After 10+ year of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I’ve done a lot of research into what it takes to find energy, and I’m going to tell you now, the biggest secret to finding energy is that it takes work. Ironic, isn’t it? In 2010, I invested much less effort into maintaining energy, and my life dramatically suffered because of it. So, 2011, here’s to returning back to doing what it takes to gain that vim and vigor! If you feel like you lack the energy you wish you had (or just know you need), then this is for you too. Jump in with me, get ready to put mind over matter, and try some of these simple ideas to see which work the best for you.
1. Eating - You have to eat for energy. Plain and simple. And you have to eat foods that promote energy. It’s not as hard as it may sound, nor as painful as you may imagine. In fact, I have much come to prefer the healthier alternatives: wheat over white, fruits over sugar, etc. The highest levels of energy I have ever had came from a diet super high in protein, think: nuts, eggs, soy. Maybe your body does better on high amounts of complex carbohydrates. Everyone is different. The point is that you have to be dedicated in trying different eating regimens, and you have to document everything you eat and how you feel. There’s no way to remember that an apple at breakfast made you feel tired at 2:00 in the afternoon, if you aren’t tracking and following patterns. Also, a whole wheat piece of toast with almond butter before you go to bed can do wonders for your energy level when you crawl out of bed the next morning.
2. Exercise - This alone probably does more than anything else I’ve ever tried to not only boost my energy levels, but boost my mood. It’s also the hardest thing to do when you feel like you couldn’t possibly do anything other than lie on the couch for the next five hours. But DO IT anyway. And, I’m not talking leisurely walking. If you want to experience the high I’m talking about and a boost of endorphins, you’ve gotta sweat baby. I’m going to say 50 minutes of intense physical activity. Mix it up: bike, jog, toss in an exercise video, sign up for a zumba class. There are plenty of ways to avoid the “boredom” we associate with working out. And, if you can’t physically muster the stamina for something of that nature (trust me, I’ve been there when it’s just not possible), see if you can try yoga. I’ve been extremely impressed with the energy gained from an hour of yoga, even a low-intensity session.
3. Retrain Your Mind - If you think you’re tired, then you’re going to be tired. It’s pretty much that simple. It’s not that simple though, to think you’re energized and be energized. You have to convince yourself you’re not tired and then do something to change how you feel. E.g. go for a jog. And you have to stop thinking of things in terms like “exercise” and “working out.” Start thinking of activities as your time to find energy. Your time to do something just for yourself. A private get-away, if you will. You’ve heard the saying before that busy people get way more done than un-busy people? It’s true. They get on a roll, and momentum of that sort builds upon itself. The more you start to do, the more you’ll find yourself capable of doing, and the snowball effect will most likely astound you.
4. Find What Makes You Happy - I know, you’ve heard this before and it sounds generic. But it’s not. It goes along with re-training your mind and not focusing on a lack of energy. When you’re happy, you get endorphins charged, you forget to tell yourself that you’re tired, and you stimulate yourself to create enough energy to keep doing whatever it is that you’re enjoying so much. And I’m not talking about huge things here, like you have to find a new job or a new love interest. I’m talking about spending 15 minutes playing with your dog or the puppies at the shelter. Baking cookies just because. Calling someone you love once a day to say you love them.
5. Some “Practicals” - In case I’ve lost you in thinking that all of these are too simple, or too non-tangible, and you want some “1,2,3, do this,” then here are some other things to try for extra boosts of energy. First, immediately cut out caffeine and sugar. You’ll think it gets a lot worse (which it likely will) but then it’s going to get a whole lot better when your body starts producing that energy all on its own and doesn’t have any sugar crashes. Try an adrenal booster from your health food store. I really like Adrene Supreme. Up your Vitamin B intake, as well as your Vitamin C intake. The better your immune system, the better your energy level will be. Never get less than 7 hours of sleep, 8-9 if you can manage. Anytime you create a deficit, your body has to go into over-drive, which further drains your adrenal glands and even further wears you out. Journal, journal, journal. Keep track of everything you eat, all of your exercise, stressors in your life, happy things in your life, and how you feel through it all. Patterns will emerge and you can make changes accordingly. Do 50 minutes of high intensity exercise 5 days a week. Eliminate as many possible sources of stress in your life as possible, if not for good, just until you can build up your adrenal gland reserves (who are probably completely wiped out at the moment). Then you’ll be geared up to go, go, go all of 2011.
Not surprisingly, none of these are groundbreaking new ideas you’ve never heard of before. If there was some magic (healthy!) pill to become the energizer bunny, we’d all be taking it. The trick is that you have to find the right combination of actions, and you have to do them all. Over and over. But, trust me, it’s worth it!