How to beat the energy crisis
Feeling worn out after a good night's sleep may be due to an unhealthy lifestyle and lack of exercise, so if you're feeling exhausted ... it's time to get moving
DO you wake up every morning feeling in need of a good night's sleep? Do you struggle with your morning's business, yawn through lunch meetings and drag yourself home to collapse, exhausted in front of the TV?
HECTIC lifestyles can leave us with a constant feeling of fatigue, even if we sleep eight hours a night. With extended work hours, and a lack of separation between work and play, it is difficult to find time to take care of ourselves. This can cause tiredness which makes us more stressed. Then we drink and smoke which saps our energy level further.
If there is no obvious reason for your fatigue, such as insomnia or illness, it's time to make some simple lifestyle changes. By improving your diet or increasing exercise you can make your energy levels soar.
Are you too tired for the gym? All the more reason to go: exercise is the best re-energiser around. However low you feel before a workout, you're guaranteed to feel better afterwards.
Exercise kick-starts your metabolism and triggers the release of 'feel-good' endorphins, which lift your mood. A fit body deals better with the daily stresses and strains. Exercising also helps you sleep better and boosts your immune system. So inject more activity into your daily life.
Try walking or cycling to work or get off the bus a few stops earlier. Research shows a brisk post-lunch walk prevents mid-afternoon slump. Progress to a regular exercise routine, scheduling workouts for the time of day you need a boost. If you exercise daily, vary the type and intensity of your workouts so your body can recover.
What we eat and when we eat it affects our energy levels dramatically. Forget double espressos, the best energy boost comes from a healthy diet, high in energy-packed carbohydrates (such as brown pasta, brown rice and sweet potatoes) and low in fat. If you're tired, you may not be eating enough carbohydrates to repair your energy stores.
Never miss breakfast. Research shows people who eat high-carbohydrate breakfasts, such as cereal and toast, stay more alert through the day.
Heavy lunches lead to a mid-afternoon slump as blood is diverted from the brain to the stomach. Instead, several small meals a day, plus healthy snacks such as fruit and yoghurts, will maintain your blood sugar levels, staving off fatigue.
At business lunches start with vegetable soup or salad, then choose grilled fish or chicken and a sorbet or fruit to finish.
Avoid junk food, coffee, chocolate and sugary drinks, they can rob you of the vitamins and minerals vital for peak performance. Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. If you don't eat much meat, top up on iron and B vitamins needed to transfer food into energy.
A healthy office environment helps counteract long hours and stressful meetings. Open windows for fresh air and maximise natural daylight. If you work in an air-conditioned office, get outside at lunch time. Staying hunched over a desk or computer leads to shallow breathing, causing tiredness and muscle tension.
Ensure your furniture allows you to sit up straight and avoid eye strain and take regular breaks to stretch and boost your circulation. Practise breathing deeply from your diaphragm: four five-minute sessions of deep breathing a day will calm and re-energise you.
Save coffee for emergencies, caffeine raises your heart rate, heightening stress and fatigue. Instead, drink two litres of water a day to prevent dehydration. Try swapping your coffee break for a 25-minute power nap.
Taking things easy
Relaxation is essential. Just 20 minutes a day in a peaceful spot will help. Turn your mobile phone off, read a book, listen to music or try exercises such as yoga, meditation or Tai Chi which soothe your mind while revitalising your body.
The big sleep
Finally, sleep soundly. According to the experts, half of us don't get enough sleep to remain active and alert.
The hours before midnight are the most refreshing, but quality is as important as quantity if you want to feel refreshed in the morning.
Unless you wind down before bedtime, work problems and worries disrupt your sleep leaving you groggy. Take time to relax. Have a warm bath or read until you're drowsy. Avoid caffeine, late-night eating and alcohol, all of which reduce sleep quality.