Do you feel you don’t have enough ‘energy’ to get things done?
Do you feel like your energy levels are too low?
Today I want to dig deep into what energy is about and how you can get ‘more of it’.
(bonus points if you count the number of times I use the word ‘energy’ throughout the article)
So, what is energy?
Energy describes many different things for different contexts. There is the energy that powers our cars from fuel, electricity from coal or the energy found within our food that fuels US. These are all the technically what energy ‘is’.
The type of energy most people refer to when talking about THEIR energy levels is more of a subjective internal feeling than a physical reality like petrol or coal is.
Petrol or coal have distinct, measurable quantities of energy within them. The energy we FEEL inside us is not so measurable.
Take for instance somebody who is eating 5000 calories a day (quite a lot) and somebody eating 2000 calories a day. The person eating 5000 should feel much more energy inside them than the person eating 2000 calories. Often this is not the case!
Calories may provide energy potential for the body, but this energy is not always transferred into anything. In most cases, excess food energy is simply transferred into fat.
The energy level we feel has both a PHYSICAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL component. Yes, there are physical ways to increase your energy levels but it is also a psychological game. In this article, I will cover a few ways that you can increase energy from both approaches.
Your overall health is the biggest contributor to your underlying energy levels. We will cover each individually but keep in mind that it is a combination of all these factors rather than a single factor that will help.
The small improvements from implementing changes in all the areas will have the biggest outcomes. Attacking just your sleep and not eating better or exercising will have minimal effect. Improve your food quality but getting 3 hours of sleep each night also will have minimal effect on your energy levels.
Combining all these physical health factors and psychological factors together brings energy levels up into an exponential increase!
You need sleep. Perhaps in 50 years we will have a technological solution for sleep too. For now, we live our lives as if that technological solution is already here.
You NEED TO SLEEP.
You need at least 6-8 hours of quality sleep every night or at least in combination throughout the day if you want your energy to remain high.
Check out my free eBook on sleep that covers 10 major ways to get better sleep!
You cannot burn the candle at both ends. Late nights staying up watching tv and then wanting to wake up at 5am to get to work (maybe not wanting to but having to all the same).
Food Quality In = Energy Out
Food is like our sleep. You think you don’t need the quality food and that you can just eat whatever and get the energy you want to function better.
The reality is food is our literal energy supply.
Every bit of energy that you get to fuel your cells, in turn fueling your muscles, heart, lung, brains and so on all comes from your food!
Without getting enough HIGH QUALITY food in the right amounts you will struggle to maintain energy levels.
Whilst I do agree that for the most part calories are equal in their ability to provide the body with fuel, I don’t think they are equal in how they make you feel.
Sure, you might be able to eat 2000 calories of junk and lose weight, but it will be a LOT harder than eating 2000 calories of healthy food as your energy levels will be far lower. When your energy is low you are less likely to exercise and more likely to eat even more food to ‘make up’ for your lack of energy.
Food is a priority to feel energized. I have plenty of other articles that cover nutrition if you need more information about making a better diet.
Another point to note with food is intake of things like caffeine and alcohol. These two are the biggest culprits in peoples perceived lack of energy! Reduce both as much as possible if you want to be more energized.
Is food and dieting a problem for you? Check out my free 5-day challenge on getting out of the diet trap!
Start Moving Your Body DAILY
Exercise illustrates why energy is subjective better than almost anything.
How can somebody eating 2000 calories of energy each day have MORE energy to move around than somebody eating double that?
Exercise has a counter-intuitive quality to it. When we exert ‘energy’ to do it we FEEL like we have even more energy afterwards! I know that starting my day with 1 hour of exercise makes me feel like I have even more energy throughout the day even
Granted, sometimes you will feel more tired after working out at least initially. This is sometimes due to an extra intense workout session. Often though, this is due to not taking care of the sleep, stress and food components of your life and trying to out-exercise them!
You need to exercise regularly. As a personal trainer, I can attest to the single most common feedback quote I get is along the lines of ‘I feel so much better’ or ‘I have so much more energy each day’.
The energy you get from a workout extends not just that day but is ongoing! Being fitter fills you with a daily energy that can’t be matched! I know exercising helps me to conquer 12+ hour work days on a regular basis and feel energized enough to do it again the next day.
Get Out of the Stress Cycle
Stress SAPS your energy! We all know this at a base level.
The biggest problem with stress now is that it is insidious and can live inside us without us having enough conscious awareness of it.
Our stress mechanism is made for the short term. We see a bear approach and our stress hormones rise giving us that extra ENERGY to run or if we are brave enough to fight. This is great in the short term as it helps us to conquer the immediate threat.
Our modern environment is very different from this pre-civilised world. Stresses now tend to be lower level and less threatening. They don’t provoke an enormous response, the provoke a CONSTANT lower level response.
Instead of a bear attacking, we have an email box and phone beeping at us all day. Imagined deadlines for tasks that need to be completed at work.
