We are now *checks calendar for day/month* over three months into lockdown and maintaining our energy levels is proving an increasing challenge. Overnight, we had to adjust to major restrictions in what we can and can’t do, with even the smallest tasks such as shopping or meeting a friend requiring a level of planning and concentration normally reserved for a G7 summit.
Research shows that stress and anxiety can lead to an energy slump1The Sleep Council, “the grogginess people are experiencing as the days go by is a natural response to all our normal routines being upset.” It’s becoming increasingly hard to get going in the mornings and to motivate ourselves to tackle the day.
It can be hard to maintain good habits as our lack of normal routine seems likely to become a long-term reality. So how can we tackle inertia and keep our mental and physical energy levels up? Here are some tips that may help:
For many of us, our days no longer have the structure provided by the daily commute, work, school and other routines. This means we need to plan ahead and create our own structures. Making sure we get up at the same time each morning, start work at a regular time, schedule exercise and meet ups with friends (outside or online) are important ways to energise ourselves and create some motivation. This approach also helps us to differentiate between weekdays and weekends, ensuring we avoid the energy sapping monotony of every day looking and feeling the same.
Protect your sleep
If you’re a regular visitor to our HealthHub, you’ll know we are advocates of the importance of a good night’s sleep. However, this has proved more challenging than usual since the coronavirus outbreak began. According to a new study, significant numbers of people have experienced changes to their sleep patterns since lockdown was announced, with nearly two-thirds overall saying their sleep has been worse.2
While some of this is a natural response to anxiety, there are changes we can make to try and tackle sleep issues. Removing light (including TVs and smartphones) and opting to read a physical book rather than an electronic device will help avoid stimulating your brain into thinking it should be awake. Cutting down on alcohol, caffeine and sugary food, especially in the hours before you go to bed is also important. Making changes such as these can have a surprising impact on the quality of sleep and your energy levels the next day. For more tips on how to get a good night’s sleep, check out our blog.
Look for the positives
When dealing with the pandemic and all the bad news that comes with it, it’s hard not to feel negative and overwhelmed. However according to academic experts, it is possible to flip the challenges of difficult events such as the pandemic to allow us to grow from the experience.3 Our HealthHub includes guides to help develop a sense of optimism: check out our blogs on creating a team of positive influencers and building optimism.
According to the University of Oxford, one reason we may experience low energy levels and ‘grogginess’ is reduced exposure to natural daylight caused by the restrictions placed on us by lockdown.4 Daylight is the main biological signal to alertness, meaning lack of exposure to ambient daylight, or outdoor light, can make people feel less alert throughout the day.4
Sunlight (even on an overcast or rainy day) increases serotonin levels associated with boosting mood and helping us stay calm and focused.5 We also need melatonin from outdoor light to help our body know if it’s light or dark. This means staying inside will drag down our energy levels by making it hard for our brains to process what time of day or night it is.
Move to boost mood
If you’re heading outside to exercise, all the better. Exercise is a powerful mood and energy booster.6 It relieves tension, stress and anxiety, and enhances wellbeing through the release of endorphins. Even a small amount of exercise can have a powerful effect; research shows that 15 minutes a day of higher-intensity exercise such as running, or at least an hour of lower-intensity exercise, such as walking or housework, can help prevent depression.7 Think about a walk or run first thing in the morning to create an immediate lift, wake up your brain and boost your spirits for the day ahead.
Eat for energy
Often when we’re feeling a slump, it’s tempting to reach for sugary snacks. However, processed and sugary foods can actually make us feel more groggy and create a sugar ‘crash’. Instead, we need to fill up on energy boosting foods such as fruit and veg, quality protein and healthy fats (like oily fish, eggs, avocado, nuts and seeds). These foods steady our blood sugar levels, help us feel fuller for longer and will give us sustained energy throughout the day.
It’s also important to make sure we’re getting enough vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, which supports over 300 processes within the body, including energy metabolism.8 Magnesium-rich foods include green leafy vegetables, nuts (especially almonds), seeds, bananas, fish and cocoa.
Finally, when working from home without the office watercooler to hand, it can be easy to forget to drink enough water. Make sure you stay hydrated as dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches poor concentration and irritability.
To find out more about how a cash plan from Sovereign can help you keep on top of your everyday health and wellbeing, visit sovereignhealthcare.co.uk/good-all-round