Here's a quick routine designed to help you through a busy day when your energy starts to wane. Nothing will make you crabbier than feeling exhausted and sorry for yourself, so use this sequence as a tool to ward off the whimpers and put you back on track for the rest of the day.
The Emergency Energy Kit
- A box of tissues
- A spray bottle of thermal water or a facial mist
- 1 to 2 bottles of essential oil — I recommend basil or rosemary and grapefruit or lemon.
- A small, firm rubber ball (I use T-Spheres)
- A bag of raw almonds and/or a bar of good 70 percent cacao dark chocolate
If you don't have these items, make a note to pick them up and keep them in a little box — your kit will be ready whenever you need it. In fact, if you make this sequence a regular part of your day, you may prevent the energy crash entirely.
The Emergency Energy Prescription
Minute #1: Oxygen
1. Blow your nose to clear your nasal passages.
2. Spritz your face with thermal water or a toner.
3. Sit up straight and place your hands on your knees.
Breathe in as deeply as you can, and hold your breath while you say these three words in your head: healthy, able, strong. Release the breath very slowly. Repeat four times.
Why it works: When we forget to take deep breaths, tiny sacs in our lungs, called alveoli, get lazy and deflate, decreasing the amount of surface area available for gas exchange. We take in less O2, and release less CO2. Holding your breath for a few seconds at the top of each breath creates slight pressure in the lungs and pops open the lazy alveoli so they're ready to work. More oxygen = more energy. Thinking positive thoughts while you're oxygenating your cells will remind you of your ability to heal yourself. And misting your face provides oxygen — plus two hydrogens (H2O) — to your skin.
Minute #2: Aromatherapy
1. If you're having trouble concentrating, try rosemary or basil. If you're feeling glum, try grapefruit or lemon.
2. Put 1 to 2 drops of your oil in a clean tissue, and hold the tissue in your cupped hands.
3. Inhale and exhale normally 10 times. Leave the tissue on your desk for the rest of the routine.
Why it works: You've just cleared your airways, so molecules from your essential oil can make their way to your cribriform plate (behind the top of your nose). There, they come in contact with olfactory nerve endings, where messages travel instantaneously to the limbic system. Your limbic system handles memories and emotions and connects with the endocrine and autonomic nervous systems. With basil or rosemary, you'll notice an immediate feeling of mental clarity, and an enhanced ability to focus after about 10 minutes. With grapefruit or lemon, you should feel happier: Citrus essential oils are antidepressants.
Minute #3: Massage
1. Put the small ball on your desk. Place one forearm on the ball (palm facing down), and roll the ball along the length of your forearm, guiding and pressing down with your free hand. Repeat on the opposite side.
2. Slide your shoes off and roll each foot over the ball with a bit of pressure, covering the entire area from your heel to the ball of your foot.
Why it works: Massage mildly increases levels of serotonin and dopamine, which increase positive feelings. It also decreases cortisol levels, resulting in stress reduction and increased immunity. Here, you're focusing on two areas that do a massive amount of work. Our forearms control our fingers and thumbs, which do all our writing, typing, texting, and scrolling. The soles of the feet contain thousands of nerve endings and the tendons that move our toes. It's not quite acupressure, but it's close.
Minute #4: Stretching
1. Do five seated cat-cow poses with your hands on your knees.
2. Stand up straight and bend your knees as far as you can while keeping your heels on the ground. You should feel your lower calves and Achilles tendons. Hold for 10 seconds.
3. Reach your arms overhead and bend your body to the left, banana-style. Hold for a few breaths and repeat on the other side.
4. Stand up straight and clasp your hands behind your low back. Straighten the arms as you lift and open your chest for several breaths.
5. Keep the hands clasped while you bend forward at the waist, bending the knees slightly. Let the blood go to your head for a few seconds, then stand up slowly.
Why it works: Stretching, like exercise, releases endorphins. Also known as endogenous opioid polypeptides, endorphins are chemicals that decrease pain in the body and increase a feeling of well-being. It's not crazy talk from your runner friends — it's real science and it works, even in small doses!
Minute #5: The Smart Snack
1. If you're bored and prone to snacking, have a small handful of raw almonds.
2. If you have a sugar craving, choose a small square of high-quality dark chocolate, letting it linger on your tongue until it dissolves.
Why it works: Both snacks are very high in manganese, magnesium, and copper, all critical to brain function. They are also rich in antioxidants, great sources of energy, and contain enough fat to leave you satisfied after eating only a small portion.
Remember, this five-minute tool is designed to support you through a mini-slump. It won't make up for an unbalanced diet, too much alcohol, or not enough sleep and exercise. So make sure you're doing your best to promote your overall health, and use this routine when you need a boost!
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