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“I’m so tired” seems to be the common sentence we say on a daily basis. We’re supposed to be in our peak and most energizing years. Yet, we’re tired all the time and already feel like retiring. Whether it’s because of sleep deprivation, burn out, stress, or for no reason at all, here are some ways to start boosting energy:
1.Track and audit energy levels.
Notice what times in the day do you feel more energetic and awake versus sluggish and tired. When I was monitoring my energy, I tracked my energy levels in my daily journal. I noticed that I was most awake in the morning between 8am – 12pm so I scheduled my most important activities such as assignments, studying, writing, or filming at those times.
I also began to notice that my energy started to dip around 2pm – 4pm. So I intentionally scheduled my recovery activities at that time. Of course, everyone is different so it’s up to you to figure out what activities work best for you at a certain time. Here’s an example of how I structured one of my days based on my energy levels:
2. Manage all 4 different energies in your life.
From Jim Loehr, author of “The Power of Full Engagement,” we need to manage these four energies:
- Physical Energy
- Emotional Energy
- Mental Energy
- Spiritual Energy
- Physical Energy.
As college students, we’re tempted to grab a quick snack but we don’t realize this seemingly small decision we make compounds, making us unhealthy and more sluggish. Focus on eating foods that are low in the glycemic index which includes whole grains, proteins and fruits. Otherwise, eating foods with high sugar or high in glycemic index can cause an energy crash later on. We should be attuned to feeling neither too full or too hungry. It is ideal to eat more earlier in the day and less at night.
Studies have shown that young adults between ages 18-25 require about 7-9 hours of sleep. The times we also sleep are important. Cell division is most active during sleep. At 3-4pm, we reach a breaking point which explains why it is the most common time to feel the highest level of fatigue.
It’s also tempting to sit back on the couch and open Netflix or play video games after long hours of school work and studying instead of exercising. But this is counterproductive to our energy. Studies have suggested to get at least 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3-5 times a week at 60-80% maximum heart rate. Periods of rest during exercise show great health benefits as well. The main effect should be to keep raising and lowering heart rate. From Thomas Frank, YouTuber, author and musician:
2. Emotional Energy.
We need to promote more high positive emotions. Find out what activities and hobbies bring you joy. Activities such as dancing, gardening, yoga, singing, playing sports, going to the museum, reading, making love, and quiet time alone are examples of pleasurable activities. It’s easy to neglect our self care when we feel overwhelmed with school work. But we need to set our pleasurable activities as our priorities.
3. Mental Energy.
Mental energy fuels your attention span. It’s your ability to focus on what you want, when you want, and for however long you want. It helps you not cave in when things get tough, and power through the boring parts of work when you need to. For example, when you commit to studying or doing that dreadful assignment, regardless of how boring it is, please don’t multi-task. Try to focus with all your attention and energy for about 90-120 minutes with 15 minute breaks in between.
4. Spiritual Energy.
Spiritual muscles means living by our values and purpose in life. This doesn’t always have to be religious. It could just mean engaging in something bigger than yourself. There are certain spiritual activities that may be higher or lower in energy use. But the more energy use tends to bring more meaning and satisfaction.
- Less energy use: walking, reading an inspirational book, listening to music or hearing a great speaker.
- More energy use: meditation, yoga, prayer, service to others.
3. Trim and remove.
From Neil Pasricha, author of “The Happiness Equation,” we need to start removing these three things in our lives:
- Removal 1: Decisions
We often get decision making fatigue from many trivial things such as what to wear, eat, buy, do etc. This leads to either no decision or a bad decision. However, less decisions leads to faster choices and saves your decision making energy. Write down all your decisions and eliminate it.
- Removal 2: Time
Based on Parkinson’s Law, the less time we have to do something, the more we focused we become. Cut down the time you have to do something by setting an early deadline for yourself. Stop turning in late assignments, cramming or procrastinating.
- Removal 3: Access Points
Close all the distractions around you by removing the access points especially with technology. Turn off your notifications, turn off the sound, shut off the TV, place your phone far away from you if needed. Make yourself less accessible to others. Tell your family and friends that you’ll be away for a few hours.
4. Differentiate activities between 4 categories.
We need to do a thorough self reflection about the activities we do everyday. There are certain activities that can be extremely either draining or recharging for our energy. From Prakhar Verma, creator of DesignEpicLife.com,
- Mentally soothing and soul recharging: Use to rest, recover, and recharge. Activities that relate to your personality. Picking up hobbies or doing enjoyable tasks with less required mental effort. For me, this is playing the guitar, singing, taking a walk outside, and dancing.
- Mentally stimulating and soul recharging: Focus on deep work towards goals. Activities involve creating, learning, working on a passion project, problem-solving etc. This requires high energy levels. My passion projects are this blog and my YouTube channel.
- Mentally soothing and soul sucking: Limit passive useless consumption. This involves you not being your authentic self which includes consumptions of negative news, useless drama, social media etc.
- Mentally stimulating and soul sucking: Escape with a strategic plan. This is like a 9-5 job you hate, problems with no purpose, and it crushes your soul. Other examples are wrong relationships and friendships. Personally for me, school can sometimes be in this category. That’s why it’s so important to have hobbies and activities I love to do in order to recover and rest.
5. Limit coffee consumption. Consider alternatives.
Yes, I know this is painful to read. As a coffee addict myself, I had to face this cold truth. I thought coffee was the answer to all my fatigue troubles. But I was wrong. Just like everything in life, too much of it isn’t good. I’m not asking you to cut off coffee. There are still plenty of health benefits linked to coffee. But studies have shown that too much caffeine can lead to fatigue due to tolerance build up, sleep disruption, and blood sugar increase. So I’m just suggesting limit coffee to ideally no more than 2-4 cups a day. From Jamie Eske, writer on Healthline:
Alternatively, you can also consider replacing coffee with another drink such as an energy boosting smoothie. Mix in different fruits and vegetables into your blender. There’s plenty of healthy and simple recipes you can find online. I personally find my recipes on Tasty.
- 1. Track and audit energy levels. Notice what times in the day do you feel more energetic and awake versus sluggish and tired. Plan your most important activities during times you are most awake.
- 2. Manage all 4 different energies in your life. Manage your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy. Eat more foods like whole grains, proteins and fruits. Get 7-9 hours of sleep. Get at least 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3-5 times a week. Focus for 90-120 minutes with 15 minute breaks in between. Engage in something bigger than yourself.
- 3. Trim and remove. Remove decisions, time and access points in your life.
- 4. Differentiate activities between 4 categories. Determine what activities to use, focus, limit or escape. Refer back to graph to reflect on all your activities.
- 5. Limit coffee consumption. Consider alternatives. Try to limit to no more than 2-4 cups a day. Consider alternatives like an energy boosting and healthy smoothie.
The energy of thought | Penny Zenker | TEDxPSUBehrend
Optimize Your Day For Maximum Productivity With Personal Energy Management by Prakhar Verma
Why You’re Tired All the Time: How to Have All-Day Energy by Thomas Frank
Why does coffee make me tired? by Katherine Marengo LDN, R.D.
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Leave a comment: What activities do you do to manage your energy?