November 6, 2014 9:40 AM   Subscribe

How can I make myself more energetic on any given day, without making myself more agitated or anxious in the process?

I'm having a great day today! I'm feeling very focused, active but attentive, and generally in a very good mood besides. It's a great enough feeling that I'm realizing how comparatively sluggish I usually feel, except for when I drink caffeine, and that energy is often difficult to control: I get too worked up over things, or I find myself getting agitated or anxious about things which I really oughtn't.

How can I make myself more energetic, more aware of my surroundings, and more pleased by things going on around me, without letting my energy get the better of myself? I'll readily admit that my diet is erratic, that I don't always get a full 8 hours of sleep, and that I am terrible at exercising (but great at coming up with excuses not to exercise). Beyond the Big Three, though, are there any other things I should be paying attention to, or more aware of?
posted by rorgy to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Talk to your doctor. You might be depressed.
posted by nogero at 9:47 AM on November 6, 2014

Eat more protein. Protein is a mood elevator, too.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:03 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

You may not have to look any further than the Big Three. But if you do start sleeping and exercising more and eat better, and you still feel down and out, definitely chat with your doctor about depression. Is this seasonal? You could do well by a light box at work or at home. Do you drink a lot of caffeine? Personally, I've found that if I drink a ton of caffeinated beverages or diet drinks, I feel really gross in the aftermath.

Making whatever space you occupy more pleasing can also do wonders for your energy as well. It's hard to be motivated when you're looking at grey cube walls, but a little easier when you've got some plants or art surrounding you (I would dissuade you from motivational posters, unless those really are your thing). Sometimes, you may just need to get up and work or simply be in a different space for some time. If you're a student, do some work in a new cafe or bookstore. If you're a worker bee, head to a sunny conference room or cafeteria to do some emailing for awhile. Stop and brainstorm with a coworker about an issue or project.
posted by thefang at 10:05 AM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Getting enough sleep cannot be emphasized enough. I also need to make sure not to skip meals and stay hydrated. I have some outside time every day.

Psychologically, a dose of anticipation and optimism makes a huge difference for me. Some special occasion things make it easy for me to get up and go straight into full energy mode -- scuba diving or seeing my tiny niece and nephew. (Nothing else gets me cheerfully out of bed at 6am.) For regular life, it's stuff like, "Hooray, I'm going to see Awesome Client today!" or "Yes, lunch at Delicious Spot!" or "I think my new Whatever is coming in the mail today." I've managed to set up my life so I mostly do things I like, so I generally have several things to look forward to, which keeps me in pretty good spirits.
posted by ktkt at 10:10 AM on November 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Supplementing iron is helpful for my energy level sometimes.
posted by adiabatic at 10:10 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here is how I upped my energy level:

- I got treated for my, as it turned out, severe sleep apnea. It was like a light switch had turned on. I had been sleeping badly, but I had no idea just how badly. Try getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, every night for a week, and see how you feel. If you still feel low-energy and/or your sleep is not refreshing, get a sleep test - it can diagnose sleep and energy robbers like apnea or restless leg syndrome that you can have without knowing. Since I got my CPAP machine, I need a lot less sleep at night (from 7.5 to 8 hours, not 9) and I wake up feeling refreshed. And the occasional insomnia night doesn't leave me shattered the way it used to. It's not terrific to get by on 5 or 6 hours of sleep, but one night is do-able.

- I cut way back on the refined carbs and started eating more "primal" - chicken, fish, occasional red meat, fruit, vegetables, and nuts. This got rid of the insulin resistance I had (again, without knowing until I got a blood test), I have more energy, and I have lost 25 lbs. so far and counting.

- Exercise. I got a FitBit and I aim for at least 5,000 steps a day and 30 active minutes. That's not a lot of exercise, but it is do-able in a busy day, and I love seeing the green smiley face on my FitBit dashboard. Getting out in the fresh air early every morning is an energy boost.

Taking these steps has increased my energy by a large amount. I feel so much better and get so much more done!

