10 quick pick-me-ups for when you’re exhausted
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I love Christmas. The decorations that transform a cold, dark, gloomy winters day into a magical frosty fairyland. The mulled wine, mince pies and hot chocolate. And the carol singers, that bring musical cheer to train stations and public squares.
However, it’s also a fact that December can be an exhausting time of year. There are multiple social events to navigate, including the work Christmas do, trying to catch up with friends we haven’t seen for a while, and visiting in-laws.
On top of that, we have to tackle buying gifts for multiple people at a time when shopping centres are often heaving.
For many of us, December is a financially stressful month, even if we agree to buy gifts on a budget. We feel obliged to spend money on going out, on expensive food, or on presents. Our heating bills go up. We need de-icer, warm coats and decent shoes.
Finally, of course, the stress of trying to live up to picture-perfect happy-family only highlights cracks, discord and the people that are missing. Christmas becomes a time when we acutely miss those loved ones that we have lost.
It’s no wonder that many of us end up feeling exhausted at this time of year.
With that in mind, here are some quick pick-me-ups that will help boost your energy, your mood and help get you through to Christmas day.
10 quick pick-me-ups for when you’re exhausted
1. Drink a glass of water
And it’s easy, when we’re busy and rushing about from one place to another, to forget to drink our recommended 2-3 litres of water a day.
So, pick up a cute water bottle (this water bottle lets you infuse fruit into your water* for extra taste), put a jug of water in your fridge, and make sure you chug a glass of water before reaching for the coffee.
2. Go for a ten-minute walk
A study in May demonstrated that 10 minutes of low intensity stair-walking was more effective than 50mg of caffeine for boosting energy and motivation in sleep deprived adults.
In fact, pretty much all exercise will make you feel more energetic and alert. However, walking doesn’t require special equipment, a trip to the gym, or a change of clothes… so you can squeeze it in whenever you feel your energy levels dropping.
3. Pause. Stretch. Breathe.
I’m always recommending this, and for good reason. Stretching can boost energy by improving blood flow. It also forces us to check in with our body and notice if we’re in pain or tensed up.
Any stretching works, but if you like to follow a routine here are five stretches you can do at a desk.
And then there’s breathing. Breathing exercises have been used in yoga for centuries to improve mood, energy and focus and battle symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Meanwhile, Harvard Health says that:
Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, this type of breathing slows the heartbeat and can lower or stabilize blood pressure.
And it only takes a minute for you to practice deep breathing and start to feel those benefits. Here’s a quick introduction to a yoga breathing practice (Breath of Fire, or Kapalabhati).
But don’t feel like you need to follow a set stretching routine or a special breathing technique. Your body knows how to untense itself, and you know how to take a deep breath. You just need to remember to do it regularly 🙂
4. Lie on the floor in Savasana
A lot of people love yoga, and one of the rituals a lot of yoga classes adopt is that of finishing a class with Savasana. It’s a way of winding down from the practice, focusing on the breath and relaxing right?
But Savasana is also an important pose in its own right. Steven Weiss calls Savasana ‘energy interval training’. From his article:
Some traditions such as Sivananda yoga intersperse Savasana between their sequences of high intensity postures. Used in this way, this innocuous pose provides a physiological, yet powerfully understated value—that of developing energy vigor and rebound.
The ability to move from intense activity to a state of complete inaction becomes interval training for our body’s energy. It helps our breath improve, stress hormones regulate, and brain activity restore to balanced states.
Our energy is designed to ebb-and-flow. Trying to maintain a constant ‘high’ of energy is impossible, and will just lead to burn-out. Instead, we need to build intentional downtime into our life. And the more intense our energy expenditure is, the more chilled our relaxation needs to be.
If you’re exhausted, it means you need to give yourself a chance to rest and recover. Savasana is about practicing relaxation. In Savasana you relax every muscle, you relax your breath and you relax your mind.
Savasana also reduces stimulus. December can be an overwhelming month, with music, lights, and people everywhere. Savasana allows a moment or two of quietness, which can help balance out that overstimulating environment.
