Stay Energetic in the Winter
Depending on where you live, winter can be a dark, cold time. The days are shorter and the weather can deter us from feeling like getting outside. Some people may even get Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.
While this article is not about SAD or how to treat it, I would like to give you some ideas on how to keep your energy and mood in great shape during the winter months.
But before we dive into the tips, let's remember your Mitochondria...
Mighty Mitochondria: The Root of Your Energy
Each of your cells of contain hundreds of Mitochondria. And your heart cells contain thousands of these critical "energy fountains." What are these microscopic beings? To put it over-simply, they're the primary producers of your energy.
When your Mitochondria are happy, in general you'll begin to find that you are happy too: more energy, clearer thinking, greater stamina, less irritability, and hormonal harmony are all possible benefits. Mitochondria have their requirements though! To learn more about these powerhouses, check out our previous Mitochondria blog post to get all the science about mitochondria.
Leave the Junk Behind
Before you go into everything that you think you should add into your life in order to feel energized, think about what you can leave behind. A lot of things can be aggravating to our bodies (and attitudes) and we don't even realize it.
Become Food Conscious
In the US, there's a cultural undertone that tells us to dive head first into quick "fixes" in order to be optimal at all times. From outrageously caffeinated energy drinks to pharmaceutical pills. Even in less mainstream pockets where herbalism and Eastern medicine are the preferred modality, there can be a reliance on supplements or therapies to do all the work. Even as a superfood company co-owner, I find at times that I can get caught up in the mindset of relying too much on superfoods to the my heavy lifting for me to feel better!
Sometimes it's easy to say that something, like superfood, isn't working. The truth is that its beneficial nutrients are unable to really shine because toxins from other foods and environmental chemicals are taking up all the room in your cells.
Get rid of the aggravants that come disguised as "food" in your diet.
~ The Sneaky Ones
- Refined sugar
- White flour
- Junk oils (vegetable oil, seed oils that easily go rancid)
- Non-organic foods, especially fruits and vegetables
- Meats that contain antibiotics
For some people, it may be worth examining how you feel without:
That's a broad sweep of what to leave out of your diet. So what can you replace those things with?
~ The Good Guys
- Organic natural sweeteners:
- Dates (or date powder)
- Maple syrup (or maple sugar)
- Lucuma powder
- Monk Fruit powder
- Organic grains:
- Ramon Seed flour
- Organic healthy fats:
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil (both long-chain and MCT)
- Grass-fed butter, if your body is okay with some dairy
- WATER! Water, water, water. Hydrate!
~ Intermittent Fasting
Lastly, knowing when to eat is also key. Intermittent fasting is helpful for increasing energy; eating earlier in the evening and later in the morning is the easiest way that I have found to do this kind of a fast. For me, I tend to have greater energy when I wake up and throughout the day when I do this. I also tend to have a more restful sleep with intermittent fasting.
Become People Conscious
Interactions with people play as much a part into your energy levels as food or anything else. People can uplift us, they can leave us feeling neutral, or they can be total "energy vampires."
Examine who you surround yourself with on most days.
For example, if your work has you engaging with challenging clientele 5 days a week, who do you spend your time with when you aren't at your job? Are they encouraging and positive? Or do they feed the tired part of you that keeps you in a downward spiral of less energy?
And then there's You.
Also remember that the voice in your head can be "another." When you find yourself listening in on your brain, what are you telling yourself? What are you rambling on about? What are you enforcing in yourself?
Become Media Conscious
Media is also a form of nutrition! News, music, movies, podcasts, and social media are all forms of "food" that we digest through our minds. What you think in your mind can absolutely affect how you feel in your body.
Things to Consider:
- Does the current state of our government, environment, or the state of social justice stress you out?
- Do you feel divided from others and alone in the world?
- Do you feel better about humanity after the music you just played in your car?
- Did the latest movie you watch inspire you to move forward with an idea, a project, or a cause, or leave you feeling depressed or stuck?
All of these things may be affecting your body, and your energy levels, more than you know.
How to Know If Your Level of "Junk" is Too Much
Pay attention to the simple things in life. Besides being low energy (and perhaps discouraged to the point of depression), check out some of these basic signals that your body is giving you.
- Are you getting your best sleep---according to you, not "experts"---most nights?
- How are your bowel movements? Healthy and regular? Or... let's just say... otherwise?
- Are your eyes clear?
- Look at your skin's complexion from your face to your stomach, back, and hands. If there are signs of rash or pimples, your body may have inflammation and is trying to tell you to leave out the junk!
Speaking of getting the junk out, one of the best ways to detox and gain more energy is to sweat! Exercising regularly can purify your body naturally through sweating. The added bonus is the perk of getting a natural "high" with endorphins that your brain creates.
Sweating through exercise doesn't have to be a chore. Here are two ways to sweat with joy!
- Find a friend to workout with. It can add an element of fun and accountability.
