“Energy is your most precious resource,” writes Susannah Seton in the introduction of Everyday Energy Boosters: 365 Tips and Tricks to Help You Feel Like a Million Bucks, co-written with Sondra Kornblatt.
“Without it, you simply go through the motions of your life.” With energy, she notes, we’re able to engage in our work and relationships, and bask in the joy of being alive, “our birthright.”
Throughout the day our energy naturally ebbs and flows. Seton and Kornblatt cite Robert E. Thayer’s book Calm Energy, in which he explains that energy tends to follow this pattern: it’s low when you wake up; rises in late morning or early afternoon; declines in the afternoon; sometimes it slightly rises in the early evening; and it keeps dropping until bedtime.
So it’s understandable — and natural — that your energy dips during the day. However, there are strategies you can apply to enhance your energy. Here are 10 ways from Seton and Kornblatt’s book Everyday Energy Boosters.
1. Examine your fatigue.
The authors share a tip from Debra Waterhouse’s book Outsmarting Female Fatigue. Ask yourself: “What is my fatigue trying to tell me?” Then respond to this need.
2. Practice “square” breathing.
According to Seton and Kornblatt, square breathing is “a simple way to get the most from your breath.” It helps you focus and ease energy-draining anxiety. It’s called a square because it’s divided into four parts: inhale, hold, exhale, and hold, for the same amount of time.
Here’s an example: inhale (one, two, three); hold your breath in (one, two, three); exhale (one, two, three); and hold your breath out (one, two, three). Repeat this several times.
3. Focus on what you can control.
We may get depleted because we try to control what in reality we can’t control — such as other people. Remember you can’t control whether someone listens to you, likes you or changes their unhealthy ways.
However, you can control yourself. You can control your attitude and actions. You can control whether you’re open to others, whether you listen to them and whether you extend your respect.
The authors suggest asking: “Whom do I need to give up trying to control to gain energy for the things I can influence?”
4. Savor downtime.
Everyone needs downtime, which helps us replenish energy. But many of us feel guilty when we’re trying to relax. The authors cite a tip from Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax. She suggests writing downtime, such as “Lie on couch,” on your to-do list. Then cross it off when you’re done.
5. Try a hip opener.
The authors suggest a simple version of a yoga hip opener. They write:
“Sit on the front edge of your chair, feet on the floor. Use your abdominal muscles to create a long, tall back. Let your head float upward. Place one ankle on top of the opposite knee, forming a triangle with your thighs and calf. Inhale, lengthen, and slowly lean forward and extend out in front. Lead with your heart, keeping your neck and back long. Let your arms hang down at your sides or rest on your open knee, deepening the stretch.”
Take five or more deep breaths in this stretch. Curl up, slowly, as you inhale. Switch legs. Be sure to honor your body and only stretch as far as it’ll allow.
6. Try aromatherapy.
Scents can soothe and energize. For instance, lavender is relaxing and balancing. Rosemary is said to help with mental fatigue. The authors suggest keeping a tin of dry lavender or rosemary at your desk. Or dab essential oils on your temples.
7. Explore your energy drains.
Seton and Kornblatt suggest doing an inventory of “where you are spending the majority of your emotional, mental, spiritual and physical energy.” Then ask yourself if this is where you want to spend your energy.
If you’re stuck in an energy-draining situation, which might be anything from a specific person to your job, they suggest identifying the actions you can take to resolve the situation or changing how you relate to it.
8. Strengthen your neck muscles.
Weak muscles, according to the authors, may lead to neck and shoulder pain, headaches and fatigue. (Plus, did you know your head weighs around 15 lbs?)
To strengthen your neck muscles, sit down, interlace your hands, and put them in the back of your head. Press forward with your hands and resist with your head. Do this for three seconds, and repeat 10 times.
Another technique includes putting your palms on your forehead. Press back while resisting with your head. Also do this for three seconds, and repeat 10 times.
9. Mull over potential commitments.
You may find it hard to say “no” to a potential commitment because of habit, guilt, lack of boundaries or because you simply get “taken by the present moment,” according to Seton and Kornblatt.
Give yourself extra time to consider the request by saying, “I’d like to help, but I’m not sure I can fit it in. Let me get back to you.”
“This gives you time to check your calendar, your deepest desires, and where your priorities really lie.”
The authors also suggest using Miss Manners’ tips for saying no: do so gracefully, regretfully and without explanations or excuses.
10. Listen to music.
Music can energize us, especially during mind-numbing tasks. For instance, Seton and Kornblatt suggest listening to upbeat music when you’re cooking and your energy dips; or listening to Bach concertos or Handel’s Water Music when you can’t concentrate on your commute because you’re thinking about work.
If you’re constantly exhausted, and you’re not sure why, consider seeing your doctor for a checkup.