What is the right way to restore energy?

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77% of our users experience fatigue, and the main reason is lack balance between stress and recovery. Learn to manage your energy and avoid fatigue

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There are two reasons for low energy levels: either we expend more energy than we have, or we don’t restore our energy reserves. 

We expend energy in many ways, including: 

  • Maintaining the status quo. Our body expends energy to maintain our body temperature. Approximately 20% of our energy is spent on keeping the brain working. 10-30% of energy will go to physical activity. Another 10% is spent on digestion. 

 

  • Stress. Stress hormones raise blood pressure and heart rate when we experience stress and activate energy consumption. This response once helped us run away from enemies or predators, but now it’s triggered when we may have problems at work or experience emotional turmoil. Although running away won’t help us solve these problems, stress hormones will still be produced and contribute to the body’s energy expenditure. 

 

  • Fear. A stream of negative news and dire forecasts about the world’s future increase our anxiety. A high level of stress caused by fear negatively affects the production of hormones that participate in supplying energy.

Stress

When we experience stress, high-speed processes are activated in nerve cells even if we don’t need to run anywhere. Stress hormones increase our blood pressure and heart rate. They activate energy consumption in the nervous tissue. This occurs because such a response once helped us run away from enemies or predators. Our body gets energy for high-speed processes from carbohydrates, while other processes are fueled by fats.

We can’t store a lot of carbohydrates — we can only store fats. This is because people previously worked more with their muscles. They needed more fats than carbohydrates. Once these fats are exhausted, we begin to experience a lack of energy, or we turn to sugar. When we consume excess sugar, our body attempts to “protect” itself, resulting in impaired glucose tolerance and diabetes. So, reducing stress is an effective way to provide yourself with energy for the whole day. Snacking on sweets isn’t.

Fear

“Fear sells.” This slogan defines the modern world. Dismal daily news and dire forecasts for world affairs increase our anxiety. A high level of stress caused by fear negatively affects the production of hormones which participate in supplying energy. It leads to suppression of the hypothalamus, which participates in the processes of energy regulation.

Why energy reserves don’t recover:

  • Food. More than a third of a modern person’s diet consists of sugar, white flour, and saturated fats. Such food does not provide energy. It causes only a brief rise in its level and metabolic disorders.
  • Sleep deprivation. 34.8% of the US adult population sleep less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep per day. Lack of sleep is associated with fatigue. The longer you stay awake, the more fatigue you will experience.

Levels of energy

There are other ways to recoup energy:

Physical energy. This is the basic level (remember how hard it is to work and stay in a good mood when you are sick). This energy is maintained through nutrition, physical activity, keeping healthy, and muscle recovery.

Emotional energy. This is our mood, which helps us to be physically and intellectually productive. Our brain works better when it feels optimism and adventure or responds to challenges and opportunities. Any activity that brings a sense of joy, self-realization, and self-affirmation is a source of emotional recovery.

Intellectual energy. This is the ability of your prefrontal cortex to turn on. It can be different during the day: it is at its highest in the morning after awakening, decreases during lunch, and rises in the afternoon. Intellectual energy is maintained by the balance between periods of mental stress and recovery. Perfect balance is reached by people who work for 60 minutes in a state of concentration and then actively recover for 20 minutes.

Motivation. This is what inspires us. It’s our confidence in following our chosen path, especially at challenging moments when we face difficulties. Many books on self-improvement suggest that one begins by defining one’s values ​​and goals in life because motivation helps overcome fatigue and physical limitations. We have noticed the opposite effect: if you learn how to relax physically, increase energy, and reduce stress, it will be much easier for you to start up an internal mechanism of positive change and to determine your values ​​and goals.

How to recover from physical fatigue

You can either totally relax your body or activate your emotions and brain.

Here’s how you can totally relax your body:

  • Sleep. This is the main way your body reenergizes itself. Import your data into Welltory from the Sleep Cycle or Sleep As apps. Take regular stress and energy measurements in the mornings and follow your patterns on the charts in our app (by selecting the “Check” tab). Choose your optimal sleep schedule based on this data.
     