- For example, I was having a hard time motivating to go to my martial arts practice for a while. Then I finally went and saw a friend of mine there. She encouraged me to come at least one day a week with her. I've been showing up, as promised, and having a total blast!
- Make it about goals.
- When we focus on technique, precision, or the beauty around us, it can take the "pain" of exercising out of the equation. Sometimes when it's all about the workout, it can get boring, monotonous, or downright excruciating. Bring an element of artfulness to it, and be amazed at how soaked your clothing is at the end!
It is recommended to workout at least three times a week. It makes a difference in all body types to do so. Even if you start slowly with only once a week, it's something. I encourage you every step of the way!
Another Way to Sweat
I still highly recommend exercising to sweat. I also recommend treating yourself to a sauna once in a while. It can be a wonderful way to rejuvenate and rid yourself of toxins and chemicals that may be lurking just below the surface.
Notice how you feel after a good sweat. Even the day after you've sweated, observe at least a little more energy than before.
Honor Yourself When You Do Feel Tired
There can be a push and pull, a constant dance of yin-yang---if you will---felt between wanting to slow down into the restful pace of winter and a desire to continue at the speed of summer simultaneously. This can be done, and a lot of us do it most of the time. But sometimes your body does ask for a rest, and can even come down with an illness in order to do so.
For some of us, winter is simply a time of low energy. Compounding factors can attribute to the lack of energy.
I invite you into a couple of shifts in this naturally slower time of year.
- What you resist, persists.
- If you are resisting feeling tired or low energy, it may go on in undesirable ways. Sometimes there is magic in allowing yourself to feel fatigue; there is a blessing in not reaching for more coffee, and by not judging yourself in miserable ways because you aren't perky or optimistic.
- You may just allow yourself to feel what you're genuinely experiencing. It may be sadness and frustration and anger. Perhaps there is a steady, natural calm that has been quietly waiting for you to recognize it within yourself.
- Witness the ignored.
- By allowing your low energy to be what it is, you get to observe a new landscape of living. A land beneath an ocean, if you will. It's no fun at first. It's thick, dark, and murky in that space. But then you gradually get to see what's around you. This is your chance to honor the winter, to honor slow motion and insignificant details, and to honor yourself in a mode of truth and authenticity.
Take Deep Breaths of Fresh Air
Winter... a time to stay cozy and indoors! And yet, staying inside too much can really affect how much energy we have on a daily basis.
Part of staying energetic in such a cold part of the year is to indeed embrace the cold. Stepping outside at least once or twice a day (and at night) and taking at least 3 deep breaths of frigid air can wake up your mind, open your lungs and heart, and bring vibrancy into your limbs.
In yoga fashion, I absolutely recommend lifting your arms with an inhale and bringing them back to sides or to your heart as you exhale.
P.S. Your Mitochondria love this routine!
Create a Vision for Your Energy
When you're really down in the wintery dumps, feeling great can feel like a distant dream. Downright impossible at times. It's tempting to try to get to the top of your game as soon as possible, especially if demands from others are high in your work, family, or you simply have self-judgment that you should be in a better mood or not crash as soon as you are.
Believe me, I've been there.
Creating a vision for your energy trajectory can be helpful. Especially if you are finding it difficult to sustain energy on a regular basis.
- See yourself as a visionary for yourself on this point. Your own "king" or "queen" or whatever persona feels right to you.
- Take into account all that is before you, your realm, including your schedule, your relationships, the cycles of the moon, where you're at with deadlines, and so forth.
- What do you need to take into consideration as you create goals for your energy? Where do you want to double down on your efforts? When would it be wise to let up?
Concrete Steps to Help You Move Forward
- Journal about your energy levels and what you've done to improve them.
- Design a calendar with goals.
- Or if none of that sounds good, you can make decisions on the fly empowered with a new set of criteria in your mind (and heart) that help you progress day by day.
- Be aware of going from feeling "awful" or tired to feeling "fantastic" in one swoop... the pendulum may swing back quicker than you'd like! It's way more sustainable and attainable to take one step at a time.
You are in charge of your energy levels. Even if you only start with feeling "fair" and only make it to "good" for the next year, that is progress! And I applaud you!
A Parting Thought
Even in times of low energy, I like to remember this saying that I heard from someone else: I Am Whole, Complete, and Perfect.
At first I was skeptical about the entire thing. And then I thought, yes... I'm pretty whole, despite my self-judgment. And then I slowly became comfortable with the idea of being complete. What if this is all there is? I have to say, "okay" out of love for myself.
In our culture in the US, perfection is unattainable (and highly subjective). But I soon remembered something from my Mandarin Chinese studies: the word for "perfect" is "wan mei" (完美). It literally translates to "entirely beautiful."
As soon as I thought of that, I felt that indeed, even in my periods of super low energy in the winter time, I am entirely beautiful as I am. Whole, Complete, and Entirely Beautiful.
May you find yourself also in a state of "wan mei" while it is cold outside!