Who doesn’t want to enjoy summer? The bountiful sunshine of days that seem endless, and nights that are perfect for relaxing with friends and family outside make summertime one of the busiest seasons of the year.
The demands of our job, projects at home, and rushing around to kids’ school and sports activities can leave one drained by the time school is over. Few of us have jobs that allow us to have the entire summer off, and kids can be difficult to keep satisfied during their summer break from school.
So how do you find the energy and the motivation to fill the summer days and nights? If you find yourself unable to get out of bed until mid-morning, too tired to move from the couch after supper, or needing an afternoon nap, there are a few simple things that you can do to boost your energy.
First and foremost, get better sleep. Good quality sleep is critical to good health and abundant energy. While we sleep, the body repairs damage to tissue and organs, children grow, the liver and other organs detox themselves, cortisol and other hormones are generated for the next day, dreams allow for the brain to process information at the subconscious level, as well as many other critical functions take place.
Good quality sleep is identified by 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep; most people require around 8 hours of sleep to perform at their peak level. This means making sleep a priority. Many people believe that they are more productive if they compromise on sleep in order to use those hours to get things done; but science shows us otherwise.
Studies focused on sleep and brain health have proved that we are much more motivated and efficient when we have had the proper amount of sleep. Not getting enough good quality sleep causes a lack of alertness, memory and cognitive impairment, and a decline in performance. When we are well rested, we are more likely to accomplish more in less time.
Also, our circadian rhythm dictates that sleep needs to take place at night; optimally between 10pm and 6am so that the above-mentioned processes can take place while we sleep. Staying up late prevents the body from detoxing and performing repairs when it has to ensure that your needs are being met because you are awake.
Believe it or not, your body runs itself on a tight time schedule with tasks being performed at specific times. If you alter your sleep schedule, important tasks will be impaired or reduced which will lead to a decline in your health. A supplement of melatonin taken 30 minutes before bed can help reinforce your circadian rhythm so that you produce your own melatonin at the right time causing you sleep more soundly.
Secondly, drink plenty of pure, fresh water. Our blood, brain, and heart are comprised of roughly 70 percent water. Even a slight amount of dehydration affects the functioning of these very important organs.
The more dehydrated you are, the thicker your blood becomes, raising blood pressure and putting a strain on your heart. Your blood carries nutrients (fuel) and oxygen to cells and collects waste from them. Without enough water in your blood to efficiently make this exchange, you will feel lethargic and easily tired.
The optimum amount of water (in ounces) to drink per day is one half of your ideal body weight in pounds. For example, for someone whose ideal body weight is 170 pounds you should try to consume 85 ounces of water per day which is 2.5 liters; more if you sweat profusely during work or exercise.
To help you increase the amount of water you are drinking, start with fresh water that has been filtered to remove chemicals and impurities. You can add lemon or lime juice to give it flavor, and it will also add important vitamins and minerals that your body needs while being naturally alkaline.
The third thing you can do to increase your energy is to reduce or cut out simple carbohydrates like breads, pastas, cookies, cakes, and most processed foods. Highly processed food is labeled as junk food due to its lack of nutritional value, and it is also either high in sugar or causes a spike in blood sugar because it breaks down so fast.
Food that mostly contains simple carbohydrates not only causes unstable blood sugar, but it also causes depression and weight gain which can also lead to a lack of desire to get out and have fun. It can also keep you from getting good quality sleep.
Instead, focus on eating more fruits and vegetables. They can be raw or cooked, but should be eaten in its whole form, meaning eating all edible parts including the skin and flesh. Eat the whole fruit and avoid fruit juice to keep blood sugar stable and to provide more sustained energy.
Eat naturally lean meats such as chicken and fish. These will provide protein and enough fat to keep you satisfied throughout the day, and will also help you sleep longer and more restful at night while supporting cell growth and repair.
Fourth, improve your digestion and eliminate gas, bloating, and acid reflux by eating 3 times a day at regularly scheduled times. Avoid skipping meals or eating after 6pm. Eat your biggest/ heaviest meal at lunchtime, and have a lighter meal in the evening. Better digestion means more energy and less discomfort and sluggishness.
Before meals drink a glass of water with one to two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to help improve digestion. Eat sitting down with family or friends, without the distraction of television or cell phones. The same applies if you are eating alone; also avoid reading mail or other things that take your focus off the action of eating. Unconsciously eating leads to overeating and indigestion.
To ease symptoms of indigestion, eat a piece of raw ginger root or take peppermint. The mint Altoids is made with real peppermint oil and is very effective at providing immediate relief. If you have it, chewing on a leaf from the peppermint plant will also help. Both ginger and peppermint can be found in herbal teas. Many herbal teas also have herbs that will help you relax and sleep better when consumed before bed.
And fifth, lower your stress levels by doing things to actively manage your stress. Stress is mentally, physically and emotionally draining. Unmanaged stress can lead to hormone imbalances, depression, and even disease.
The first place to start is by identifying all the things that prey on your mind. Some things are not immediately obvious so making a list of all the different areas that you think obsessively over, the ones that cause anxiety, and the ones that you would rather not even think about can make them more manageable. Write them down so you can keep track of them as you work through them.
Often, talking things out with a trusted friend or counsellor will help you to put things into perspective, and find solutions to those things that you can change. For the things that you cannot change, it is helpful to understand just how those things affect your life, and to make the decision to find ways to work around it.
Putting things into perspective and being proactive about your life keeps us alert for new opportunities when they come along. Life is always changing; so we need to be looking at how to make the most of it.
Make sure that you take some time to relax. Even if you feel that you can’t spare any time for yourself, fifteen minutes of sitting quietly in a comfortable place where you can be alone and secure can give you a much needed reprieve.
With your eyes closed, mind focused on breathing long, slow, and deeply, allowing your shoulders to drop, your lower back to relax, and your weight to sink into your seat bones, imagine yourself somewhere in nature that you would feel really comfortable. Picture the scenery around you and imagine the sights, sounds, and smells as if you were there. When you open your eyes, take that feeling of peace with you.
Another great thing that you can do is to take a hot bath with Epson salt added to the water. The Epson salt is full of magnesium which, along with the hot water, will help you to relax. Adding organic essential oils such as lavender, patchouli, and/or jasmine can be very uplifting. You were going to bathe anyway, why not spend 30 minutes soaking the stress of the day away in the process.
Taking a hot bath before bed is a great way to unwind your body and your mind, and will help you sleep better. Avoid interacting with any electronics (phone, TV, computer, etc.) for one hour before bed so as to not stimulate your brain.
Certain herbs, known as adaptogens, have been proven to help us cope with stress by helping our body compensate for the effects of raised cortisol levels and hormone imbalances that stress causes. Ashwagandha, rhodiola, and tulsi (also called holy basil) are three of the most commonly used herbs for stress; they can be found in most health food stores.
Implementing as many of these suggestions as possible will increase your energy, improve your health, and improve your mental outlook so that you feel like enjoying the summer. Get out there and enjoy!
Breus, M. J. (n.d.). Sleep Habits: More Important Than You Think. Retrieved from WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/important-sleep-habits#1
Pietrangelo, A. (2014, August 19). The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on the Body. Retrieved from Healthline: http://www.healthline.com/health/sleep-deprivation/effects-on-body
Sleep and Mental Health. (2009, July). Retrieved from Harvard Health Publications: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Sleep-and-mental-health