How To Increase Your Energy When You Always Feel Sluggish
You've probably had that string of weeks, or heck, even months, where it feels like a real slog to do just about anything. Sometimes where energy is concerned, there simply seems to be a major lack of it, and sluggishness is the name of the daily game. Trust, this is not an uncommon phenomenon. But figuring out how to increase your energy when it seems to have totally left the building is not impossible, especially if you can do a little work to pinpoint what might be causing this case of the blahs.
"People often feel sluggish for a be of two reasons. Their diet or their mental health," clinical social worker and addictions counselor, Ben Barrett, of How to Social Worker, tells Bustle. "These definitely are not mutually exclusive either!"
It's of course worth noting that if your low energy is something that seems particularly problematic, checking in with your healthcare provider is always a good first step to get to the bottom of what is going on with you. But there are also a few questions you can ask yourself, and habits you can implement, that might help elevate your day-to-day sluggishness.
Below, some pros give advice on how to lift your energy on both a mind and body level.
1. Check In With Your Inner Goals And Desires
It's not so surprising that the low energy you feel can be attributed to emotions, especially if you are feeling stuck or disconnected from yourself.
"When we feel mentally sluggish or unmotivated, we're often disconnected from what matters most to us," social worker and coach Lee Chaix McDonough, MSW, MSPH, PCC, of Caravel Coaching, LLC, tells Bustle. "This happens when we're out of touch with our core values — what we want our lives to be about."
That makes us far more likely to slip into the default mode of reacting to life, instead of taking action, McDonough says. If this seems to resonate with you, one of the first steps is to identify and clarify your values.
"Here's a simple strategy to get clear on what matters most to you," McDonough says, and this can do a lot to help your energy levels. "Imagine the person you love and respect most is talking to someone about you. What stories would you want them to share? What words, traits or qualities would they use to describe you?"
Beginning to answer those questions can help you feel spiritually and energetically refreshed.
2. Ask Yourself If There Is Something You're Avoiding
And even if we do know what we want or what matters, if we are afraid to acknowledge it or take any action around it, that can also cost some low feelings on the regular.
Low energy can be a mental symptom of avoidance, and resistance is a symptom of fear, McDonough says.
"When we are about to take bold action in our lives, our minds will generate all sorts of false stories and fears to keep us from moving forward. This is a safety mechanism," McDonough says. But it costs us a lot of motivation and vitality.
When low energy strikes, it's time to dig a little deeper and begin asking yourself what you want in your life, McDonough says. What would be possible for you once you achieve it? What are the costs of not taking action?
This can be anything from implementing a new meditation technique because you've wanted to start working on centering yourself for a long time, or finally getting that apartment without roommates. If you are avoiding taking action towards these goals, it's worth asking why that is.
"Recommit to your goals, and then identify one small step you can take today that will move you closer to what you want," McDonough says. "Small actions lead to big results, because they get your momentum going."
3. Optimize Your Snack Times During The Day
Yes, there are some very basic elements to caring for your energy levels that can be attacked on the level of snack.
Registered dietitian Rachel Fine of To The Pointe Nutrition, a nutrition counseling firm in NYC, says that to get more energy when you're feeling sluggish, consider "optimizing" your snack times by choosing and pairing foods that can give you a longer lasting boost.
In particular, Fine says to not forget to bring in some complex carbohydrates with some protein. "Providing your body with carbohydrates helps replenish glycogen stores, which provides you with energy to manage through your day."
Her recommendations? Add some nuts to your yogurt or pair an apple with string cheese for a balanced snack to hold you over between meals.
4. Don't Eat Late At Night If You Can
It's not an easy rule to follow, but late night eating might be one of the reasons you're feeling funky during the day.
Physiotherapist Jon White, who is also a sports therapist, tells Bustle that when it comes to energy levels, when you eat is as important as what you eat.
"You should try not to eat within three hours of going to bed," White says. "This is because the need to digest food, particularly during the earlier stages of digestion in your stomach interferes with your ability to achieve the deeper stages of sleep. This can leave you feeling less refreshed after sleep and have lower energy levels as a result."
But that's not the only reason to keep snacking to earlier hours. "Your digestion is also compromised when you sleep, meaning that you gain less energy from the food that you eat," White says.
Try to keep your eatin' to earlier in the day, and if you can, skip that late night snack or the beloved second dinner.
5. Stay Hydrated From The Moment You Wake Up
It always comes back to water. Drink it up, friends, from the moment you open your eyes.
"Due to your inability to take on water during sleep, you are likely to be dehydrated when you wake up," White says. "This dehydration can lead to lower energy levels and a more general feeling of 'fogginess' in the mind."
Therefore you should aim to drink 16 oz of water within the first hour after waking, White says.
"You may not feel like you need to drink this much but you should try to do it anyway," White says. "It will help you concentrate better for the first few hours of the day."
6. Go Easy On The Caffeine And Sugar
When the afternoon rolls around and you feel like you've simply got nothing left to give, having a little chocolate bar and that fifth cup of coffee might seem like the only solution. Well, not so fast, Barrett says.
"When we’re feeling sluggish, we have a tendency to take in caffeinated or high in sugar products," Barrett says. "This gives us a momentary boost. However, as you begin to crash, you feel worse off than you had to start."
To break this cycle of highs and lows on a nutritional level, moderate your intake of sugar and caffeine to keep your mood even.
7.vConsider Your Moods And Stress On A Deeper Level
Again, if the energy issue seems to be something more than you can tackle with a few small changes, don't hesitate to reach out for some more support.
Depression and serious stress, for example, can definitely cause you to feel fatigued, Barrett says. "If you are losing interest in hobbies, easily angered, or feel your mood is frequently low, you could be depressed," Barrett says. "Depression affects our energy levels."
Similarly, if you are dealing with a lot of stress in your life, it will impact your levels of energy. Implementing both coping techniques that work for you, like hobbies or exercise, for example, along with getting help, can do a lot to help you through this.
No matter what, friends, know that everyone gets in that low energy slump sometimes. But it's all good. Once you consider what might be the cause, you can go about addressing it.