  • Sex. Not just fun, but good for youThe Science of Orgasm author Barry R. Komisauruk writes that the hormones released during orgasm can dull physical pain. Sex might also help you sleep better. A study based on an extensive, international survey found that sex led to a better night’s sleep, perhaps because orgasm releases high levels of prolactin, a hormone heavily correlated with sleep.
     
  • Massage. You can target tired muscles directly by getting a massage. This will alleviate pain and help damaged muscles recover.
     
  • Saunas and steam rooms. Saunas and steam rooms can temporarily ease muscle pain by dilating blood vessels and releasing endorphins. Recent studies have suggested that far-infrared saunas can also promote muscle recovery, while visiting the steam room beforehand can help protect your muscles during an intense workout. Remember to stay hydrated. Dehydration will only make your muscles feel worse.
     
  • Reading. According to the National Sleep Foundation, reading before bed can help you sleep better. A number of researchers advocate books as an aid for reducing anxiety and depression. Reading is also a great way to activate your brain and rest your muscles. A recent study found that participants had higher connectivity in brain regions associated with verbal activity and sensory-motor experience the morning after reading an adventure novel. The study’s authors suggest that this sensory-motor activity may result from identifying with the protagonist. So pick up a page-turner and step into someone else’s world.
     
  • Puzzles. Jigsaw puzzlescrossword puzzlesSudoku, brainteasers, anything that gets your brain working will help your body recover physically. As a bonus, research suggests that mental puzzles can help slow the effects of aging on the brain. By occupying your mind, you allow your body to recover. Give your brain a workout and let your muscles relax.

And here are some alternative activities you can try:

How to recover from emotional exhaustion

You can either take a break from stressful emotions or focus on activating positive ones. Here are a couple of ways to relax emotionally:

  • Take a deep breath. Controlled breathing can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. A Columbia University study found that  “yoga breathing” (pranayama) can effectively treat various psychological issues, including anxiety and depression. Even a simpler form of controlled breathing — quick inhalation and slow exhalation — has been shown to reduce stress in anxiety-producing situations.
     
  • Meditation. A meditation practice can also help you relax emotionally, perhaps by decoupling previously connected neural pathways. By learning to identify your thought patterns and the emotional reactions habitually associated with them, you can teach yourself to disassociate the two, thereby controlling your negative emotions. You can learn how to meditate with the Headspace app.

To switch on positive emotions, choose an activity that brings you feelings of happiness, self-realization, and self-affirmation.

  • Hobbies. Hobbies improve your outlook by promoting social engagement and improving your sense of identity. They can also promote a state that psychologists call “flow,” a state of full immersion in an activity that’s strongly linked to happiness. Activities such as drawing, crafts, and home repairs can activate the brain’s reward system and promote relaxation. You can recover from emotional fatigue by activating the parts of the brain associated with good feelings.
     
  • Art. While the effects of art on the brain are still being studied, the bulk of the evidence suggests that many types of artistic activity (music, writing, dance, and visual arts) affect your health positively. Data from more than 200 studies on expressive writing (e.g. journaling or fiction writing) suggest the technique works for at least some patients, and a recent review of quantitative studies shows that music can have a significant calming effect. So, if you want to restore your emotional strength, pick up a pen and pad, drop by the local art museum, or put on a playlist with your favorite music.
     
  • Talking to close friends. According to the Mayo Clinic, friends play a significant role in promoting your overall health. Specifically, they foster a sense of purpose, decrease stress, and promote a sense of self-worth – all positive emotions that can help you recover.

How to recover from mental fatigue

We are surrounded by information all the time. News alerts, work updates, and social media all take a lot of mental energy. The result is often information overload, which exhausts the brain and leads you to make bad decisions. So what can you do about it?

You want to either relax your brain or switch to physical activity.

