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How to Improve Energy & Focus
By Reut Sapir
Lockdown lethargy has been hitting us hard recently, with 60% of people in the UK reporting they’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to stay positive during this time compared to November. More commonly known as “pandemic burnout” or “lockdown fatigue” it’s something that’s been affecting all of us.
Reut Sapir is one of our amazing therapists at Neal's Yard Remedies. She is a Naturopathic Nutritionist and Clinical Herbalist who specializes in a holistic approach to healing the mind and body through the right food choices to aid digestive health, regulating hormone health and improving mental health. Reut also practices yoga and reflexology as an intuitive way to combine the whole process of wellness.
We asked Reut how we can improve our energy and focus throughout the day, whether we’re working from home, or following our new lockdown routines, these tips can be beneficial to everyone.
Tune into your circadian rhythm The circadian rhythm is your biological clock that controls the sleep-wake cycle, release of hormones and digestion. It is central to your immune system strengthening and allowing your body to rest and recharge. We need this internal clock, just like the natural flow of nature, to maintain good mental clarity, heart function, stress levels and immunity. The circadian rhythm is tied to the sun’s natural light that is picked up by your brain. One of the best and simple ways to improve energy levels is light exposure. Upon waking, expose yourself to natural light immediately (versus the light coming from your laptop or phones) and continue to do so throughout the day. Once evening sets in, dim the lights and make sure your bedroom is completely dark.
Eat a protein-rich breakfast Your breakfast can often determine how the rest of your day looks and feels, so make it a good one! When cooking your breakfast of choice, it’s important to think about blood sugar levels, which is determined by the foods we eat alongside various other factors. High and unbalanced blood sugar levels cause dips in energy, foggy brain, mood swings and high cortisol levels; just to name a few. Maintaining balanced sugar levels is key to achieving optimal energy and focus levels. Protein, fibre and healthy fats temper insulin secretion to a more gradual rise in blood sugar after a meal. Examples for breakfast can be eggs and avocado, smoked salmon and leafy greens, smoothie with protein powder or chia pudding.
Omega 3 Foods Omega 3 essential fatty acids are made up of polyunsaturated fats called DHA, EPA and ALA. The body can’t produce them, meaning we have to get it from food. Omega 3 fatty acids have various benefits, including brain health, lowering inflammation and enhancing immune response. A large part of your brain consists of fat and requires a constant supply of Omega 3 fatty acids, which explains why you need them! Omega 3 foods include salmon, sardines, halibut, walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds.
Hydrate Given that your brain is about 80% water, you need to drink adequate water to hydrate your brain while reducing caffeine intake that can cause dehydration. Even slight dehydration can raise stress hormones, which can impact your energy and concentration levels. Aim to drink at least 8 cups of water (cups of tea not included!). Decaffeinated herbal teas such as ginger tea, chamomile tea, turmeric tea, cinnamon tea all have health benefits of improving circulation, calming the nervous system and maintaining stable sugar levels.
Manage stress and prioritise sleep Both sleep deprivation and stress can cause elevated levels of stress hormones, which can leave us feeling fatigued, overwhelmed and unable to concentrate. Seven hours is the recommended minimum an adult needs for optimal cognitive, motional and physical health. Manage stress throughout the day with meditation, breathing exercises, yoga and eating a well balanced diet.
The bottom line is that we need to take a whole body approach to maintain a healthy body and mind. The way I work with my naturopathy clients is to look at the body as a whole as well as your way of life. No single food, supplement, or workout session is going to be the answer to feeling more energised. It is about how you manage stress levels, staying hydrated and well rested, get regular exercise and eating a well balanced diet that contains protein, healthy fats, fibre and complex carbohydrates. There is no one size fits all, I work with an individualised approach that is bespoke to you according to your needs and lifestyle so that you can maintain it and achieve your health goals.
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