It’s not as simple as ‘sleep more’ – when it comes to energy, there’s a lot going on beneath the surface. Eminé Rushton looks into the sapping effect of stress and how we can help ourselves restore the spring into our steps
“Gosh, you look tired.” But I am not. Not on paper. I’ve had a full night’s sleep and I’ve been eating well. Yet… This story seems to be playing out all around me – in spite of doing ‘all the right things’, people feeling not just lacking in energy, but bone-deep depleted. So what is going on? And why is a good night’s sleep not necessarily the answer?
“There is a common misconception that energy ‘in’ automatically equals energy ‘out’,” says Henrietta Norton, a nutritional therapist, co-founder of Wild Nutrition and leading women’s wellbeing expert.
“We’ve lost the delicate art of slowing to savour gentle things for the joy of them”
“But we need to look beyond this to limit negative effects, such as stress, that can lead to a reduction in energy. Supporting our adrenal glands and nervous system will help and we can do this through optimising our lifestyle and nutrition habits,” says Norton.
Top of the list is plenty of restorative time. All too often we race through our days only to collapse on the nearest sofa, phone or tablet in hand, television on, mind still racing.
We’ve lost the delicate art of slowing to savour gentle things just for the joy of them. A warm hearth and cup of tea, feet up and the wireless on in the background – salve for the tired soul.
By resting our adrenal glands and nervous systems, we noticeably replenish our energy stores and this is something we need to build into our ever-busier modern day lives.
For people who seek to boost their energy levels by exercising more, there is an important distinction to be made. If you are already adrenally-fatigued and depleted (i.e. you have been running on adrenaline and stress has been rife in your life for a while) a high intensity high impact workout – circuits, spinning, boxing, intense cardio, competitive explosive sports – can further tax your systems.
By all means exercise, but look for naturally restorative, slower and gentler modes of movement: yoga, swimming or walking. Don’t push yourself hard when you are already low on energy.
First, consider how you can top up your essential vitamin and mineral stores.
“Alongside magnesium, B vitamins are essential for energy production, for the normal functioning of the nervous system, and vitamin B5 in particular,” says Norton. “Good sources include whole grains, eggs, beans and lentils, a wide range of vegetables and good quality or organic fish and meats.”
Supplements can be an important boost at times of heightened stress, tiredness and depletion and I’ve long been an advocate for organic, raw, food-grown, synthetic-free supplements. The Wild Nutrition Food-Grown B Complex Plus, £22 (wildnutrition.com) combines B vitamins, minerals, coenzyme Q10 and stress-reducing adaptogen ashwagandha, to promote efficient energy release.
It’s also time to face up to the ways in which you are looking to boost your energy – which, for many of us, begins and ends with a cup of strong coffee.
“Caffeine also stimulates the adrenals and makes them work even harder, making the situation worse in the long run,” says Norton. “Even decaffeinated versions should be avoided.
“Try reducing caffeine – green tea can be a good option as it contains less caffeine and tannins, along with L-theanine, which is a wonderful stress reliever too.”
If low energy levels have been an ongoing problem and positive lifestyle changes have had little impact, it may be worth seeking out a registered nutritionist or nutritional therapist, who can carry out some functional tests, too.
For some people, heightened stress hormones (our old friend cortisol…) can prevent the thyroid from converting hormones into their active form, which can dramatically impact energy levels.
“Vitamin C is another nutrient that is vital for the manufacture of adrenal hormones. Best sources include peppers, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, watercress and red cabbage – rather than oranges, which have far less in comparison,” says Norton.
From quieter evenings where you completely switch off, to better supporting your busy body with its daily nutritional needs, it really is slow and steady that wins the energy race.
This month Eminé is trying: Flower Remedies
Bach’s Rescue Remedy was a staple remedy of mine as a child – particularly during exam time and as I’ve grown, I have become increasingly interested in flower essences and remedies. I now try to support smaller producers and love to learn the back story of the flowers used. I particularly like Alexis Smart Flower Remedies (now in Liberty; libertylondon.co.uk) and Wildflower English Flower Essences (based in Surrey, wildfloweressences.co.uk).
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