Tired? Relief, for most parents, is not likely on the way. At least not anytime soon. Time constraints, social pressure, a lack of safety nets — parents have their hands full without a pandemic. But add that to the mix and it’s a recipe for getting run ragged. This means whatever little extra energy you can get, you’ll take. The good news is that there are small things anyone can do to get (at least some of) that energy back. So quit the fourth cup of coffee and try these daily energizing hacks instead.
1. Eat Bananas
Bananas are full of electrolytes like potassium that stabilize vital signs like blood pressure, and carbs that provide energy. In a study at the Human Performance Lab at Appalachian State University, researchers found that eating a banana before biking 75km was equivalent to drinking a carbohydrate-loaded sports drink in terms of the energy boost it provided (but minus the added sugar that can make you crash and burn.)
2. Give Electronics a Curfew
Your computer screen, tablet, and smartphone all emit a blue light that makes it easier to read stuff—but wreaks havoc on your sleep cycle. That’s because blue light sends a signal to your brain that it’s daytime, not bedtime, and this causes your body to stop producing melatonin, according to research, a natural chemical that helps put you to sleep at night. Turn off your phone an hour before bed and grab a book instead.
3. Practice the Cobra Pose
Everyone knows yoga calms you down, so it might seem counterintuitive that it also boosts your energy. But many of its moves, like the Cobra Pose, focus on expanding your chest area, allowing air to flow to and from your lungs more freely and carrying oxygen — the stuff that gives your muscles energy — into your bloodstream. To practice the Cobra, start by lying facedown on the floor. Bend elbows, place hands by your shoulders, and push up through your palms, straightening your arms and arching your face toward the ceiling. Breathe in and out five times, then release.
4. Time Yourself
By nature, humans are deadline-driven. Our best and most efficient work tends to be done when the clock is ticking. This relates to your energy level in two ways: First, assigning every task you do a time limit naturally gets your adrenalin going, snapping you out of your sluggish state. Second, forcing yourself to complete your to-do’s in a set number of minutes keeps your day from spilling over into your night, and giving you back some free time to unwind with the family.
5. Drink Water
Sure, you hear it all the time. But do you follow the advice a chug your way through 8-10 glasses of H2O daily? It’s not so much what’s in water that’s good for you (it’s calorie-less), but rather, without it, your body starts to wilt. As little as 2 percent dehydration can lead to decreased endurance, increased fatigue, reduced motivation, and a drop in cognitive functioning (that’s code for “thinking slower”), according to an analysis in the journal Nutrition Reviews.
6. Keep Your Bedroom Cool
The warmer the air, the worse your sleep quality according to scientists at Harvard University. Your circadian rhythm (the body’s sleep/wake cycle) is influenced by your core temperature: Warmer body temps signal time to wake up, while lower body temps indicate it’s time to sleep. The hotter the room, the higher your core temperature, the poorer your sleep quality. For the optimal sleep experience, set your thermostat to around 65 degrees, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
7. Jump Squats
Exercise moves that require explosive power and elevate your heart rate trigger the release of endorphins in your body—feel-good chemicals that naturally raise your energy level. Jump squats (stand, bend knees, jump straight in the air, return to squatting, repeat) are the perfect combo of both cardiovascular exercise and resistance training (feel those quads burn). Do 3 sets of 10 jumps, 3 times a week.
8. Snack on Almonds
Where to begin? M&Ms (or Skittles or whatever candies-by-the-handful you have been wolfing down at your computer) are full of sugar. This provides an instant energy kick—but also guarantees that an hour later, your motivation levels will come crashing down. Almonds, on the other hand, are jammed with magnesium (two ounces of almonds contains about 50 percent of your RDA for the mineral), a nutrient that plays a critical role in stabilizing your body’s blood sugar levels while aiding in energy metabolism. That means you get the needed energy boost without any of the rollercoaster ups and downs from junk food.
9. Work in 90-Minute Cycles
You know you can’t hammer all day and expect to have any energy left by night, but it’s not always clear how best to divide up your time. A classic study, commissioned by the U.S. Army, found that people are most alert and productive in 90-minute cycles. What that means for you: Minimize burnout and maximize brain cells by taking a work break every hour and a half.
10. Use Blackout Shades
Even the slimmest sliver of light at night can mess with your go-to-sleep hormones, suppressing the production of melatonin by 50 percent, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Blackout shades do just what they say: Completely block any light from entering your bedroom, creating optimal sleep conditions.
11. Take a Walk Around the Block
Even 20 minutes a day of low-intensity exercise resulted in a 65 percent decrease in fatigue level among young adults, according to a study in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. Researchers found it to be particularly effective for people already fighting fatigue since low-intensity exercise doesn’t put the body under any additional stress.
12. Swap Coffee for Green Tea
Both beverages contain caffeine (coffee may contain up to twice as much as tea). But the caffeine you get from green tea is likely to be more evenly released in your body, thanks to an amino acid in the beverage known as L-theanine. What this basically means is that instead of an energy jolt followed by an energy crash, you’ll get a smooth and steady buzz for a longer period of time. Drink one cup in the a.m., another with lunch, and a final cup in the afternoon (not too close to bedtime).
13. Go for an After-Dinner Run
Exercise releases endorphins and boosts serotonin production, two hormones that make you feel good and relaxed, making it easier to drift off. Despite traditional thinking, that evening exercise is counterproductive to sleep, the most recent studies say that’s not the case: As long as you give yourself an hour before bed to unwind, going for a 30-minute jog is a great idea.
14. Practice Guided Imagery
If your parents ever told you to count sheep when you had trouble falling asleep, they were onto something. Guided imagery—the act of intentionally imagining bucolic and relaxing scenes—significantly improved sleep quality, while reducing fatigue and feelings of pain in post-op patients, according to researchers at the Institute of Health Sciences in Turkey. To try it, close your eyes in bed and imagine walking through a field of tall grasses, a gentle breeze blowing and the sun setting in the distance. Inhale and exhale deeply, feeling yourself walking deeper and deeper into the field. If your mind wanders, bring it back to this image and refocus.
The fitter you are, the less energy it takes to do everything. And the more energy you save, the less fatigued you feel. You follow? Good. One of the fastest ways you can whip yourself into shape, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, is through high-intensity, cardiovascular-resistance exercises like burpees. Begin this move on the floor in an extended pushups position. Jumpy your feet towards your hands, knees bent. Push through your feet and jump vertically in the air—hands overhead and legs straight. Land in a squat, place hands on the floor in front of you and jump feet back into an extended pushup again. Do a pushup. Repeat sequence 10 times.