Energy is thought of something that we have to produce ourselves, or that we need to obtain from an outside source (caffeine for most people). We wake up reluctantly and tell ourselves that we need our coffee or (even worse) energy drink to wake. Halfway through the day, we feel out of it, so we search more caffeine. These examples are reactive ways of producing energy. We react to the feeling of being tired and believe that the only way to gain energy is through an outside source at THAT exact moment. The problem of reacting to produce energy is that we live in constant state of depletion, continuously seeking ways to help us feel energized. Our energy deficit is too great to overcome.
Being proactive about your energy will help you maintain your levels of mental, emotional, and physical being. Living in a way that promotes energy gain (rather than energy recovery) will help you enjoy your daily life, physically feel better, and be more productive with your time and activities.
Here are some keys to proactive energy:
It is key that you get an optimal amount of sleep. Optimal quantity AND quality. Not too little, and not too much. For most people, it will be between 7-9 hours. Perhaps the most overlooked factor in the QUALITY of your sleep is the consistency of your sleep and rise times. Sleep patterns that are inconsistent will lead to higher stress levels and less mental focus. Be consistent with your sleep!
In particular, strength training. You NEED muscle. You don’t need to be on the level of an elite athlete, but you do need to be continuously adding muscle. If you are not building muscle, you are losing muscle. Gaining strength makes your daily activities much easier. If you strength train, you are also losing fat, which improves your body composition, metabolism, and overall ability to move better.
If your diet consists of drive-thru’s and packaged food, you are limiting your energy levels. Our bodies need to be fed with food we were meant to eat. The better your nutrition, the longer your energy will last. Eating a diet filled with vegetables, meat, and fruit is like filling up with gas before a long road trip. Filling your diet with candy, chips, and things of that liking is the same as starting the road trip by only putting in $3 of gas in at a time. You are going to need to stop real soon and put $3 more dollars again and again to be able to keep going.
While sleep and nutrition are both crucial parts of recovery, there is a lot more to this concept. Recovery is not only physical, but mental and emotional. It is specific to individuals, depending on their daily lives. If your job is a high-stress environment, it’s important to take mental breaks throughout the day. Maybe this involves taking a walk, reading a book, or taking a few minutes to focus on your breathing. Whatever it is, make it consistent. One of the most important aspects of recovery is maintaining a balance of physical activity and inactivity. If you are highly active during the day, make sure you are taking time to be inactive. For most people, it works the other way. Days are spent at a desk, which means to you need to be physically active in your time away from the job.
Question for thought... Which of these four areas are you neglecting the most in your life? Start with your biggest weakness, and watch your energy levels begin to increase.