Tactics to Boost and Sustain Energy.
I was inundated with questions and requests for tips on how to sustain energy throughout an ever-increasing work schedule. The result? This post; where I will provide some strategies you can leverage to help you sleep better, start the day more productive, and ultimately finish the day with purpose.
These strategies can benefit anyone, regardless if you lead a hectic life or not. In fact, it is a popular topic I often speak about to executives, entrepreneurs, and to the companies they run – specifically delivering actionable strategies to enhance physical and mental stamina.
The strategies discussed below, are tactics I employ daily. This does not mean they are the only options for you, however, if you’re struggling to stay focused throughout the day, what do you have to lose?
Perhaps predictably, the most important strategies start with the night before. Sleep is the most underrated health influencer there is, and although everyone immediately thinks of nutrition and exercise, the very physiologic mechanisms that facilitate your body’s positive response to both those stimuli, are the regulations imposed by the quality of your sleep. When your body is not rested, everything inside of it is affected.
This reality is quite clear if you simply compare your cognitive state the morning after a restless night verses a full night of peaceful sleep.
Early to Bed, Early to Rise. Strategies to Ensure You’re Out of the Blocks Before the Competition:
1. Start by shutting down early. Of course, this is relative to what you desire your daily schedule to be. For specificity, if you want to focus on getting up at 6 am during the week, start shutting down at 8 pm the night before. Regardless of what time you choose to get started in the morning, start implementing the following techniques approximately 9-10 hours prior, this includes the ‘shutting down process’.
When you are juggling so many things in your life it’s hard to get your mind to shut down. As I have experienced at one point or another, once the relentless brain chatter starts, it’s going to be a long night. Think about sleep as a workout, you wouldn’t jump into an intense squat session without the slightest bit of warm nor would you attempt to go to sleep as your finishing your last set. Well, preparing for sleep is just as important, your mind needs time to adequately ‘cool down’.
Since there is no “off button” to deactivate our late night thoughts, we can train ourselves to create and leverage certain habitual “associations”. Things we do each night that signal to our body, “Well done, you’ve earned some rest.” We’ll dive into these tactics or associations in the second point.
2. Reduce Light & Electronic Exposure. YES, CELL PHONES too! The artificial light beaming out of our electronic devices activate neural pathways that trigger the second you look at your email – this is automatic; you can’t close one eye to avoid this one!
I use this in my favor in the morning – below.
Note: If you’re thinking you still have work to do at 8 pm and it sounds WAY too early to shut off, remember that the intention for sleeping early is to wake up earlier than you otherwise would and attack your work with a fresh mind, absent of life’s distractions. You will see first-hand the crisp clarity that exist while everyone else is sleeping – no calls, emails or Donald Trump scandals on your feed – just you and the task at hand.
Goodnight, Sleep Tight! How to Ensure Optimal Sleep Quality:
1. Magnesium. This mineral supplement decreases ‘stress’ hormones like cortisol as well as relaxes muscles.
2. Melatonin. This natural hormone is reduced with age and may be supplemented to enhance sleep quality.
3. Save your carbohydrates for the evening. Carbs make tryptophan (a neurotransmitter) more available to the brain, helping reduce alertness. Carbohydrate intake will also allow you to leverage a decline in blood sugar (post consumption) that may help in falling asleep. Think about how you feel after a big Thanksgiving Dinner (stuffing and sweet potatoes, galore!).
4. Elevate your feet. This little trick enhances blood flow to the heart, activating the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), allowing you to prepare the autonomic nervous system for sleep.
Rise and Shine! Strategies for the Morning of:
1. Use light exposure to awaken:
If you keep your phone close enough to your bed where you can reach with an extended arm – we can flip this technology on its head and leverage its bright light in your favor. You don’t even have to get up, but when your alarm goes off simply grab your phone and stare into the light for a few minutes. Ideally you would pick some neutral information or app that allows you to start triggering those neural pathways we tried to avoid the night before. Just casually digest some of the light from your screen – personally, I’ll check my News app, Client messaging platforms, emails, etc. The trick is: do NOT allow what you read to set the tone for your day, this is often easier said than done.
a) Two important ways to make sure this technique works FOR YOU:
Simply establishing a To-Do list (my favorite and most effective tool for augmenting a productive life) can keep you on the right track from the start, setting a purposeful intent for the day, and outlining the path to accomplish it.
For your morning light exposure, select an app or podcast that provides some peaceful meditative content – you’ll want something non-confrontational. For most, EMAIL is not a good option. I’ve been doing these strategies so long that at this point it doesn’t matter what I look at, my “To-Do” list calms my mind and concentrates my action.
2. Liter of Water with Lemon:
Quite simply to help hydrate, you’ve just interrupted an overnight fast from water and food. if you’re not going to eat, (which is fine) at least replenish your body with the critical liquid that makes up ~ 65% of what we are.
3. Cup of black coffee or tea:
Caffeine will help increase stimulatory hormone release, helping you feel alert in body and mind. Plus, the metabolic benefits of caffeine are quite strong, utilize this beverage to initiate fat burning (among others).
Commit to 15 – 25 minutes’ minimum. Wake up 30 minutes earlier if needed, that extra 30 minutes of sleep pales in comparison to the health benefits form consistently warming up.
5. Do NOT eat that bowl of cereal and fruit juice concoction:
In my opinion, eliciting a big spike in blood glucose in the morning, as what would happen from high carbohydrate or sugar options, is a sure fire way to experience a late morning crash! As your blood sugar levels begin to plummet in response to insulin secretion, so does your energy. NOTE: The purpose of this article is not how to give you a quick or transient bump in energy, but how to sustain that energy throughout the day. Focus on high protein and moderate fat meal. Here’s an example:
ShyTown Staple Breakfast:
2 Whole Eggs + 4 Egg Whites
½ Avocado + Mushrooms + Spinach
Natural Organic Salsa or Hot Sauce
Bringing it all together, we’ve identified a battery of strategies you can employ every day to immediately improve your quality of sleep with habitual associations, wake up with crisp clarity and focus, and leverage nutrition to energize productivity throughout the day. My suggestion – bookmark this article and share it on social media, you want it somewhere easily accessible, so you don’t have to remember everything we covered.
Choose to be better. Today is a new opportunity to make the rest of your life, the best of your life. Act accordingly.