Energy is defined as the “capacity for doing work.” But work isn’t the only thing women need energy for. Personal lives take quite a bit of energy, too. Activities such as maintaining friendships, pursuing hobbies and building family relationships are important to good health and well worth some time and effort. Of course, after a day that may include everything from caring for a toddler to working outside the home, who has the oomph? Once the dishes are done and the laundry sorted, many of us have just enough get-up-and-go to plunk down in front of the television.
This article is about energizing yourself so that you can do what you need to do more efficiently. Why is it important to be efficient? As you begin to approach your daily tasks with more energy, you’ll find you can do them more quickly. The benefit for you: more time and yes, energy—for yourself! More energy to read a book, meet a friend for a cup of coffee in the evening or simply get up early and watch the sun rise.
You can take several steps to boost energy. (No, downing an extra cup of coffee isn’t one of them!) You’ll get the best results by incorporating all these changes into your life, but don’t try to add them at once. Doing so is likely to overwhelm you and result in failure. Instead, make whichever habit change looks easiest first. Once that change has become part of your routine, try the next easiest, and so on. By the time you’re ready for the most challenging change, you’ll already have some extra energy to help you tackle it successfully.
- Watch what you eat. Overeating can cause fatigue, especially if you eat foods high in sugar and fat. And skipping breakfast will leave you worn out by 10 or 11 a.m. Good energy foods include those rich in complex carbohydrates (whole grains, potatoes, legumes, pasta and rice); those rich in iron (beef, raisins, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds and spinach); and those rich in B vitamins (fortified cereal, fish, whole grains, legumes, leafy green vegetables and milk).
- Watch what you drink. Because dehydration can cause fatigue, make sure you drink plenty of water, milk and juice. Experts recommend eight 8-ounce glasses a day. Remember that although caffeine and alcohol are beverages, they may dehydrate the body.
Alcohol drains energy in another way, too. While a drink may relax you at first, alcohol is essentially a stimulant, so don’t be surprised if you sleep fitfully and wake up tired.
- Watch what you think. The most common energy-defeating thought patterns include perfectionistic thinking (“I must have a spotless house, or people will think I’m a slob”), assuming the worst (“I won’t meet my deadline and will be fired”) and overgeneralizing (“Last time my husband went away on business, the kids acted up, so they will this time, too”).
To boost energy, replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Instead of assuming the worst about your kids’ behavior, think of the positive aspects of having them all to yourself. Plan a fun activity and make fewer demands of them (and of yourself) while your husband is away. Rent a movie to watch together. Skip nightly baths. Make pancakes for dinner or order a pizza.
- Get moving. Exercise increases physical energy by making the heart more efficient. It also increases mental energy by boosting levels of neurotransmitters like endorphins and serotonin, which help to invigorate sluggish minds and keep moods positive. In addition, exercise induces a deep, restful sleep that truly restores your body. How much exercise do you need to get a boost? Experts say at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity (walking, running, cycling, stair climbing) most days of the week. Be creative about fitting exercise into your schedule. Don’t wait for a block of time to open up—you have to create one. For example, start eating lunch at your desk instead of lingering over a meal with co-workers in the cafeteria. Then you’ll have time for a 30-minute walk after your meal.
- Take time for yourself. Now that you’ve boosted your energy and become more efficient, don’t use the time you’ve freed up to do more work. Use it for yourself. Listen to your favorite music, take a hot bath, meditate or drink a cup of tea and curl up in a cushy armchair. Relaxing after a frenzied day will help to replenish your energy supply for the next one.