You feel exhausted. Your goal is to recharge your batteries without taking an expensive vacation. How to go about it? The wisest part within us -- the part that already feels powered by sources greater than our individual selves -- might be tempted to answer: by being filled up with compassion, completely healed and supremely at peace. But in reality this answer points not as much to a path, but to yet another goal. The problem here is that goals can be so removed from where we stand, they might not reduce, but add to the stress we already feel in our daily lives.
By the way, I am speaking from the perspective of a working mother of three and of normal insanity in modern life, characterized by crazy everything: traffic jams, loan payments, schedules, workloads, shootings, politicians, wacky weather conditions, and many other disasters on Earth created by humans. Have I mentioned technical difficulties?
Ideals give direction, but sometimes we may just need a down-to-Earth idea that, when put to action, boosts our energy readily and effectively. Skillful means are very much needed to manage ordinary crazy. I have looked for those smaller, but potentially mind-shifting ideas and want to share them with you here.
When you find yourself feeling exhausted, you are in a state of deprivation, temporarily unable to replenish yourself. This means that the natural balance of give and take, which characterizes healthy living, is disturbed. The question is how to open yourself up again and, quite literally, change your mind.
I have found that we can change our minds in a variety of ways, working directly with the body or via our thoughts and feelings. If you need energy, you might want to pick any one of the following suggestions below. Of the individual suggestion you choose, you might only want to focus on one aspect. A small change to which you commit may be all you need to jump start your entire system.
One: Change the Nutrition Equation
We are what we eat. Surely you know that fresh food, such as dark leafy vegetables, is a great energy booster while refined sugar, after an initial high, is a great energy zapper. Undoubtedly you already know that you should stay away from white flour, salt and unsaturated fats, found in fast and processed food. Health nuts are stressing the benefits of nuts and healthy oils (Omega3) for ever. It isn’t that you don’t know. Chances are you simply feel overwhelmed by having to change your entire diet all at once. So, boost your energy by picking just one type of food that you will add to your diet and another that you will stop. Starting and ending just one thing may affect your energy level profoundly, especially when you stick to the change. The trick is not to diet, but to change your diet permanently.
Two: Nap and Sleep
Henry Emmons and David Alter have reiterated in their new book “Staying Sharp” the importance of sleep, which they call “free therapy” (1). We don’t just relax when we give our consciousness a break, but rejuvenate our entire system, reducing stress hormones and ordering memories properly. Some people consider sleep our 401(k) when it comes to boosting our physical and mental energy. You might just want to commit to a particular time of retiring or waking; your brain loves regularity. Or you might alter the amount of sleep, finding your sweet spot between seven and eight hours. Or how about switching off any electronic lights in your bedroom? Brains love complete darkness. Not staring into a screen before bedtime also helps appease your circadian rhythm. Sometimes all we have to do is to give ourselves permission to rest and take a cat nap in the middle of the day. Release the guilt when it comes to sleep. You are worthy of the luxury.
Three: Stretch and Exercise
What to do when sleep is leaving you tired still? Don’t forget to stretch when you wake up and keep up the exercise throughout the day. Lift your arms up, bend backwards and yawn, all of which pumps oxygen into your blood stream. Some may find it helpful to reach up a door frame, hold on and push forward.
Just as in changing your nutrition equation, you know that exercise is a great energy booster, while slumping before a screen zaps it. If you feel too tired to exercise, just walk in place for five minutes. A short walk is better than doing no exercise at all, giving you energy for the next two hours.
Are you uninspired or slightly depressed when you even think of exercise? Maybe you need to find a work-out buddy, a friendly neighbor, a nice trainer who inspires you to stay the course. You will not only be rewarded with more serotonin, testosterone, endorphins, and dopamine, but boost your energy within the connection.
Four: Assume a Powerful Posture
There are studies confirming what any hot shot already knows: take up a lot of space, stretch out in a winner pose, and sit like a king or queen. You will actually feel like one. “Don’t fake it, until you make it,” says researcher Amy Cuddy, “Fake it, until you become it” (2). Whatever you do though, do not sink into yourself. Don’t depress your own body with a slouching posture. Lift yourself up and let others know that you are approachable.
Now, I cannot make myself laugh easily, but I can sure seek out something funny consciously or appreciate a silly moment more wholeheartedly. “Make me laugh,” I frequently ask my husband, which works almost every time. A simple thing like laughing releases stress and boosts your energy in minutes.
Six: Say “Yes” to Nothing
The most simple and effective exercise to boost your energy is not an exercise at all. It is doing nothing -- not to be mistaken for passivity. Instead, it is creative non-doing, with breath and consciousness. I have devoted half of my book “A Unified Theory of Happiness” on how to become nurtured by existence, the great Oneness of which we are part. Let yourself become as receptive to life as you have once been as a child. What could be more empowering than tuning in with the universe?
Seven: Listen to Music with the Intention to Boost Your Energy
Take yourself away from yourself. Music is a great transporter. Researchers have found that listening to music with intention can be quite different from listening to music without intention. You might as well give your mind a gentle push in the right direction as you forget about the mental formations created by your left hemisphere.
Eight: Take a Walk in Nature
Why is it that a nature walk boosts our energy level so much? I suppose it does many good things at once: we exercise, lean onto something greater than ourselves (nature), meditate (if we pay attention), get vitamin D and -- should we walk with a friend -- get mutually empowered by each other.
Nine: Change Your Perspective
What bogs us down is often not reality, but what we add on to it. We feel bad about feeling bad, thinking things should be different. As we latch onto a world that is not the one before us, we feel anxiety. Assuming a different perspective, does not change a thing in our current reality, but relaxes us to accept the present moment as “not so bad-possibly even good.” Perspective does not prevent real pain, but stops the bleeding, the draining of our energy. If you are too identified with a current experience, ask yourself how you will feel about it in ten, twenty or thirty years. Will you remember it on your death bed?
--- The good is always here, but we don’t always see it. Let’s find the one thing that unblocks the energetic flow to recharge and rejuvenate.
(1) Henry Emmons & David Alter (2015). Staying Sharp: 9 Keys for a Youthful Brain through Modern Science and Ageless Wisdom.
(3) You might also enjoy my blog about Ripple Effects
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© 2015 Andrea F. Polard, PsyD. All Rights Reserved.