By Natasha Truelove
If you're feeling a little out-of-sorts, why not try these twelve simple changes you can make across two twelve hour days to boost energy, reduce stress and lead a healthier, happier and more aware daily routine.
Start your day with a simple but fulfilling breakfast.
A poached egg and avocado on toast is a great balance of healthy fat, protein and carbohydrates needed to start the day right, and to top it all off, it only takes 15 minutes to whip up.
1 slice of rye wholegrain bread
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Black pepper to taste
1. Toast the bread.
2. Cut the avocado in half and then cut into slices.
3. Bring a pot of water to boil and add the sea salt and vinegar. Stir the water with a spoon to create a whirlpool and carefully crack your egg into the whirlpool.
4. Cook for 3 minutes.
5. While the egg is cooking, smash the avocado onto the toast and then carefully place the egg on top.
6. Season with pepper.
After all, breakfast is widely believed to be the most important meal of the day.
“The body uses a lot of energy stores for growth and repair through the night,” says dietician Sarah Elder. “Eating a balanced breakfast helps to up our energy, as well as protein and calcium used throughout the night.”
Sip on a quality cup of coffee.
80% of the world’s population consume a caffeinated product each day. Caffeine can increase alertness when consumed in moderate doses. When caffeine enters the body, it is absorbed into the bloodstream and travels to the brain when it engages certain neurones that can contribute towards improved memory, mood, energy and cognitive function.
There is some evidence to suggest that coffee may help to boost your metabolism, lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and help to guard against neurogenerative disease, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. However, a cup of coffee early in the morning may provide a necessary energy boost and isn’t bad for your health when consumed sensibly.
A few things to keep in mind when it comes to coffee and caffeinated beverages:
- Choose quality over quantity: caffeine can increase your heart rate, so too much of it can lead to palpitations and a feeling of anxiety. Coffee can also inhibit iron absorption due to its polyphenol contents. So, one quality cup of coffee each morning, enjoyed mindfully, can be a better choice than multiple throughout the day.
- How do you like yours? Depending on your views on dairy farming and its impact on the environment, you might like to opt for a dairy-free alternative to milk in your latte. But do your research to feel good about your choice – where was your almond or soy milk made? Is it a fair trade and sustainable option (the same goes for your coffee beans)? Would you feel more comfortable with a long black?
- Don’t forget your reusable coffee cup at the café! It is estimated Australians use 1 billion disposable coffee cups each year. That's approximately 2,700,000 paper coffee cups thrown out every day! (Source: Melbourne University). You can make your own reusable coffee cup with old jars, treat yourself to a stylish version from The Clean Collective, or simply slow down, sit down and enjoy your beverage ‘to have here’ instead of ‘to go’. Or even just have it in a mug at home!
Check in with your family
Staying in touch with your family can be a simple and easy way to keep calm and stay cheerful. Your loved ones are there for you and will understand and want to help if you feel under a lot of stress. Discussing causes of stress with them, whether it be the mortgage, job worries or relationship problems, can help to make you feel more at ease and supported. As the old adage goes “a problem shared, is a problem halved”.
A study from Canada recently discovered that ‘emotional load sharing’ with loved ones can help ease situational stress. “Our results suggest that we are better equipped to overcome challenging situations when we are closer — either physically or in terms of how we feel in our relationships — to people we trust,” said Ph.D candidate Jessica Lougheed, who participated in the study.
Take some mid-afternoon exercise
Many of us suffer from a mid-afternoon slump in energy, but research shows that moderate exercise in the afternoon can actually help to reduce fatigue. This doesn’t have to be complicated or last very long at all. A brisk ten minute walk after lunch, or a few stretches at your desk can help your body to wake up and help your mind to refocus. Yoga-style back bends like the cobra pose can be particularly energising. Find yourself an afternoon exercise buddy at work to keep up motivation and even turn your mini workout into a social.
Technology, although created to help us connect and bring us closer together, can frequently do the opposite. Often, it decreases our social interaction and can have an impact on our concentration, productivity, creativity and sleep. Every day can be full of magic, but sometimes we’re too distracted to see it.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 95% of adults in a study in the US admitted that they use some type of screen in the hour leading up to bed. This has a hugely negative impact on sleep as screens emit an artificial blue light, which increases alertness and suppresses the hormone melatonin by up to 22%.
Everyone needs their beauty sleep, and this doesn’t mean going cold-turkey on your tech, but having a regular cut off time for technology can really help you to establish a healthy sleep pattern and ensure you’re getting enough shut-eye. Research shows that digital detoxes before bed help you to fall asleep more easily and allow your brain to fully switch off. Above all, you’ll reap the rewards the next day when you have heaps of energy to be productive, creative and focused.
Try switching out for 30-minute scroll through Instagram before bed with a relaxing bath, a meditation session, some bedtime yoga or by reading a chapter of your favourite book. You’ll be out for the count in no time!
What are you thankful for?
Gratitude journaling (the quality of being thankful and readiness to show appreciation) has become an extremely popular practice in the past century. The simple act of logging what we’re grateful for at the end of every day, or every other day, has proven to carry a wide range of striking benefits, such as better sleep and emotional wellbeing.
According to UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Centre, regularly expressing gratitude literally changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps the grey matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier.
The practice is straightforward- grab a small notebook or diary and simply record three things you are grateful for at the end of each day. The entries are meant to be short and sweet, it only takes a few sentences. They don’t have to be awe-inspiring; they could be as mundane as “hearing the birds chirping in the morning” or as concise as the name of a friend you really appreciate.
