Have you ever noticed that there seems to be more time in the summer? The extra hours of daylight make it easier to fit in more fun activities than during the school year. But sometimes the long, sizzling days of summer end up sapping your energy, despite the best of plans. After a day out in the sun or an hour of sweating in the subway, you may feel like doing nothing but vegging out.
To keep your energy level up, here are seven simple tips. They'll help keep you in high gear when you start to feel that midsummer slump. back to top
Fill 'er up
Feeling tired again? Maybe your tank is running dry. One of the most common causes of fatigue is dehydration
, a special risk in the summer heat (which makes you lose fluids in sweat) and humidity (which makes it harder for your sweat to evaporate and cool you down). But dehydration is a real possibility any time of year, especially when you're exercising a lot.
Chances are, you know enough to drink when you're thirsty. But the fact is that by the time you feel thirsty, your body is already starting to get dehydrated. Don't wait for that to happen—make it a habit to sip fluids throughout the day whether or not you feel thirsty.
And don't drink just any fluids: coffee and caffeinated soft drinks are out because they'll only make dehydration worse. Opt for plain or sparkling water, or water-based drinks such as iced herbal tea or very diluted fruit juice. Drink six to eight glasses a day—and make them tall ones, at least eight ounces apiece. back to top
To function at full speed, your brain needs a steady supply of glucose, or blood sugar. The best way to keep your system purring along is to feed it small, frequent meals or healthy snacks. Start with a good breakfast (that's good, not big)—good choices are yogurt and fruit, cereal with skim milk, or a bagel with fruit preserves or "light" cream cheese. Keep the energy flowing by munching on yogurt, dried fruit, a handful of nuts, whole-wheat crackers or bread, or vegetable sticks throughout the day.
Avoid the energy dip that comes from loading up on candy bars or other sugary foods, which may give you a temporary sugar high, but then send you crashing when your blood sugar level drops. It's also wise to avoid eating too much of anything at a meal—gobbling a huge lunch, for example, can make you want to sleep for the rest of the afternoon. back to top
Take a hike
No energy to exercise? Well, here's a secret: the more you move, the more energy you can create. Physical activity stimulates your brain to produce endorphins—chemicals that can make you feel high, happy, and energetic. So get off your behind and take a brisk walk, go for a swim, play some tennis, jump on a trampoline, or do anything that increases your breathing rate and gets your heart beating. You'll be glad you did when you feel that second wind. back to top
Go for the green
For many people, instant energy means gulping coffee—and then more coffee. But coffee is addictive and has its drawbacks, not the least of which is a tendency to cause dehydration
by speeding the loss of fluids from your body. What's a cool alternative? Green tea
. A favorite drink in Asia for thousands of years, green tea is brimming with antioxidants
, substances that protect your cells from damage and help your body fight off illness. It also contains fluoride, which may be a boon to your teeth. One small study even showed that people who drink green tea burn fat faster than people who don't, although the benefit was fairly small.
As for boosting energy, green tea contains about half as much caffeine as coffee, so it can give you a gentle lift without causing the jitters. And even if you don't like caffeine, green tea comes in decaffeinated forms that retain the herb's healthy ingredients.
To find a good-quality green tea, you may need to shop around at an Asian market or specialty tea store, since the green tea sold in supermarkets is often not the best-tasting. When making green tea, heat water just to boiling and let it cool a bit before pouring it over the tea. Then keep a pitcher in the fridge if you like your tea refreshingly chilled. back to top
Take a breath
Most people associate breathing exercises with stress reduction, but some breathing exercises are designed specifically to perk you up. One that has long been practiced in yoga is called the Stimulating Breath, or the Bellows Breath. When you're feeling listless, this exercise can wake you up faster than a cup of coffee. Check out Try These Ancient Breath Exercises
for steps on using this natural energy booster—which gets more powerful the more often you practice it. back to top
Make some scents
The same world of aromatherapy
that brings you end-of-the-day relaxation has also a supply of stimulating senses to help keep you alert. Here are three:
Get some z's
- Bergamot: The fruits of this evergreen tree produce a citrusy smelling oil that can be stimulating and refreshing after a stressful day. To liven up your mood, drop a couple of drops of bergamot essential oil onto the light bulb in a lamp. (Be careful not to touch the bulb.) You can also add a few drops of bergamot oil to a couple of teaspoons of a base oil, such as apricot kernel oil, to make a refreshing foot massage oil.
- Geranium: Geranium oil has a flowery, minty, uplifting scent. One way to use it is to mix 7 to 10 drops of essential geranium oil in a small bottle with five teaspoons of a base oil such as jojoba. You can rub this oil combination on your temples and hairline as a gentle facial massage to lift your spirits.
- Tea tree: When used in aromatherapy, tea tree oil can have a strong cooling and head-clearing effect on your body. After a sports event or a long, hot day at the beach, rub a tea tree cream (found in many health-food stores) on tired arms and legs for instant soothing and relief. For this purpose, the cream and gel formulas work better than the oil itself. back to top
OK, it's not what you want to hear. But getting enough sleep really is the most important thing you can do fight off fatigue and stay in top form. If your energy level is low, take a good look at the number of hours your head is on the pillow. If you drag out of bed every morning or feel the urge to nap every afternoon, it's time to face facts: you probably need more sleep. For hints on how to nod off like a charm, see Natural Tips for Getting a Good Night's Sleep
. back to top