This lower level stress can feel like it is not even there, but it lies beneath the surface. Your hormones are responding and constantly draining your energy levels over time. Most people only realise how bad this is after they crash and burn.
Stress management needs to be taken seriously if you want to achieve consistent high energy levels.
Reduce the notifications you receive. Meditate. Walk each day in the park. Take more weekend trips away. Whatever activity helps you to relax and get away from the stressful concerns in your life then prioritise it and do it regularly. BEFORE your burn out, not after.
This is not to say some stress isn’t good. We need enough stress to get us going. But chronic stresses about every little thing end up draining you big time!
See Your Doctor
If you try to improve your energy and have genuinely worked out your diet, your sleep, your stress and the psychological components then it is worth seeing a professional about it.
There are several conditions ranging from chronic fatigue through to mineral deficiencies through to coeliac disease that could be causing you major energy troubles! If in doubt remember to get it checked out.
Beyond Physical Health
We have covered off the main ways to improve your physical energy reserves. The amount of energy you have that your body can give. But this is NOT ENOUGH for most people to feel energized all the time.
The psychological energy we have is FAR out of proportion to what can be provided to us on a physical basis. Think of some of the renowned CEOs or business leaders of the world who are not overly healthy, sleep poorly and so on and yet still get so much done!
Clearly energy is more than just a physical quality (this isn’t to say they wouldn’t feel even better doing the physical stuff, but that their psychological game is very strong).
Stop Being Distracted
I grew up just on the cusp on the digital world. I was using computers from the time I was about 5 but never like today.
The computer was turned off each night. I had no way of using it outdoors and no real desire to either. The computer stayed in the computer room and was used when it was time to use it.
Even using the computer was a slow task. The idea of having 20 windows open at once wasn’t even comprehended when it took minutes to load a single web page!
Fast forward to today and I have a computer more powerful than my first home computer in my pocket or nearby almost all the time.
The internet is EVERYWHERE and dominates every aspect of our lives. You are reading this hopefully without doing other things, but there is a good chance you have looked between another page, responded to a few messenger conversations, checked your phone, opened a few more tabs all whilst reading this one short article.
This distraction is not what our brains are made to do. We can sort of do it. But for the most part it leaves us feeling exhausted all the time! The constant switching from one thing to another has us feeling out of sorts, tired and anxious.
The remedy? Here are a few things to try:
Overall you want to be reducing the frantic nature of flipping around on many tasks at the same time and reducing the cognitive load of so much incoming information.
Elon Musk is a great example of how energy flows from purpose. Working over 100 hour weeks for decades he does not look to be slowing down any time soon! His vision of a space faring civilization is so strong that his energy levels are continuous and seem never ending.
Think of something you really enjoy doing.
Do you need motivation to do it or is it just done?
When we have a strong purpose for what we are doing our feeling of having energy increases dramatically. If we work in a field or job we absolutely hate then our energy levels are going to be far lower than they could be.
There are two alternatives to this problem. The first is finding a better job environment, but this is often not possible. The second is to find a purpose from the current situation.
If you can find something you truly enjoy then your energy levels are going to be improved. If you are working somewhere then you can try to have a side hobby or business that fulfills your purpose a lot better. If it is really something you enjoy you will have a much easier time finding the ‘energy to do it’ and after enough time this energy you have invested will allow you an escape.
Can you find purpose in your current situation? Maybe the job is a means to save money for travel or to provide for a family. Maybe it is simply a stepping stone to a job you want to do.
Reminding yourself of this larger vision of where you want to be heading will not only give you more energy each day, it will allow you to direct that energy to where it needs to go.
Energy comes AFTER action
With exercise, I mentioned that often you feel energized AFTER exerting the energy on the activity.
You can be sitting on the couch feeling totally out of energy. Go and exert more energy and then feel like you are more awake and energized. How does that work?
The real reasons are varied but you need to accept that the most energy comes after starting.
Once you can get started and the more you push through that initial hurdle of discomfort, the more you can find the energy to keep it going.
The couch is like gravity. It pulls you in and wants to keep you there! Take the first step into the discomfort, into the hard work and you will feel MORE energy as a result!
Do you have a task to do? Getting started as fast as possible and pushing procrastination aside will build upon itself over time! Don’t let the couch gravity keep you on it!
Much of this ability to push through and take action comes from the disciplined practice of doing it.
Even small things. Do the dishes need doing? Then start then NOW. Does the bin need taking out then do it NOW. These small wins train you to be somebody who takes action but more importantly it makes you realise that you CAN achieve the desired outcome without feeling like you have the ‘energy’ initially.
Energy is not a limited quantity inside you.
You CAN increase your energy levels if you want to make it happen. The first step, like my last point is to TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY.
Don’t wait for next week to start improving your sleep. Don’t wait until tomorrow to start reducing your distractions.
Every little thing counts and it all adds up!
Go out and get more energy by exerting more energy.
How are your energy levels?