Then, at the end of the week, you can curl up with a cup of tea and flick back through the journal, remembering everything you have to be grateful for in your life. Often, there is a lot more than you expect.
Note: this can be a beneficial practise at the beginning of the day also. Starting your day with gratitude sets you up with a positive mindset that will attract positivity all day!
How we start the morning sets the stage for how the rest of the day unfolds, so starting your day with a morning meditation can help to prepare you for a positive and productive day. It provides you with an opportunity to be fully awake, aware and alive before kickstarting your daily routine, reminding you that to approach situations and your thoughts calmly and compassionately.
Research has shown that regular meditation can help to reduce stress, control anxiety and even heighten pain tolerance. It is also widely used to improve sleep and as a way to combat depression and develop a more positive outlook on life.
Below is a short 3 minute body scan* which can be performed while lying or sitting down. Incorporating this into your daily routine, or practicing it every other day, will help you to cultivate more awareness and keep calm in stressful situations, using your breath as an anchor.
- Begin by bringing your attention into your body, closing your eyes if that’s comfortable for you.
- You can notice your body seated wherever you’re lying down or seated, feeling the weight of your body on the chair, on the floor.
- Take a few deep breaths.
- As you take a deep breath, bring in more oxygen enlivening the body. And as you exhale, have a sense of relaxing more deeply.
- You can notice your feet on the floor, notice the sensations of your feet touching the floor. The weight and pressure, vibration, heat.
- Notice your legs against the floor or the chair, pressure, pulsing, heaviness, lightness. Do the same with your back.
- Bring your attention into your stomach area. If your stomach is tense or tight, let it soften. Take a breath.
- Notice your hands. Are your hands tense or tight? See if you can allow them to soften.
- Notice your arms. Do you feel any sensation in your arms? Let your shoulders be soft.
- Notice your neck and throat and allow them to relax.
- Soften your jaw and let your face and facial muscles be soft.
- Then notice your whole body at this present moment in time.
- Take one more deep breath and be aware of your whole body as best you can. When you’re ready, you can open your eyes.
(*If you need a little extra guidance, try the Calm app for meditation and sleep)
It’s easy to reach for the sugar and caffeine when we’re feeling a bit sluggish mid-morning, but too much of these can increase your blood cholesterol and raise the likelihood of heart disease. Simple and sensible snack swaps can leave you feeling satisfied without damaging your health, keeping those cravings at bay between meals.
For example, slices of apple dipped in some almond or peanut butter can combat that sweet tooth and is also a good cravings fix if you’re avoiding dairy for health reasons. A handful of nuts is a great protein-based snack – to keep you feeling fuller for longer - as are hard boiled eggs and roasted chickpeas. None of these take long to prepare either, so no excuses!
Switch to decaf
Caffeine – including that in tea - takes several hours to leave your system, so a caffeine curfew can improve your sleep later on and help you become less dependent on it. Switching to decaf in the afternoon prepares your body to relax, helping you to properly recharge, but better sleep isn’t the only merit of this change.
Too much caffeine is also often linked to anxiety as it forces your body to produce adrenaline, triggering your ‘fight or flight’ response. But when you’re in this adrenaline-fuelled state, you feel more intensely about things and can easily become overwhelmed. This can increase anxiety and create a vicious circle, as you then resort to caffeine to ensure you’re alert and can get all your tasks done for the day. Although coffee does have some health benefits, as mentioned earlier in this article, drinking a lot of coffee in the late afternoon and evening can be detrimental to your health. Even if you don’t believe caffeine affects you, switch to decaf at about 3pm or even take a few days off completely and see if you notice any changes in your mind and body.
Decaf coffee and all sorts of decaffeinated or caffeine-free teas are widely availavle and they taste basically the same – and you might even experience a placebo effect anyway!
Nowadays, striking a healthy work-life balance is increasingly difficult, and it seems almost impossible to make time for things you enjoy doing outside of work. It can be tough to muster the energy to indulge in your hobbies after a long day at work, but perhaps something creative is just what you need to help you unwind.
Some ideas include writing -in a journal or perhaps even a short story or a song, scribbling a quick sketch, playing a board game or assembling a puzzle, playing an instrument or, if you’re feeling exotic, learning a new language. This will give leave you with a sense of achievement and provide you with something to look forward to after work.
Slow down with some yoga
Apart from the obvious advantages, such as increasing flexibility and fitness, studies suggest that yoga helps to reduce blood pressure and stress levels. Just a few minutes each evening can provide you with benefits, such as a sun salutation of ‘downward dog’. This particular pose is said to relax the brain, energise the body, improve digestion and strengthen and tone the arms and legs. Clearly, you don’t have to sweat buckets to improve your strength, flexibility and balance.
Read to relax
Reading before bed is scientifically proven to help you relax. A study by the University of Sussex has shown that reading reduces stress levels by 68 per cent. It highlighted the act of reading as more relaxing than listening to music (61 per cent), drinking tea or coffee (54 per cent) and taking a walk (42 per cent). It took only six minutes for participants’ stress levels to be reduced.
Immersing yourself in a good book distracts your mind from daily worries that cause tension and enables you to leave your own troubles behind. Reading can also allow your muscles to relax, slow down your breathing, and make you feel calmer, slowly preparing your mind and body for a restful nights’ sleep. Other benefits of curling up with a good book before bed is the boost it can give to your brain power and improving creativity.