5 Natural Ways to Boost Energy and Beat Exhaustion

5 Natural Ways to Boost Energy and Beat Exhaustion

I used to suffer from a terrible energy slump every day at 3 pm. It felt like my body and mind just gave up on me. I was usually at work so, I didn’t have the option of parking on the sofa with Netflix for the rest of the day. I knew the slump was coming, so I would try to pre-empt it with coffee and sweet snacks that would give me a quick jolt of energy, but this always backfired. I would crash, have an aggressive energy spike and then crash again. I can tell you from first-hand experience, you’re in trouble when you get into this cycle of fighting crashes with artificial highs.

How to beat the afternoon energy slump

Why does our energy drop?

Energy levels in the body drop for a lot of different reasons. The 3 pm slump is actually a normal part of the body’s rhythm. In the late afternoon, our body temperature drops slightly and triggers the release of a chemical called melatonin. The release of melatonin is a natural healthy process that gets us ready for sleep that night. Cortisol, our body’s stress hormone, also drops at this time. Our bodies are going through a wind-down phase to prepare for sleep that night, and I was messing it up by trying to shock my system back to full steam ahead with coffee and sugar. This worked for a brief window each day but made me feel terrible most of the time. These unhealthy choices became habitual because I was messing with my body’s natural circadian rhythm and relying on other chemicals (aka caffeine, sugar and carbs) to perk myself back up.

It doesn’t have to be that way

I managed to break this cycle when I decided to swap some of my unhealthy habits for better ones. I wasn’t targeting the 3 pm slump in particular, but after making these changes I realised one day that I had stopped having crashes. Now I don’t get the slump at 3 pm, or any other time for that matter. Halleluja! Ok, maybe sometimes at 10 pm when I NEED to go to bed immediately or I’m gonna dieeeee.

I’m going to share some of the things that worked for me to end this awful cycle. Here are 5 natural ways to energize your body and beat the cycle of exhaustion that torments so many of us. Some of these things require time to see results, so stick with them. It’s about forming new habits and changing the way you do things long term.

You don’t have to cut out coffee (I’m not a monster). Reduce your intake instead.

I live for coffee. I love it so much. I freely admit that I’m a coffee addict. I love the earthy taste, the warmth, the ritual of making it and sipping it first thing in the morning. But I was definitely drinking too much and it was having a negative effect on my body. At one very stressful point in my life, I was drinking four cups a day. My heart rate was way too high for most of the day, and it made my digestion go off the rails. I was on a spike/crash roller coaster ride and I didn’t know where the exit was.

When things got a bit calmer at work, I had some time to reflect on my health and habits, and I did decide to reduce my coffee intake. Initially, I deluded myself into thinking that I was cutting back by limiting myself to two cups a day, but I would still drink tea in the late afternoon. No Bueno. The habit of having hot drinks at work was a longstanding comfort thing for me, and if I’m honest, a distraction from stress. I couldn’t help myself when it came to hot drinks. I was having “two cups of coffee,” but I was still consuming three cups of caffeine, and that’s too much.

I saw a real difference when I kicked myself out of denial and actually cut back to two cups of coffee and nothing else. My digestion went back to normal, and I stopped getting the energy spikes and dips. It can be that simple.

You will have to experiment with your tolerance threshold for caffeine, and it doesn’t matter if it’s tea, green tea, coke, whatever. It’s all caffeine, and it all has a cumulative effect on your body. One coffee is enough for some people. Others can have more, but ultimately you should tune in to your body and really listen to what it is telling you.

Develop a Sleep Routine

Develop a sleep routine to increase energy and reduce exhaustion.

Sleep difficulties can be so frustrating. You can end up in a perpetual fog that affects every part of your life. I’ve never had issues with sleep, but I was shocked to find out that many of my friends do, especially those with high-stress jobs or those that do shift work. Sadly, some of them have turned to sleeping pills out of necessity to get enough sleep so they can function during the day. 

