrates you, which means less oxygen gets circulated in your bloodstream. Second, while it may make it easier to fall asleep, chances are you'll wake up in the middle of the night. The disruption of your brain-activity patterns linked to restorative sleep can have a bounce-back effect. So if you have three-in-themorning wide eyes, perhaps you need to cut back on or eliminate alcohol.
ENERGY BOOSTER 14
Wiggle or Move as Much as Possible
When we sit in one spot for long periods of time—at computers or on airplanes, for instance—blood gets drawn away from our brains and hearts and pools in our legs. This can cause a sluggish feeling. The more you move around, the more you keep the blood circulating and your energy up. So get up, walk a bit, or at least move your feet around in circles.
ENERGY BOOSTER 15
Pop a Vitamin B5
According to The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book, vitamin B5 helps to unlock the energy in food. It is found in chicken, yogurt, and peanuts. If you want to make sure you're getting enough, you can take a supplement. The recommended dose is 100 milligrams per day.
ENERGY BOOSTER 16
Become a Convert to Green Tea
In the past decade, more and more is being discovered about the benefits of green tea. Studies have shown that while green tea is lower in caffeine than coffee (it has only onefourth the amount), it actually produces more physical energy. The reason is that green tea contains catechins, which activate brain chemicals to increase nerve action and their energy levels.
ENERGY BOOSTER 17
Use Energizing Soap
Aromatherapists have been teaching us for years that certain scents wake us up while others mellow us out by causing the brain to release various chemicals. Take advantage of this effect by showering in the morning with soap that perks you up—peppermint and citrus are particularly effective. But don't use them at night when you want to mellow out!
ENERGY BOOSTER 18
Try the "Breathing Machine"
Thank goodness breathing is automatic and involuntary or we'd all forget to do it. But when we add awareness to our breath, we employ a powerful energy booster that is instantly available. Adding body motions to our breathing enhances the pick-me-up even more.
Here's a simple way to breathe with motion. Face straight ahead, then inhale as you turn your head to the right, exhale as you turn back to center. Repeat for the left side. If you have more room, try this variation: Stand or sit erect with your arms at your sides. On your inhale, raise your arms out from your sides and over your head—can you feel your ribs expand? On your exhale, slowly lower your arms back to your sides.
For a twist—literally—try this: Feel your feet on the ground or bottom on the chair. Inhale as you raise your arms so your palms face each other above your head. Exhale as you move one arm straight in front and the other behind, palms toward the ground. Keep your head and hips facing straight ahead. On the inhale, bring your arms back above your head. Repeat, switching arms as you exhale. To end, let your arms slowly descend down to your sides as you exhale. A breathing machine!
ENERGY BOOSTER 19
Remember What You Can—and Can't—Control
One reason we get so depleted is that we run around trying to control the people in our lives, which is a hopeless task. And the more we understand this, the less energy we'll expend trying.
In this book The Inner Game of Work, author Timothy Gallwey lays out all the factors that are not in your control in an exchange with someone: the other's attitude or receptivity; how well the other listens; the other's motivation, needs, or priorities; the other's time availability; whether the other likes you; the other's ability to understand your point; how the other interprets your communication; whether the other accepts your point or does what you want.
So what can you control? You. You control your attitude toward the other, your attitude toward listening, how receptively you listen, your acknowledgment of the other's point, your respect for the other's choice to accept or decline, your respect for other's time, your expression of enthusiasm for the other's idea, the amount of time you spend listening and speaking. Ask yourself: Whom do I need to give up trying to control to gain energy for the things that I can influence?
ENERGY BOOSTER 20
Mold Could Be Making You Tired
Recent studies have shown that as many as 40 percent of buildings in the United States contain mold. It is such a problem that some insurance companies around the country are refusing to issue home owner insurance because of mold. Mold doesn't just do damage to your house, but also your body: symptoms include headache, problems concentrating, rashes, mood swings, respiratory problems, and, yes, extreme fatigue.
To learn how to reduce the risk of mold in your house and how to eliminate the mold that may be there, the government has a Web site with all the details: www.epa.gov/iaq/molds/index.html.
ENERGY BOOSTER 21
Go for the Good Carbs
In the past decade, nutritionists have discovered that there are two kinds of carbohydrates—those that deplete energy by creating a spike in blood glucose levels one hour after eating and then a crash, and those that increase energy by keeping blood glucose levels more even. To have sustained energy all day long, you need to eat carbohydrates with a glycemic index (GI, the measure of the rate glucose enters the bloodstream) below 70. Eating low-GI foods at night helps you sleep more soundly. And for those wishing to lose weight, there's an added benefit: eating low-GI foods helps curb cravings and snacking.
Low-GI foods include virtually all fruits, multigrain and sourdough bread, low-fat yogurt and milk, all kinds of beans, brown rice, pasta, most vegetables, and even many desserts. You can find a more complete glycemic index by looking on diabetes Web sites.
ENERGY BOOSTER 22
Manage Your Energy Like Your Bank Account
Energy is finite—just like money is. And we need to think about managing it as we do (or should) money. Just like money, there are three questions when it comes to energy management: How can you get more for daily use? How can you save for the future? And how can you make what you have go further?
What happens when you ask yourself these questions? What changes do you need to make in your life so that your day-to-day account is in balance, you are maximizing your daily expenditure, and you are saving for the future?
ENERGY BOOSTER 23
Restore Mental Energy with Flower Essences
Flower essences are substances created by a complex process of steeping. Herbalists swear by two for increasing the capacity to focus on mental tasks: Impatiens (Impatiens glandulifera) and Indian pink (Silene californica). The usual dose is four drops of each, under your tongue, four times a day. Flower essences are available at health food stores.
ENERGY BOOSTER 24
Become Aware of Breathing
You already do it. But do you notice it? Simply becoming aware of breath adds to its power to renew and refresh. Notice your breath (without changing it, if you can). Feel your stomach rise and fall. Maybe you can feel your ribs open to the back, sides, and front. You might try using your breath as an internal masseuse. Let it expand that perpetually tight spot between your shoulder blades.
Excerpted from everyday Energy Boosters by Susannah Seton, Sondra Kornblatt. Copyright © 2012 Sondra Kornblatt and Susannah Seton. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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