In addition, I would suggest getting screened for depression and getting a complete blood panel in case you have thyroid, blood sugar, or other issues that rob you of energy, so you can get those fixed.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:12 AM on November 6, 2014 [9 favorites]

Adding to some of the excellent advice above, if you're in a position to do so, try bracketing a 15- to 30-minute break around lunchtime to sit quietly and listen to music (or just sit quietly and do nothing at all). I'm lucky enough to have an office with a door, so I can shut the door, put headphones on my iPhone, set a 30-minute timer and listen to music with my eyes closed for 30 minutes. Sometimes I snooze a bit, sometimes I just listen. I don't pressure myself to nap; I try to focus on the music, listening to things for the first time or if I'm already familiar, trying to find new nuances and details.

I always feel dopey for five minutes or so after the timer goes off as I gear up, but I've been much more energetic and attentive in my afternoons and evenings since I've started doing this. I don't even think the closed-door thing is required, but it helps.
posted by Shepherd at 10:18 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Drink more water. Being truly hydrated allows me to conquer the world.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:19 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Drink water throughout the day!
Especially when you wake up -- have at least a cup or two of water within an hour of waking up. It makes such a difference in how you greet the day. Ideally, try to have a glass of water (doesn't have to be a full cup....just whatever gets you drinking) by the end of every hour. It reaaaaally helps too once you get around the 1 PM crash time. I feel a lot more energized when I'm well-hydrated.

- You start to pee clear. It's pretty cool.
- Your skin becomes clearer.
- You start evangelizing about drinking water.
posted by krakus at 10:21 AM on November 6, 2014 [7 favorites]

Get outside! Winters are long, dark, and depressing where I live, so I try to get outdoors whenever I can. Walking, hiking, and snowshoeing are great choices for me. I need all the vitamin D I can get during the winter and supplements don't cut it.

Also, bloodwork is a good suggestion. I used to think I was lazy and incapable of being active or exercising and it turned out I had hypothyroidism. The difference Synthroid has made is tremendous. For another friend, it was her B12, for another, iron. Get bloodwork done if you haven't in a while.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:29 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

2nding fitbit - just got one, and perhaps it's just been a committment device/ soupstone kind of mind game in helping me (again) to track nutrition, exercise, and sleep, but for a very simple device it's (so far) doing a great job of giving me data about two things that are otherwise hard to quantify -- the incidental activity (non-gym) effort I'm putting out during the day, and the quality of my sleep. ASAIK, it's really just a motion detector with a bluetooth interface, so all it can really show you is how restless you were in bed, not anything extensive about REM quality, but I think the two things correlate pretty well, and short of a full-blown sleep study, can tell you a lot.
posted by randomkeystrike at 10:30 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you are asking ways to be feel better whilst allowing yourself to eat like shit, not get enough sleep and not exercise? If you figure it out, let me know. But I feel like trying to fix even just one of those things would help more than any other little tips and tricks.

I would also add plenty of water intake and eat smaller meals for frequently. Don't just have a giant dinner that accounts for 60% of your day's food intake. If you keep feeding yourself a little bit throughout the day, I find I get less sluggish because I never get too full and also less cranky because I never get hungry.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:42 AM on November 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Don't just have a giant dinner that accounts for 60% of your day's food intake.

Just for the record, eating like this works best for me. Science says I'm an outlier, so try the big three as ordered, first.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:46 AM on November 6, 2014

I would cut caffeine out entirely for many reasons, not the least of which is that I personally feel sluggish during times I am allowing myself caffeine but haven't had any. I wake up SO much faster and happier when there's no caffeine in my diet.
posted by janey47 at 10:51 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

What happened yesterday and today?

(Also - I find music helps get me going.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:35 AM on November 6, 2014

No matter what else you do, you're going to drag ass if you don't have regular and adequate sleep. It's so important.

Once you get your sleep and exercise in order, maybe try vitamin D and B complex supplements.
posted by Willie0248 at 11:44 AM on November 6, 2014

Besides the Big Three you mentioned, I'm seconding blood work as there may be some chemical imbalances in your body that are leading to the lack of energy. Also, see Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
posted by nathanm at 3:17 PM on November 6, 2014

If you often wake up feeling tired or achey, consider doing something about your mattress. That, fewer carbs and more protein (and a regular meal schedule), physical exertion, fat/milk before bed, switching from coffee to tea (and no caffeine after 5pm), light blocking curtains, and doing a way better job keeping a regular sleep schedule (huge for me) have worked best for me.
posted by ifjuly at 7:37 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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