Tired of being tired? Simple tips that can improve your physical and mental energy

A cycle of physical and mental exhaustion has many contributors. A few tips to improve both can have immense positive effects in a person’s life. 

Inside tired of being tiredA cycle of physical and mental exhaustion has many contributors. A few tips to improve both can have immense positive effects in a person’s life. Everyone has been there — making a third cup of coffee when they hit an afternoon slump, or slogging through the day because they simply do not have the stamina to get some of their tasks done. So often, energy feels fleeting.

Tired of being tired? Every decision and daily task builds or takes away from a person’s energy reserves, says Emily Marszalek, Employee Wellness specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“Like a phone battery, we all start with a certain percent of energy when we wake up,” Marszalek said. “Every decision we make recharges us or drains us. Our energy reserves serve as a foundational aspect of human functioning, and optimizing energy reserves is essential for achieving peak performance, resilience and a fulfilling life.”

According to Marszalek, physical and mental energy needs to be restored, and easy incorporations to routines can provide more balance and energy to sustain energy day in and day out. 

Physical energy

Physical energy is the ability to perform physical tasks and activities. It includes factors such as strength, stamina and endurance, and there are three key ways for a person to contribute to peak physical activity: good eating habits, quality sleep and regular exercise.

  • Good eating habits: Foods impact our energy levels by influencing blood sugar stability, nutrient absorption and bodily function. Eating balanced, nutrient-dense foods provides steady energy by stabilizing a person’s blood sugar levels, delivering essential nutrients for optimal bodily function, and promoting sustained feelings of fullness and vitality.
    • Reach for “good energy foods” like fruits and vegetables, healthy fats (e.g., olive oil, avocado), lean proteins, complex carbohydrates like brown rice or wheat bread, and nutrient-rich snacks to boost energy. Most importantly, staying hydrated with water — as basic as it sounds — will help increase energy.
    • Steering away from sugary foods and beverages that spike — then crash — one’s blood sugar like alcohol, refined carbohydrates like white bread, excess caffeine, fried and processed foods, and large meals will help increase energy as well. All of these “bad energy foods” cause crashes that lead to fatigue due to the body’s struggle to maintain stable energy levels. 
  • Quality sleep: There is no replacement for quality sleep, which significantly contributes to a person’s brain function and memory, physical recovery, immune function, and mood regulation. Like plugging in a phone, Marszalek says, everyone has to recharge at night, too.
    • Just as with a lack of quality sleep, the quantity of sleep matters as well. Aiming for six to eight hours of sleep is best; but each person has unique needs, and Marszalek notes that using a sleep calculator can help determine what works best for each individual.
    • Establishing a routine of going to bed and waking up at the same times daily aids in positive sleep and improves sleep. In addition, sleep environment makes a difference, with research showing that a cool, dark environment promotes quality sleep.
    • A few additional intentional acts can help improve sleep as well. Limiting screen time — which is easier said than done in today’s time — is linked to better sleep, and managing stress through journaling, meditation, etc. can make an impact.
    • Lastly, having gentle waking systems in place like a peaceful alarm or waking with blinds open and natural light pouring in helps activate after rest.\
  • Regular exercise: Moving one’s body correlates to having more energy, which is a win for both a person’s mental and physical health. Regular exercise helps with improved circulation, enhanced mood through the release of endorphins, reduced stress by lowering stress hormones like cortisol, increased endurance, enhanced metabolism and increased mental alertness through enhanced brain function.

 Mental energy

Mental energy is the ability of the mind to perform cognitive tasks effectively, including thinking, concentrating, problem-solving, decision-making and learning. High mental-energy levels contribute to enhanced cognitive function, improved memory and creativity. When energy reserves are low, people often experience brain fog, reduced concentration and impaired cognitive performance. The way one responds to situations and the people they surround themselves with can make a significant impact in mental energy reserves.

  • Good relationships: Having emotional support from friends and family can reduce stress and emotional strain, which helps with feelings of positivity. To that end, surrounding oneself with optimistic and supportive people is shown to be a mood booster, increase resilience and help maintain a positive outlook — all which contribute to higher mental-energy levels. Furthermore, stimulation and engagement with others keeps the brain energized and prevents fatigue.
  • Lower stress: High stress sends a person’s body into emergency mode and makes the brain work too hard for too long. When in a state of stress, the body releases hormones that help deal with the situation at hand; but when stress is prolonged, the body cannot get itself out of emergency mode. By taking proactive steps to lower stress, the body can reset and recharge, think clearly, and make constructive decisions.
    • Understanding what triggers stress and identifying ways to combat them (if possible) can help develop strategies to address or minimize their impact, which in turn will contribute to enhanced mental energy. Setting relaxation techniques into one’s day-to-day routine can be small things that make a big shift in our mental energy.
    • Taking breaks and shifting mental effort during tasks allows the brain to rest, recharge and replenish mental energy reserves. Humans have natural energy cycles of productivity, and changing up the task at hand and/or scenery can make a big pivot in our thinking and energy.
  • Feeding the mind positive thoughts: When a person thinks about things that make them feel anxious, upset or stressed, the brain gets caught in a loop, which then depletes the brain’s resources and leaves a person feeling mentally exhausted and overwhelmed. Negative thoughts affect one’s mood, and worrying about things that have yet to happen or that are out of our control wastes valuable mental energy.\
    • Practicing gratitude, surrounding one’s self with positivity, challenging negative thoughts and finding time to engage in enjoyable activities can make all the difference in one’s outlook and disposition.