We all know that lack of sleep negatively impacts our energy levels but even if you get enough, it's still possible to feel sluggish the next day because sleep is actually only one small part of the energy puzzle.
So what else can contribute to a lack of energy?
Hunching over our computers for hours on end and constantly looking down at our phones affects our mood and our energy levels. In part this is because sitting or standing out of alignment can cause excess stress on our joints and muscles. In the long term, it can cause muscle aches and tightness which in turn can make us feel exhausted after we finish a day at our desks.
You can counteract this by sitting well at your desk (make sure your ergonomics are right even if you're at home) and making time to stand stretch our your spine a few times a day. Encouraging people to get up from their desk regularly and move, is at the heart of what we do here at GetMeFit and we created our 'At Your Desk' series of micro classes for exactly this reason. Check them out here.
Haven't got time? Just stand up and do some simple stretches forward, backwards and to each side (twist your body round). Be careful never to over extend, these are just gentle movements; they should feel good so listen to your body to tell you when you've gone far enough!
Eating an unbalanced diet
You are what you eat. There's no getting away from it, particularly when we're talking about energy levels.
A balanced diet means eating food that includes all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed to keep you full of energy. Sugary and processed foods, including so called 'energy drinks' can cause a rise in blood sugar levels. You get a quick burst of energy, followed by a crash that leaves you feeling tired (and probably craving more sugar).
Opt for wholegrain, eat your 5 a day (plus more if you can) and keep it varied and choose things like nuts, seeds, beans and pulses for quick snacks (there are lots of tasty options around). Take good fats over high sugar for slow release energy.
Too much caffeine
It's the first thing many of us reach for in the morning, as it helps us feel more awake and alert. But if we rely on caffeine too heavily, it can run the risk of leaving you feeling even more tired.
Our bodies release a chemical called adenosine during the day - it's released at decreasing levels as the day goes on to let us know it's time to wind down. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors, helping us to feel less sleepy, but the body keeps producing the chemical which causes a build up. This can then make us feel even more tired the next morning, prompting us to rely even more on our caffeine fix, creating a vicious cycle.
Not moving enough
It sounds contradictory but our bodies were designed to move, not sit and not exercising enough can make you feel even more tired. As well as boosting energy levels, exercise can improve your mood and help you sleep better too. It releases feel-good chemicals called serotonin and dopamine, which create a better sense of wellbeing helping to reduce stress.
It doesn't have to be long or strenuous - just 20 minutes a day could help to increase your energy levels and improve your fitness.
Not drinking enough water
Our bodies are made up of around 60% water, while the brain itself is 80% water, so staying hydrated is essential for good health. Dehydration lowers blood pressure, decreasing blood flow to the brain and muscles, making you feel lethargic. It impacts mood, alertness and every function in your body, so get drinking!
Poor gut health
Digestion requires a lot of energy. When we eat, the parasympathetic nervous system increases blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract, and that can reduce blood flow to other organs including the brain. If your digestive system is sluggish, your body needs to work harder to break food down and that can deplete energy levels.
If you want to know more about gut health, you'll find an article dedicated to it here.
Bottling up our worries
Keeping stress and worry to ourselves takes a lot of energy. Not opening up leaves you feeling alone and unsupported which can really drain us. Communicating how you feel to a friend, loved one or colleague can make a huge difference to how energised and motivated you feel. If you don't feel you can bother someone, try writing it down in a journal to start with. It's definitely better out than in.
Knowing your limits
We live in a hustle culture that tells us we need to be working all hours of the day to achieve our professional dreams, while also somehow finding time to eat well, work out and spend time with our loved ones. Setting boundaries is one of the most important and effective ways to protect your energy and maintain your overall wellbeing.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, try keep your list of activities on a 'must do' basis to help you prioritise what's most important to you. Never feel guilty for taking time out for yourself; it's better for everyone around you if you take care of yourself.