Photo of Shem-shem Pablo
By Liz Scala
Lately I’ve been struggling with my own sleep and energy levels; as I am sure many of us have at one point or another during our careers. As a nurse, I have worked swing shifts, night shifts, and have been unable to create a sleep-wake cycle. I am certain many people have had trouble falling and staying asleep. I’m not sure why my sleep is disrupted right now as I really haven’t changed anything in my life. I also am not saying my sleep is terrible; I am just aware it could be better.
The reason I’ve become aware of this broken sleep is I feel more lethargic and less energetic during the day. This could also be related to the fact that I have a lot of upcoming events or have a lot on my mind. But whatever the reason, I am certain my restless sleep is causing my decreased energy levels.
This brings me to the topic I wanted to discuss: energy levels. We have more control over our energy than we think. People, in general, feel they are powerless over their energy increases and decreases throughout their day; falling victim to things like shift schedules, overtime, and staffing numbers. Fortunately, this is not the case. You DO have control over your energy.
I want to share with you several ways you can keep energy levels balanced throughout your busy work day:
- Get more rest. Instead of going to bed at 1 am, and getting only 4.5 hours of sleep, because you stayed up late surfing the web or logged on to Facebook; turn off the technology and settle in earlier. Create a set scheduled bed time, as much as you are able to, and keep it. Get 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Make a space that is conducive to sleep which means turning off distractions, keeping the room dark, cooling the temperature, reserving the bed for sleep, and unwinding beforehand.
- Exercise. A surefire way to increase your energy levels is to actually do things that spend your energy. I know this sounds counterintuitive. Most times people protest, “I have no energy to work out; after work I just want to go home to veg out and sleep.” I promise you, once you get into a workout routine you will have more energy. As your heartbeat increases with exercise, more blood surges through the brain, more oxygen is absorbed by your cells, and you feel more mentally alert and energetic. Better-conditioned muscles make daily tasks easier. As you become stronger through exercise; so does your immune system.
- Drink more water. This seems to be my answer for everything; but it works! Water accounts for approximately 60% of your body weight. Your organs require water in order to function properly. You will flush out the toxins that slow you down. By staying hydrated you will avoid feeling sluggish, tired, and irritable.
- Stay away from “energy boosters.” Things such as coffee, caffeine, sugar, “energy” drinks, etc are all ways to send your energy levels crashing. Why? You take them in for a quick burst of energy, but then since they are not natural your body “crashes” down off of them causing you to need more to sustain those energy levels you enjoyed. Excess sugar causes fluctuations in blood sugar, which can result in plummeting energy levels. Although coffee initially raises stress hormones and gives a rush of energy, consuming several cups of coffee per day can promote burnout. Avoid unnatural ways to boost energy.
- Take some time each day just for you. Create a daily ritual where you take 20 to 30 minutes for yourself just relaxing and doing nothing (no watching TV or surfing the net). Read a book, listen to music, meditate, have a cup of tea, try a new yoga pose, or sit outside just being quiet. Do something that is just for you. Schedule it in as you do anything else. Make your “me” time priority.
- Go outside. Nature is a great energizer. Breathe in the fresh air. Get your dose of natural vitamin D from the sun. Tire yourself out with the outdoors. Run around with children, play a sport, or tackle some yard work. The more you are outside experiencing the elements; the better rest you will get and ultimately the better energy you will have.
- Breathe. Energy, in Chinese Medicine, is called qi (pronounced chi). One important way we make qi is by breathing deeply. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing is a simple way you can improve energy levels.
Editor’s Note: Liz Scala writes about Health and Wellness monthly for AMSDaily. You can visit her newly designed blog at Living Sublime Wellness to read more on these topics. Subscribe to her website to get your free daily meditation audio and a journal gift!