We all have so much to do every day, so many responsibilities, so many things to accomplish, so much to practice and learn. Our lives are sometimes hectic and chaotic and we can find ourselves exhausted and dreaming of a good night’s sleep or a long Costa Rican vacation. Sometimes it might be as easy as slowing down and working less, but most of the time exhaustion comes from a bad time management and a lack of wisdom in planning our everyday activities.
In our desperate attempt to get back on track we often turn to more coffee, energy drinks, sweets, or sleeping for a few days in a row. Unfortunately, none of these have ever proved beneficial on the long run. On the contrary, they can even bring more discomfort and disadvantages.
So what is it that we can do to maintain our energy levels in good shape every day, while having a healthy life as well?
Take the time to connect with your body
If you are serious about this, what you need to do first is take some time to get in touch with your inner pace. Every person is different and every body reacts differently to similar stimuli. Begin by acknowledging the fact that you have limits and that your limits are not to be compared against your colleagues’ or life partner’s, for example. Your internal body clock, also known as circadian rhythm, is determining whether you’re a morning person or on the contrary, if you work better at night. Your circadian rhythm will also have a say in the way your body reacts during the day — the sleepiness periods, the energy peaks. The bottom line is that the drops in energy are normal and will happen to everyone during a day of work. The only difference is that they will have different hours and manifestations and it’s up to us to make them easier to cope with.
Keep an energy diary
One smart way to understand your inner rhythms and apply what works for you is to keep a diary of how your energy levels fluctuate during the day for, let’s say, a couple of weeks. It doesn’t have to take much time or effort, just write down the hours when you are most active and those when you feel like taking a long nap is the only cure and you will be able to find patterns and see how your body works.
Based on the trends you identify, you may find it easier to make a better schedule for yourself and organize your work, breaks, meals and everything that follows in order to be more rested and do your work in a more productive manner.
The energy illusionists — caffeine, sugar and energy drinks
Modern society will have us believe that certain popular beverages will keep our energy levels high and we will be running around like happy crazy bunnies all day long for the rest of our lives. Experience shows that this is mostly good marketing and if you have enough patience to do the research, you will find more and more medical and sociological studies condemning the negative repercussions of excessive caffeine, sugar and energy drinks consumption.
The truth is that caffeine can have a positive side if we follow a few rules, like have it in the morning, at breakfast, and have water or freshly squeezed orange juice with it and/or after it. A second, third or fourth cup of coffee during the day will only agitate us and make it harder for us to cope on our own. Addiction is not just a myth. Moreover, most people tend to have coffee after their meals (every meal!), disregarding the fact that an energy meltdown is normal after we eat and it usually takes about 20–30 minutes to get back on track. Now if we have coffee immediately after we eat, we might think it was the one that woke us up, but in fact it was our natural rhythm picking up.
On the other hand, sugary drinks and snacks tend to give us a short burst of energy, followed by another — often even worse than before the snack- energy crash.
Energy drinks are the most dangerous of these three, as they have far more sugar than all the others combined, plus other ingredients that are harmful and even toxic for the human body on the long run, such as taurine and carnitine, two chemicals that can lead to severe health problems, if ingested constantly, for long periods of time.
Start by eating healthy
They say you should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a price and dinner like a beggar. This is also called the pyramid way of eating, which means that you should structure your meals so that they get smaller and smaller from morning until evening. Breakfast should be the most consistent one, providing you with the energy resources you need to start a day great. Lunch should still be consistent, but not as big as we tend to have it and dinner should be frugal. Sleeping with a full stomach will slow down digestion and make you feel heavy, uncomfortable and even sick during the night or the next morning. Not a smart way to start a day at full energy levels!
One smart tip would be to eat small healthy snacks during the day as well, in order to maintain more stable energy levels. They should be light and nutritious, like fruits, carrots, nuts or seeds. Try to avoid food that is likely to turn into glucose very quickly — such as sugary white flour products.
Dehydration can make you feel lethargic, which is the opposite of high energy. And it’s not that difficult to avoid. Not many people know this, but hunger and thirst come from the same brain centers and it’s not uncommon that we mistaken one for the other — most of the times it’s thirst for hunger. This is why sometimes, if we drink some water when feeling hungry, we suddenly discover that we aren’t hungry anymore and the energy level is back on track. Think about it next time you roam around the house in search of something to eat shortly after you had a consistent meal.
It seems we generally lack the habit of drinking water regularly and this is something we need to educate. One thing you could do is keep a bottle of water on your desk so that is within reach and you see it at all times. It works just because it’s there.
As we all know, exercise is healthy in about all its forms and for quite about everyone. Practiced regularly, moderate exercise will keep your physical and mental tonus high and will improve your general health. Moderate exercise serves the purpose of our story as well, as it has been shown to improve energy levels more than a single, intense workout. And it’s not rhetorics or just a placebo effect, because what actually happens in your brain when you, for example, ride your bike or hike a mountain or forest trail, is a flood of substances that relate to feeling positive, hopeful and energetic. Physical activity makes you happier, and that’s a fact.
A good example of easy, moderate exercise you can do is walking. You could walk to and from the office, take a stroll at lunch or simply go outside for 15 minutes in the afternoon to grab some fresh air. This will keep you moving and will chase away the laziness.
Take a power nap
Surprisingly, a nap can be more efficient than a cup of coffee. The trick is though to nap right. Napping doesn’t mean 2–3 hours after lunch. Sleeping for too long will cause you to wake up groggy and resume your activities with difficulty. Your naps should be of 20–30 minutes. This is of course a tip fit for freelancers working from their home and if you are lucky to have this advantage, don’t waste it!
When you draw the line, it’s clear that knowing yourself, your body and the way it works and, on the other hand, knowing what to give it in order to thrive, are the two keys to keeping yourself healthier and full of energy throughout the day.
At TRISOFT, we are striving to manage our time better, as well as our energy, in order to keep being creative and productive in what we do. Having an energy management strategy means trying to better understand our team’s work rhythm and design a work environment (with all the associated ergonomical and social elements) based on respect for one’s individuality, one’s needs and feasible resources, also providing that freedom of choice when it comes to the work spot and working hours. But we have to confess to the sin of being unable to say “No!” to a fresh cup of a good espresso or latte. Served hot!