The good news is that you can train your body to sleep well by developing a healthy sleep routine. Here are a few tricks to start developing your own sleep routine for better sleep and more energy naturally:

  • Have a wind-down ritual every day. This doesn’t have to be a long or elaborate routine. An hour before bed is enough. Your body and mind need to deliberately wind down leading up to sleep. I like to dim the lights in my house to a warm glow and stretch or do some yoga.
  • Switch off from stress-inducing distractions, like phone alerts. I don’t look at social media, emails, or any other alerts on my phone that will trigger even a mild stress response for several hours before bed. This can take some discipline, but give it a try. Start with an hour and build up from there. I keep my phone far away from me so I don’t get tempted to look at it. Once I see an alert, I get sucked into the rabbit hole. I found that switching off from phone alerts had a huge impact on my ability to relax, unwind and get an amazing night’s sleep. 
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. The bedtime app on my iPhone was life-changing for this. It automates a bedtime alert and my alarm in the morning so I don’t have to think about it. If you do this, you will naturally train your body to feel tired at the same time every day, and you will naturally wake up at the same time too. It could take a few months to get into a rhythm, but if you are consistent, the whole process of going to bed and waking up will be painless and you will have much more energy.

Go for walks during the workday

Go for short walks during the day to boost energy and fight tiredness.

Go for a short walk around the block instead of heading to the break room or skipping a break altogether. Sitting at a desk for hours at a time is bad for you physically and mentally, and can leave you feeling drained. Going for a walk will get the blood flowing through your body and it will refresh your mind. Try it every time you feel stuck or frustrated with something at work. You will be surprised how full of energy you feel when you come back. I often find a solution to whatever problem I’m stuck on if I step away and move my body rather than staying at my desk to grind through it.

Hydrate

Drink plenty of water throughout the day to increase energy and fight tiredness.

Staying hydrated is so important. 60% of the human body is made up of water, and if we don’t stay hydrated, energy levels suffer. Lifestyle factors can affect this too. Caffeine is a diuretic, which can cause you to pee more than you would if you drank water alone. Too much salt in your diet has a similar effect. If you work out and sweat a lot, that’s awesome! But you need to make sure you are taking in enough fluids to compensate. I’ve often gotten dehydrated during long training sessions, and it feels like I’ve been hit by a bus for the rest of the day. Hydration really impacts your energy levels and how good you feel. 

Here are some tips to stay hydrated:

  • Try to drink the equivalent of 8 glasses of water a day. This always keeps me feeling good as a baseline.
  • If you’re doing a hard workout and sweating a lot, make a conscious effort to stay hydrated. Drink water at regular intervals because once you hit the dehydration wall, I’ve found that it’s near impossible to feel good again for the rest of the day. 
  • Consider an electrolyte drink if you’re doing an intense workout that lasts longer than an hour. Why? Because you need to replenish the sodium and sugar that you’re burning through. I am not a fan of artificial sports drinks, especially the freaky colours they come in. That can’t be good for you! I realise some extreme professional athletes actually need this intense level of electrolyte drink, but if you’re a weekend warrior doing a 2 or 3-hour session, whip up something natural. My personal favourite is coconut water with a squeeze of fresh lime. It tastes heavenly and there are no weird chemicals or fluorescent colourants. 

For an easy homemade electrolyte drink recipe, combine: 

  • 2 cups of water
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of honey or sugar

Hang with family and friends

Spend time socialising with friends to stay mentally healthy, boost energy levels and beat exhaustion.

I cannot overstate how important social contact is for mental and emotional health. Having a good laugh with your besties can give you a huge burst of energy that lasts for hours. As someone who has worked from home for years, I can really attest to this. The first year working from home was a real battle because the amount of contact I had with people in a day suddenly dropped. I would say I even went through a mini depression while I adjusted to the change. That just shows how important those little interactions are for your mood and happiness. Consistently spend time with friends, family and your significant other in-person to help boost energy levels. You’ll laugh and decompress and walk away feeling energised. And no, social media does not count as spending time together.

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