January and February are always difficult months. It’s cold, it’s dark and it often leaves people feeling deflated and a little lost.
The thing with mental health, is that it’s important to take a two pronged approach. From tackling it directly with gratitude lists and affirmations to tackling it indirectly, through sleep and diet.
Our focus, in this post, is energy. It’s a typical chicken and egg scenario, does poor mental health lead to low energy levels, or do low energy levels equate to low mood? Regardless, low energy levels undoubtedly impact on mental health. The two are inextricably linked. The problem is, there’s no quick fix for boosting energy levels and often establishing healthy habits makes things worse initially, as your body adjusts and detoxifies.
So we’re going to keep it simple and easy, because that’s the trick to making habits stick. No hour long, high intensity workouts (unless this is in line with your current fitness levels), no week-long juice cleanses.
- Refresh your diet. Eat slow release, complex carbs, think whole grains, fruit, nut butters; porridge or Greek yoghurt with fruit is idea for breakfast. In order for healthy eating habits to stick, it’s vital you like what you eat. It may take you a week or two to adjust to a healthier diet, but finding healthy ingredients you enjoy is key. It could be anything, from a particular spice to cacao powder or peanut butter. If you are addicted to sugar, try substituting your usual treat for dates, homemade healthy granola bars, or energy balls.
- Move. Schedule breaks, even if you’re really busy, taking five minutes to walk around every hour will release endorphins and give you a boost in energy. Nothing erodes your energy levels faster than sitting at a desk all day. If you have time, squeezing exercise into your lunch break can also be a game changer. A randomised, controlled trial found that low and moderate intensity exercise, actually improved energy levels amongst sedentary adults, reporting persistent fatigue, over the 6 week study.
- Meditate. Stress manifests itself in very physical ways, leaving sufferers feeling depleted. Meditating can help to counteract the effects of stress, with various breathing techniques to meet different goals. If you’re not sure where to begin, try an energy boosting Pranayama to get more oxygen into your body. Calm Botanicals has a few Pranayamas to try.
- Don’t be afraid to take time out for a power nap. 10 to 20 minutes is optimal, it’ll give you an instant energy boost without disrupting your sleep at night. While it can seem counterintuitive to take time out to nap when you’re busy with work, it’ll do wonders for your productivity and mood.
- Eat regularly. Snacking, providing the snacks are healthy, can improve cognitive function and energy levels. Food is fuel after all. Peanut butter with apple or banana is an ideal snack, as are energy balls (you can play around with ingredients, but if you’re pushed for time they can be made with just 3 ingredients; use dates as a base and add in cacao and almond butter, or cacao with coconut).
- Invest in a SAD lamp. Low mood and low energy are interconnected, so combat both by boosting your serotonin levels. As an added bonus, SAD lamps can help to treat sleep disorders, helping to regulate our circadian rhythm.
- Rehydrate. Even mild dehydration can cause drowsiness, so make sure you get at least 2 litres a day. If you’re busy and prone to forgetting, or losing track of how much you’ve had, keep a jug or water bottle on your desk. Anytime you find yourself feeling sleepy, drink a glass.
- Apply essential oils on your pulse points. Citrus scents, peppermint and rosemary are all lauded for their energising qualities. They can be applied to your skin (just make sure to dilute them with a carrier oil), or if you aren’t keen on dabbing them onto your skin, you can try a diffuser or just open the bottle and inhale. Another option is the steam method; add a few drops to a bowl of hot water and place a towel over your head and the bowl, then inhale. This can be repeated as needed.