21 days to a new you: Get more energy
Now, stress is a given in our daily lives — always tasked with balancing family, work, friends, finances. But if we can reduce our own reactions to external stresses, and become calmer and more focused, the daily irritants of life can just wash right over us. We can't change what happens outside us, but there's plenty we can do to change ourselves! Here are some great ways to reduce stress.
By Anne Hurley for MSN Healthy Living
Day 1: Eat more soluble fiber every day
Foods with high soluble fiber content slow and regulate the absorption of sugars -- thus reducing and even eliminating the dreaded "sugar crash." Eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, beans and oats. These foods contain a ton of soluble fiber (as opposed to insoluble fiber, also valuable for keeping you regular), which is almost a magic solution to stabilize your body chemistry.
Day 2: Stretch
Just the simple act of getting up from your work chair several times a day to stretch helps all your muscles both relax and re-engage. Power stretching, in fact, can be its own form of exercise, as can stretch-intensive yoga, which also boosts energy while also relaxing the mind. Also, try stretching for five to 10 minutes every morning and evening -- first thing out of bed and last thing before hopping back in. It helps regulate blood flow throughout your body, which can both help to energize and to calm you.
Day 3: Implement a strict bedtime and wake-up time
If you have to set your alarm for a while to get your body in a rhythm, that's fine. But vow to keep the same wakeup time, even on weekends. If you need extra zzzs, go to bed a half-hour earlier each night until you are getting the right amount of sleep. Being sleep-deprived can have a huge impact on your energy level. Sleep itself is healing to the entire body and your mind, so make sure you're getting as much of this natural "medicine" as you can.
Day 4: Eat a hearty breakfast
A good, balanced breakfast can actually fuel most of your day, especially if you incorporate complex carbs (oatmeal, quinoa) and fresh fruit along with protein. At lunch, go lighter or you'll feel logy in the afternoon. Have a big salad topped with nuts, or bowl of veggie soup and a small amount of protein like cheese or nut butter on some crackers for lunch. You'll be surprised at the consistency of your energy level during the day.
Day 5: Eat five smaller meals instead of three big ones
If you have blood sugar issues, this can be the ideal way to go. Instead of loading up at three bigger meals, try the grazing method. Plan five smaller meals, at, for example, 7 a.m., 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., and 6 p.m. Just make sure that your three "real" meals are in fact smaller, and that your two "snack" meals are true meals. Try fresh carrot, celery, and zucchini sticks with peanut butter, or fresh fruit chopped up and served with nonfat Greek-style yogurt. This helps keep your blood sugar, and thus your energy level, consistent throughout the day.
Day 6: Get fresh air
Try to get outside at least a few times a day, rain or shine. Walk a few extra blocks to another bus stop in the morning, cruise around the block at lunch and take a walk in the neighborhood after dinner. Do some window shopping, maybe even work in an errand or two, and take a lot of conscious deep breaths. You already know walking is great for you, but breathing fresh air is like taking a mental vacation.
Day 7: Move your workouts to the morning
If you're normally an evening workout person, try moving your run or gym visit to the mornings. You'll have to get up earlier, of course, but then you'll have a couple of extra hours free in the evening. And most morning exercisers report that they have a higher overall energy level through the day than evening exercisers. Bonus: Gyms are usually much less crowded during the early morning than right after work; ditto for popular exercise classes.
Day 8: Rock out
Have your favorite music handy in the car, during workouts and even at the office (on headphones) if you have a job where you mostly work solo. Music is a big energy booster (as long as it doesn't distract you from detailed tasks). Or break out the music just when you feel your spirits and energy are starting to flag; it will help turn things around in a hurry and soon you will have a smile on your face as you press through the rest of your workday. Just be careful not to start singing out loud in the office to "Don't Stop Believin'."
Day 9: Take 5
Even a short power nap of five minutes can be very restorative. If you are truly spent, see if your workplace has a private place where you can lie down briefly. More workplaces are creating such spaces -- some call them "nap cubes" or "nap rooms." But make sure this doesn't become a regular thing; if it does, you'll need to revisit your bedtime and wake-up time again to establish consistency. Also, if you do nap, keep it short -- or people will talk.