Get More Energy, Naturally
Need a nap but don't have the time? Here are 8 ways to rev your engines, no caffeine or sugar required.
You're up to midnight catching up on you-time while everyone else sleeps, then the baby wakes up at 5 a.m. - again. By the time 3 p.m. rolls around, your eyes are rolling back in your head and your keyboard is starting to look like a pillow. Before you reach for the latte, cookie, or chocolate, take a few moments to do something that will replenish your energy stores, not ultimately deplete them further.
Here are eight natural ways to boost your energy - with no sugar crash or caffeine jitters required. Most can be done in mere minutes, some just seconds.
Hot/cold shower. Turn your morning shower into an exercise in invigoration - at the end of your shower, turn the water to as cold as you can stand for several seconds. Switch back to hot, then alternate a few more times. If you've got the stomach for it, end on cold. "This is an ancient technique that increases circulation, reduces depression, and treats chronic fatigue," says Mark Hyman, M.D., author of Ultraprevention. As an added bonus, it helps the body detoxify--and getting rid of things you no longer need is always energizing.
Invisible trampoline. Get your heart rate up, shake off tension, and add a bit of fun to your day with some old-fashioned jumping. Keep knees soft and let your arms dangle by your sides, lightly bouncing up and down on the balls of your feet. Gradually work up momentum until your feet are lifting up off the floor as high as is comfortable for you. Travel across the room or rotate your jumps to complete a couple of circles in each direction, then slowly decrease the intensity until you are standing still again.
Go upside down. According to yoga, getting your feet higher than your heart gives your circulatory system a break - it allows blood to return from your feet without your heart having to pump it back - and rests the mind. Best of all, you don't have to bust out a headstand or headstand to get these rejuvenating effects. Simply lie on the floor with the backs of your legs and feet resting on a wall for two to five minutes.
Office chair swivel. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the kidneys are believed to be the batteries of the body, pumping out energy on an as-needed basis. To give your kidneys a revitalizing boost, sit at a desk (or table) in a chair that swivels. Push the chair back far enough that your legs are out from underneath the desk, but your hands can still hold on the edge. Keeping your head, shoulders and chest facing forward, begin rotating your hips, knees, and chair seat to the right and left. Breathe normally and keep going for one minute. You'll be twisting the back right where the kidneys sit--all that compressing and releasing will bring fresh blood to the kidneys and nourish them so they can do their job more efficiently. You'll also wring tension out of the muscles along the spine.
Get up offa that thing. You know hearing your favorite song can lift your spirits within seconds. Combine your most loved music with some energetic dancing and you'll also raise your heart rate, shake off stress, and bring a smile to your face - even on the days when all you want to do is crawl back in bed.
Go to bed 20 minutes earlier. Oh sure, you say, easier said than done. But as a parent, you know that when your kids start losing focus, it's time to rein in bedtime and make sure they're getting all the sleep they need. Give yourself the same nurturing and send yourself to bed when you first feel tired - not an hour of mindless television-watching later. Even 20 minutes earlier will provide a noticeable lift in your energy levels the next day.
Drink a tall glass of water. Next time you're dragging in the middle of the afternoon, reach for the water bottle before you dive in to the leftover pastries in the office kitchen. Dehydration causes fatigue, and is often misinterpreted as hunger. So that glass you guzzle provides a double-shot of energy - it perks you up now and helps you avoid indulging in unhealthy snacks that will only lead to a sugar crash later.
Immerse yourself in nature. Being outside in a natural environment reduces stress, improves mood, and promotes clear thinking. In Japan, visiting the woods for the health benefits the forest air provides is known as shinrin-yoku. A 2005 study found that spending the day in the woods significantly reduced hostility and depression and increased liveliness. If you can't make it to a forest easily, spend some time sitting under a tree, walking through a park, or even tending to an indoor tree.
Kate Hanley is the mother of two, a yoga teacher, and the founder of msmindbody.com