5. Assume a ‘Power Pose’ or start skipping
Our minds and bodies are not separate things. Rather, they are a complex interconnected system built on feedback loops. The science behind this is both fascinating and complicated, but on a practical level it means we can impact our energy and mood by manipulating our posture.
When we are tired we tend to slump and move slowly. Conversely, moving slowly and slumping tends to make us feel more tired.
A study by Dr Erik Peper demonstrated that body posture affected energy levels (PDF). He asked people to either walk down a hallway with a slumped posture, or to skip down the hallway. Skipping significantly increased energy and alertness.
So if you want a quick energy booster, start skipping around – or at least assume a more expansive and less slouched position.
6. Listen to an upbeat song
Music has long been used to accompany exercise. In fact, music can increase endurance, improve performance and “may even promote metabolic efficiency.”
A song with a tempo of 120-150 bpm is ideal for boosting energy and decreasing fatigue. In addition, if you choose one of your favourite songs, the positive associations you have with it will instantly improve your mood.
So put on ELO, Queen, Abba or yeah, even your favourite (cheerful) Christmas song. And let the happy feelings flow.
7. Eat some dark chocolate
A study by Rishikesh Kankesh Patel demonstrated that eating dark chocolate can improve endurance in a similar way to beetroot juice. This is due to a specific kind of flavonol found in cocoa (and beetroot) called epicatechin.
People who ate dark chocolate were able to cycle further than people who ate white chocolate, and used less oxygen in the process.
In addition, dark chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine. Consuming these, along with some fat to slow absorption, can boost energy and cognitive function.
Happily, dark chocolate also tastes great and the darker it is, the less sugar you’ll consume.
8. Get some sunlight (or take a vitamin D supplement)
During the winter we tend to get less sunlight. In fact, the NHS says that “during autumn and winter (from October until the end of March) the sun isn’t strong enough in the UK to produce vitamin D”.
Vitamin D is linked to bone health, but new evidence has shown there may also be a link between low levels of Vitamin D and energy and mood disorders.
And even if you’re not prone to SAD, making sure you get some natural sunlight every day will help your circadian rhythms and ensure you feel more energised during the day, and sleep better at night.
9. Burn some lemon essential oil
I don’t have much science for this one, just my own experience.
When I was at University I got myself a lemon scented balm (similar to this one*) that you could massage on your pressure points. It gave me a little boost of energy every time I used it.
It may have been a placebo effect, but the impact was the same.
There is some research that shows citrus essential oils might boost energy… but the study was done on mice, so take it with a pinch of salt.
But regardless, essential oils make your house smell lovely. Try burning some lemon essential oil* in an oil burner, especially if your house is currently chaotic and making you feel overwhelmed.
10. Drink a cup of tea
Look, I’m British, so drinking a cup of tea is my solution to literally everything.
Green tea pops up a lot when discussing energy boosting drinks, and that is because it contains both caffeine and an amino acid called L-theanine. L-theanine in combination with caffeine helps mitigate some negative aspects of caffeine consumption such as jitters, as well as enhance attention and memory.
Matcha contains even more L-theanine, and thus has become popular in nootropic circles. It’s also a beautiful shade of green. The combination of these things explains why you see so many pictures of matcha lattes on instagram!
However, black tea also contains a range of antioxidants as well as caffeine and tannins.
So I wouldn’t worry too much about picking the ‘perfect’ cup of tea, just pour yourself a nice hot cup and take a moment to sit down and appreciate.
Because I can tell you that the energy boosting effects of a half-drunk, forgotten and cold cup of tea is vastly outweighed by the energy boosting effects of a cup of tea that you pay attention to, and enjoy drinking… regardless of what colour the tea is, and how many amino acids it has in it.
So put the kettle on and take a minute to sit down.
You can wrap presents when you are done 🙂
10 quick pick-me-ups for when you’re exhausted: free printable list
Looking for a printable version of this list to remind you to take care of yourself this December? Have no fear, I’ve got you covered.
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