Energy is the key thing we all need to consistently do our best work — it’s the basis for getting things done.
For many people, working around the clock and wearing multiple hats at once is the only way to consistently deliver results — their daily habits define their energy levels. When you are feeling exhausted all the time, you are prone to be distracted by almost anything.
The modern world has changed our lifestyle and our habits are draining us quicker than ever before. If we want our bodies and brains to have the required energy to do modern work, we have to take care of ourselves. Taking good care of your body is the sure way of getting the required energy to maintain a focused and high-performing brain.
Consider these six habits to keep your energy levels high or to even increase them as you work toward building the career and life you can enjoy.
1. Focus on what you put into your body — eat for energy
A balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains is what you need for optimal energy.
Eat breakfast. People who eat breakfast every morning report less fatigue and stress than people who skip it. High-fiber foods, like hot oatmeal, stick with you longer. Go nuts.
A handful of almonds or peanuts can also help — they are high in magnesium and folate (folic acid) — essential nutrients for energy and cell production. Go for breakfasts that help you power up your morning. As Harvard Medical School experts point out, include whole grains, fruit, and protein.
As with healthy breakfast, look for meals meal that gives you ample protein, fiber, and complex carbs and is low in refined sugar and saturated fat. “A diet rich in foods such as whole grains, oats, pulses, nuts, and seeds will help you stay healthy and full of energy,” writes Roxanne Fisher, editor of the BBC GoodFood.
2. Control and leverage your internal clock
Traditionally, the workday runs from 9:00 am-5:00 pm. When you control your own clock, the workday starts and stops when you say it does. One clever way to increase your energy is to recognize how your specific energy flows.
For example, if you’re a morning person and are most clearheaded, creative, and productive from 9:00 am-5:00 pm, use that burst of energy to get things done at that time.
If you are a night-owl and need a few hours to ease into the day, start work at, leverage your afternoons and evenings. If you are productive between the hours of 3:00 pm and 11:00 pm, plan your tasks accordingly and make those your work hours.
The point is that you can increase your energy by working with your body rather than fighting against it and forcing it to fit into anybody’s clock other than your own internal one. It’s better to concentrate your energy into a specific period than randomly insert it across chunks of time.
3. Focus on a positive mindset — spend time with people who uplift, empower and support you
It’s easy to get tired, push through the tired and keep going, and collapse into bed only when your body forces you to do so. Instead of completely draining your energy stores all the time, take time to recognize the positivity in your life and focus on those instead of on complaining.
Do more of what brings out the best in you. Hang around people who inspire you to become the best version of yourself. Choose your circle of influence wisely. People who are constantly negative and down can sap your energy, while those who are always up and excited can give you a real lift.
Change your mindset about work and life. For example, change I’m so tired, I could scream into I got so much done I can rest. Turn I didn’t land that client into I learned tips for how to land the next client. The object is to look for the silver lining in every cloud to keep your mental, emotional, and cognitive energy aligned with a powerful outlook and mindset.
Practice gratitude and positivity to keep your mindset focused on good things. Just like adrenaline boosts your physical energy, positive thoughts give way to positive energy.
4. Learn to say no more often — your entire future is determined by the choices you make today
The harsh truth is that your energy levels start to deplete because your energy is being used. The key to effective — or increased energy — is learning where to spend your energy and where to preserve it. Learning to say an unequivocal NO to people, projects, and places that sap your energy is important for your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Your NO doesn’t have to be mean or mean-spirited; it doesn’t have to be harsh or scathing; it doesn’t have to hurt or insult. Your NO shouldn’t even have to be about the person, place or thing you’re saying NO to. Your NO is about you, your choices, your priority, and the life you’re trying to build for yourself.
One of the easiest, yet most effective, ways to increase your energy is by learning to recognize and eliminate actions, activities, and people who drain your energy in the first place.
5. Getter better sleep — if you don’t get quality sleep, you’ll start to underperform
Have you ever wondered why parents of newborns and small children are always so sleep-deprived? The answer is so simple. It’s because babies sleep when they feel like sleeping. They have little to no regard for other people’s schedules, and they sleep when they’re good and ready, and not a second before that. That is until parents force a change to their sleep schedules.
Start getting in touch with your internal clock and reprogramming it to ebb and flow with your natural energy stores. Start sleeping when you’re actually sleepy and need restoration, not when the world says you should be sleeping. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes toward increasing your energy when you stop fighting so hard against it.
“Studies have shown poor sleep can cause protein buildup in the brain that attacks brain cells. So we’re still trying to put the puzzle together,” says Dr Neal Maru, a neurologist and sleep specialist with Integrated Sleep Services in Alexandria, Virginia, who is not associated with the study.
Sleep repair and restore the brain. Improving your sleep habits could be an important way to improve brain health. 7–8 hours/night of good sleep is essential for stimulating new connections and brain growth.
6. Relax on purpose — give yourself a break, often
It might seem counterproductive to talk about relaxing on a post about increasing energy. It’s isn’t. Period. You simply cannot increase your energy without making time for it.
Learn to schedule time to relax right into your day. Take naps, yourself a break from your busy schedule, dance to your favorite piece of music, hang out with friends — whatever gets you out of the energy-draining workaday activity you’re engaged in and lets you have fun in short bursts.
Don’t allow stress to build up inside of you because it leads to anxiety. Stress-induced emotions consume huge amounts of energy. Activities like exercise, meditation, massage, yoga and spending time in nature can reduce stress.
“But being busy shouldn’t be a badge of honor and it can seriously damage our health and wellbeing. Take time to do activities that naturally reduce cortisol — the stress hormone — like laughing, playing with your children, meeting up with friends or just taking some guilt-free time every evening to relax and do nothing at all,” says Dr. Tim Hinchey.
The second thing is to establish a work-life balance between fun and play. That might not mean a 50/50 split of your time. If a work/life balance for you means 80/20 or 40/60, go with your own flow. The point is to learn to relax in your downtime so your energy is preserved and increased when you need it most. Create a feel-good work/life balance for yourself — just create the balance that works for your life.
Your body and mind are by far the most important areas to focus on when it comes to energy management. No matter what walk of life you’re in, learn to assess, manage, and increase your energy now. Pay attention to the details of your day so that you can identify the people or events that impact your energy the most and make the changes accordingly.
This article originally appeared on Medium.