Waking up already feeling worn out? Unable to overcome the afternoon slump? These may be signs that various lifestyle factors are taking a toll on your energy levels, leading to brain fog and straight-up exhaustion.
When constantly on the go, it may be difficult to find ways to recharge. However, Dr. Alfred Tallia, professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health in the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, explained that more often than not, low energy levels can be remedied by adopting simple changes to your daily routine.
These are seven research-backed habits to boost your energy, according to experts:
Identify healthy ways to cope with stress.
Unsurprisingly, emotional stress can leave you feeling less lively.
“Stress has a huge impact on your physical well-being. If you are feeling elevated levels of stress, it can absolutely contribute to low energy,” Dr. Nina Vasan, chief medical officer at mental wellness app Real, told HuffPost.
So, how can you combat unchecked stress to boost your energy levels? Vasan explained that it’s crucial to “find ways to integrate meditation or mindfulness into your daily life,” even for just five minutes each day. Experts also say that identifying coping skills that work for you — such as journaling or reading something that brings you joy — can help you destress and feel more energetic.
Limit the amount of caffeine you consume.
When you’re feeling tired, it may be tempting to make a third or fourth cup of coffee later in the day to perk back up. However, drinking too much caffeine can have a paradoxical effect, leaving you lethargic.
“If you’re consuming large amounts of caffeinated beverages throughout the day, it is probably going to affect your sleep pattern. This can then affect your energy levels,” Tallia said.
It’s important to note that suddenly cutting back on caffeinated beverages can also leave you feeling tired at first. As Tallia explained, “the body gets used to caffeine as a stimulant, and when it’s not present, you can experience an energy slump.”
Most experts suggest gradually reducing the amount of caffeine in your diet until you find what works best for you — and not reaching for that extra cup of Joe even when you’re feeling tempted.
Practice good sleep hygiene and establish a routine.
It goes without explaining that catching enough Zzzs is key to boosting your energy throughout the day. However, your energy levels are not just impacted by the amount of sleep you get each night, but by the quality of that sleep.
Practicing good sleep hygiene can help you snooze more soundly, and in turn give you more pep in your step the following day. Sleep hygiene involves adopting habits such as developing a regular bedtime routine and dimming the lights at night. What’s more, Tallia said it’s important to clear your mind by doing nighttime activities that you find relaxing.
Even when practicing good sleep hygiene, you may find you’re waking up feeling fatigued. Raelene Brooks, the dean of the College of Nursing at University of Phoenix, said that could point to a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, don’t hesitate to pay your physician a visit.
Move your body throughout the day.
Try to incorporate exercise into your day — even just a small amount. Research has shown that daily exercise and movement are essential to boosting energy levels. You don’t have to be lifting weights or running five miles a day to glean the energizing benefits of exercise.
“Even low-impact movement is shown to increase your oxygen flow and hormone levels, which give you a boost of energy,” Vasan explained. “It is the No. 1 tip I recommend to anyone feeling fatigued.”
Drink more water.
Dehydration is a common cause of low energy. According to Brooks, the science behind this is quite straightforward: “Our red blood cells carry oxygen. Ideally, a plump and round red blood cell allows for a full oxygen-carrying capacity,” she said. “When we are dehydrated, the red blood shrinks and this decreases the capacity for the cell to carry a full load of oxygen. Low oxygen levels are manifested by fatigue, irritability and restlessness.”
If you struggle with being mindful of your water intake, consider trying hacks such as investing in a smart water bottle to ensure you’re drinking enough H2O every day.
Be mindful of your screen time during the evening hours, and also during the day.
It almost goes without saying that excessive screen time at night can mess with your natural sleep cycle and energy the following day. As Vasan explained, “spending too much time on your phone, computer or watching your TV can cause fatigue by disrupting the neurotransmitters that are essential for sleep and restoration.”
However, the time you spend looking at your phone or computer during the day can also have a harmful impact on your energy levels. Too much screen time can lead to eye fatigue, which may trigger headaches and make it more difficult to concentrate.
We live in a digital world, so spending extensive time looking at a screen is unavoidable for most people. Making the “20-20-20 rule” a habit is a step towards tackling tiredness. According to Harvard Business Review, “when you’re working on a laptop, take a break every 20 minutes. Look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a chance to relax.”
Avoid skipping meals.
If you ever skipped breakfast or worked right through your lunch break, you probably noticed you feel groggier than usual. While it’s totally normal to miss a meal, making a goal to regularly eat nutrient-rich meals and snacks throughout the day can increase your energy levels.
“Your brain needs nutrition to really function appropriately,” Tallia said. “A lot of people skip meals, and their blood sugar levels are going up and down all through the day.”
Moreover, Tallia said to steer clear of fad diets that encourage people to majorly cut back on caloric intake or to eliminate essential nutrient groups like carbohydrates. This can deprive you of energy.
While it’s not uncommon to wake up feeling low on energy every once and a while, chronic fatigue could point to an underlying health issue.
“If you are eating well, getting enough sleep, integrating movement and exercise into your daily life but still feel tired for more than two weeks, you should consider reaching out to a medical professional,” Vasan said, explaining that a consistent drop in energy “can be an indicator of a host of mental and physical health issues ranging from fairly benign to severe.”
Ultimately, boosting your energy often comes down to taking inventory of different activities and current habits that could be draining you. Adopting just a few simple changes to your daily routine could be key to beating the fatigue once and for all.