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Learning to Optimize Energy Levels

Updated: Dec 22, 2022

By Brenda Riojas, I Start Wondering Columnist

We take so much for granted when we are young. Among the long list stands our energy levels. Where once upon a time I could function on four to five hours of sleep, my body in this season of my life requires more.

I relish how autumn bristles with energy, one tied to new beginnings and possibilities, but for several months my energy levels felt depleted. Exhaustion and fatigue prevented me from carrying out even the simplest tasks. Finding the energy to do the creative work I like after a full day at the office was challenging. As is my tendency—and one I’m sure many of us are guilty of at times--I tried to self-diagnose. I ran through a checklist. I thought maybe it was leftover side effects after battling Covid-19 twice. I also blamed age and my post-menopause reality.

Know Thy Self

Photo by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash
Photo by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash

I finally opted to talk to my doctor and get some blood work done. As you can imagine, my hormone levels have taken a hit. I also found I was low in Vitamins D and B12. As some return to school this fall, I find I need to return to the proverbial classroom where the subject of my health requires closer attention.

If I want to enjoy the energy autumn usually signals for me, I need to make sure I am doing my part. This includes the familiar checklist (you have heard them all before): healthier foods, vitamins, regular exercise, and adequate sleep. It also includes paying attention to my physiological clock so that I can take advantage of the times when my energy levels are higher.

Each one of us is unique. Just as we have different life circumstances, we each have our own peak performance times--times when we are more alert, and more disposed to carry out our projects.

I have been monitoring my energy levels, keeping a mental inventory of how the levels peak and plunge at different hours in the day. In addition to paying closer attention to my eating, exercise, and sleep habits, I am taking stock of how much I schedule. What is realistic? What is my bandwidth for the day? It is worth considering too, what activities or people may deplete my energy?

Make a list of what gives you energy and what depletes your energy. When are you most energetic? When are you most tired? Consider what changes you can make. It might be tempting to seek the comfort our couches promise, but let’s remember we were made to move. Check out the book by Caroline Williams, “Move: How the New Science of Body Movement Can Set Your Mind Free.”

Rest & Restore

Photo by Peggy Anke on Unsplash
Photo by Peggy Anke on Unsplash

This moment will not come again, and we must do what we can to embrace the energy autumn brings along with the movement of this time in our lives. No matter our age, we should own our individual responsibility to make changes, to be better stewards of our minds and body. This includes acknowledging we are not superhuman. We need rest. We need people who inspire and motivate us. We need environments that stimulate our senses. Maybe this involves scheduling time for a travel adventure or a retreat or reexamining your routine to find ways to renew your energy.

My husband and I traveled to France in August for a pilgrimage to Lourdes and other holy sites in addition to a side trip to Normandy. We had not traveled overseas since the pandemic. Still, our impromptu journey blessed us with some uninterrupted time to rest from our day-to-day obligations and restore ourselves as we explored different sites and opened ourselves to new experiences and encounters. I return with new energy.

I am learning to take in each moment, the different rhythms and movements, and recognize it’s healthy to give my body time enough to rest and to learn the dance of each season I encounter.

As I continually look for ways to nurture my creative spirit, I relish the energy fall brings. But alas, age adds a component to this season of my life that requires I do my part to boost my energy level.

Explore the Possibilities

There are numerous resources available, and the advice they provide will work for some and not for others. Here are a few energy boosters that have worked for me.

  • B12 is helping me considerably. There are several teas that help as well. Among them is a Vanilla Spice, Perfect Energy by Yogi Tea.

  • Play your favorite music. Create an energy playlist.

  • Challenge yourself, and try something new.

  • Start the day with a cold shower. The website refers to these as Scottish Showers. It notes, “The blast of cold water will increase your rate of breathing in response to the shock, and your oxygen intake, heart rate, and blood flow will all increase as your body works to keep itself warm. All of these physiological actions work to elevate your mood and increase your energy.”

  • Change up your environment. Spruce up your surroundings. Pull back the curtains, and let in some natural light. Fill a vase with fresh flowers.

  • Try some aromatherapy.

  • Go for a short walk.

  • Take a 20-minute nap.

  • Invite a friend for some creative play.

We each have to see what works best for our unique disposition, but it’s helpful to know we’re not alone in our exploration. I welcome any suggestions you have for boosting energy levels.

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Dorian Martin
Dorian Martin

Thanks, Brenda, for writing something so close to my heart that I never thought about when I was in my 30s (or even 40s). Like you, I've noticed my energy levels have changed over the years. For me, meditation, silence and grounding (putting my bare feet on the ground outdoors) help replenish my energy. I also am more thoughtful about energy leakages--whether food, behaviors, habits or clutter--that deplete my energy and I'm trying to mindfully remove them from my life. Again, thank you for helping us begin to delve into this important topic!

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