Here are some ways you can relax your brain:

 

Information detox 

 

This means cutting back on the information you consume. Here is how:

  • Limit your social media use. If you keep checking your Facebook feed, you won’t have enough mental energy for everything else. 
  • Spend one day a week without technology. Do something else: go for a walk, read a book, or spend time with friends and family. 
  • Use a time-management tool. For instance, RescueTime tracks your activity on apps or websites, so you can see where you’re spending your time. You can also download the StayFocusd extension for Chrome or the Leechblock extension for Firefox. 
  • Take a break from decision-making. We spend a lot of mental energy on making decisions throughout the day. A 2010 study found that the longer a judge sat on the bench, the less likely they were to grant parole due to the fatigue of deciding a long string of cases.

 

Sensory deprivation

 

In a  sensory deprivation tank, you’ll be floating in a warm, secluded Epsom salt bath. The idea of being cut off from the rest of the world may sound scary. But over 90% of participants in a 2010 study found the experience deeply relaxing, and some studies found that it enhances creativity.

 

Switch to physical activity

Exercise releases feel-good endorphins that focus your mind and can make it easier to sleep. It also promotes communication among the body’s physiological systems, enabling the body to handle stress better. A recent meta-analysisindicates that exercise benefits people with stress- and anxiety-related disorders.

 

How to get motivated

Motivation is the impulse to act. Neurologically, there is evidence that motivation may be connected to dopamine levels in the brain, while psychologists tend to correlate motivation with such concepts as autonomyvalueand competence. To regain your motivation, you need to take care of yourself physically and find value in what you do.

Here are some specific steps you can take:

  • Relax. Psychologists generally agree that anxiety and depression are deeply connected, so your lack of motivation may result from the stressors in your life. The good news? All the measures we’ve discussed can help you regain your motivation. Once you learn to relax physically and take steps to increase your energy and reduce your stress, it will be much easier to find your motivation.

 

  • Find value in what you’re doing. The science of motivation overwhelmingly suggests that the desire to get things done comes not from without but from within. External factors like money or prestige are poor motivators for difficult cognitive tasks. Instead, people do better work when they can find ways to be creative and make each task their own. In this vein, the notion of ‘20% time’, the idea that employees could spend up to ⅕ of their workday pursuing their own creative interests, is famously a cornerstone of Google’s corporate culture.

 

Ask yourself: why is this job important to me? What unique ideas or capabilities do I bring? Is there another way I could be looking at today’s major tasks? Maybe you can even carve out some time for yourself during the week to think about creative workplace solutions, tackle problems from new angles, and try new tasks.

 

    • Set goals. A review of 35 years of research confirms that goal-setting is an effective way of spurring oneself to better performance. Think about your central values and long-term goals. How do your tasks for the day fit into this bigger picture? The answer to this question can help you find motivation. Conversely, think about how you can break down your tasks for the day into specific, actionable units. By accomplishing a few small things, you can build up momentum to keep getting things done.
    •  

    Regaining your motivation can take some time and effort. But once you find it, you will have a powerful source of energy to carry you through the days ahead.

How to know how well you're recovering

This is where the data comes in. Sure, you feel better in the moment. But how do you know that your relaxation techniques are improving your well-being and energy levels in the long run? Take a measurement in the Welltory appusing your smartphone camera or your Apple Watch.

Your StressEnergy, and Health scores are calculated based on the standard HRV metrics (RMSSD, SDNN, etc.) To make the results easier to understand, we illustrate them with liquid — you can see when you’re literally boiling over with stress or when your focus is too low for any activity but rest. 

By using Welltory’s measurement technology, you can see the effects of your relaxation techniques. Connect Welltory to other apps on your phone to gather more data and see the effects more clearly.

Remember to check your Energy and Stress levels every morning. Has your energy level risen? Has your stress level gone down? By tracking this data, you can clearly see how your body is responding. Compare your readings on different mornings after trying various relaxation techniques. Which worked best for restoring your energy?

Once you find something that works, you’re ready to make effective relaxation a permanent part of life.

Welltory Team, upd. 09 Sept. 2022

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