An hour-by-hour, easy guide to improving your energy all day long

June 06, 2018
  • By Rose Kennedy
  • For the AJC

Is “just −so −tired” your constant state of being?

Batteries drained? All out of oomph? Exhausted?

There are so many ways to describe that blah, no energy feeling that can strike throughout the day. And while sometimes the explanation is obvious (binge-watching an entire season of Santa Clarita Diet last night may not have been the best idea), other energy sappers are not as noticeable or just creep up over time.

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"Stress, poor diet, poor-quality sleep, lack of exercise and limited bright-light exposure during the day can all contribute to fatigue," psychologist Shelby F. Harris, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, told Consumer Reports.

If certain symptoms accompany your fatigue, you may need to see a doctor, according to CR. They include unexplained weight gain or loss, fever, shortness of breath, morning headaches or difficulty concentrating.

For other folks who feel drained, self-help is an option. Harris and other health experts shared these quick ways to boost your energy throughout the day. Bye bye, blahs!

7 a.m.

Even chirpy morning people need some time before they're fully functioning. "It can take up to two hours to get the brain fully alert," Matthew Edlund, a doctor and director of the Gulf Coast Sleep Institute in Sarasota, Florida, told Real Simple. He explained that one reason you're lethargic is that your core body temperature has dipped during the night to keep you in deep, restorative slumber. 

To jar yourself back to peak energy more quickly, open the blinds and do a few stretches in front of the window. Light lets your brain know it's time to stop producing melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy, Edlund said. The physical activity will raise your body temperature out of the sleep-inducing range and increase blood flow to your brain.

7:15 a.m.

Take a “scentsational” shower. For a quick morning energy boost while you bathe before work or school, use bath products scented with citrus, eucalyptus or mint. "When you smell these scents, a surge of energy flows through the body, which clears the mind of clutter and gives you a quick lift," Ann Marie Chiasson, a Tucson-based integrative-medicine physician, told Real Simple.

8 a.m.

Pack in some protein. Eating lots of protein is essential for staving off fatigue, especially early in the day when your cortisol levels are high, Beverly Hills-based endocrinologist and metabolic specialist Eva Cwynar told Forbes. She suggested putting eggs on the breakfast menu, having a slice of ham on the side or adding protein powder to your oatmeal. If you eat only carbohydrates, you'll crash early and hard, explained Cwynar, who is the author of The Fatigue Solution: Increase Your Energy in Eight Easy Steps.

If you're not a breakfast person, try to manage at least a banana and about 22 raw almonds, Real Simple advised. Or sip a bottle of drinkable fruit yogurt or kefir, adding 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed for a fiber boost.

»RELATED: Want to lose weight? Give your breakfast an energy boost

10 a.m.

Shake up your routine. Any time you provide yourself with a novel experiences, your brain responds by releasing a rush of neurotransmitters, such as the dopamine that makes you more alert, according to Real Simple. Whether you hit a morning slump while watching the kiddos play in the yard or completing yet another report at the office, just taking something ordinary and switching it up can give you a quick hit of energy. Answer the phone with your other hand, for example, or skip to the mailbox or speak in just one-syllable words for five minutes. 

12 noon

Plan something to look forward to. Along with a light, protein-packed lunch like turkey chili, RS recommended taking part of your lunch hour to research something that will brighten your days to come. "Browse the Web for plane tickets. Or check out reviews for a movie you want to see over the weekend. Anticipating a pleasurable reward can set off a blast of energizing dopamine."

2 p.m.

Make a two-minute play date. Just a few minutes of fun brain-teasers will activate the reward system of the brain, which releases a surge of energizing neurotransmitters, according to RS. It recommended the Cup O' Joe brain-training app for the iPhone for memory games and reaction-time tests that are also actually entertaining.

3 p.m.

Fill out tomorrow's to do list. Rumination activates some parts of the prefrontal brain regions that have been associated with depression, Boulder, Colorado–based clinical psychologist Joan Borysenko told Real Simple. That means agonizing over what's on your must-do list for tomorrow will drain enjoyment from the evening ahead. If you take a few minutes during the afternoon slump hours to create tomorrow's to-do list, you can prevent this energy-sapping reaction. Should your mind try to dwell on what you didn't accomplish today, you can quickly get back to the fun and relaxation knowing you have a game plan in place.

Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

4 p.m.

Cut off the caffeine. Coffee and tea are both great pick-me-ups earlier in the day because of their caffeine content, according to CR. But it's a good idea to limit caffeine overall to about 400 mg (that's about two to four 8-ounce cups of coffee) and stop visiting the coffee machine no later than 4 p.m. or so. "Caffeine can disrupt sleep when it's consumed even six hours before bedtime," CR noted.

9 p.m.-10 p.m.

Power down, sleepyheads. To trigger your brain to start producing that sleep-inducing melatonin, about an hour before bedtime dim the lights, switch off the TV and put away (out of reach, ideally out of the bedroom) all your smartphones, tablets and computers.

10 p.m.

Listen to a meditation or relaxation app. To separate physical fatigue from the mental drain caused by life's demands and worries. Harris recommended listening to a meditation or relaxation app right before bed. (Make sure you power off the phone right afterwards.) "Mindful meditation quiets your mind, so your brain isn't hijacked by anxious or racing thoughts of the day or by what has to be done in the future," Harris said. "It centers you and helps set the stage for sleep."