As the days get cooler and darker, it’s easy to get into a bit of a funk. ‘Our primitive sense of hibernation kicks in at this time of year,’ explains psychologist and life coach Gladeana McHahon. ‘Most of us are affected by the lack of light in winter and that lowers our mood.’ But you needn’t suffer, as there are always ways to jolt yourself out of the blues. Our 20 quick fixes will give you more energy.
1. Wake Up And Smell The Essential Oil: Dab a few drops of rosemary, peppermint or eucalyptus on a tissue to clear your mind, recommends Carole Preen of the Aromatherapy Council. Put the tissue on your desk or a radiator to diffuse oils throughout the room. Or tuck it under your bra strap to help keep you alert all day.
2. Release Your Inner Artist: Customise your clothes, sketch a still life or snap stunning views with your camera. You’ll get an energising buzz as you’re using the artistic right-hand side of your brain. ‘Research shows that when people learn something new, they get into what we call the "flow",’ Gladeana explains. ‘They lose themselves in the activity, and because they’re stimulating the brain in a different way, they feel a sense of achievement and their mental state perks up.’
3. Siesta Lite: A quick power nap during your working day will help you perform better. Experts suggest taking a 20-minute nap in the early afternoon, which provides more rest and stamina than an extra 20 minutes in bed in the morning. It’s vital to keep to the time limit, as any longer may disrupt your regular sleep patterns. Not sure how you’ll explain this to your boss, though…
4. Laugh Out Loud: A good giggle with your girlfriends will stimulate the movement of blood to the heart and lungs, making your body work at peak efficiency. Laughter is also thought to increase levels of the body’s feel-good chemical, serotonin, while studies show that it decreases production of the stress hormone, cortisol, which affects mood.
5. Spring-Clean Your Mind: Divide your life into components – health and diet, relationships, social life, finances and career. List both what you like and what you dislike, or want to change, in order to clarify your mind and provide focus on what needs to be done. ‘We carry so much around in our heads that it can be draining,’ says Gladeana. ‘Taking stock of what works and why can be extremely illuminating, and research tells us that people are more likely to carry out plans if they’re written down.’
6. Snack Like a Hiker: For a quick fix, grab a handful (about 150 calories) of trail mix. The phosphorus in the fruit provides healthy sugars for a rapid boost, while seeds and nuts prevent your insulin levels from dropping. Make your own using two cups each of unsalted peanuts, cashews, almonds, chopped dried apricots, bananas or raisins, and half a cup of sunflower seeds. Makes 10 servings.
7. Drink Up: Have a large glass or cup of liquid at least every two hours. ‘Dehydration makes us feel exhausted as it reduces the levels of fluids reaching the brain,’ explains dietician Catherine Collins. ‘Go for a variety of drinks – it doesn’t have to be plain water. Fruit juice and tea will hydrate you just as well.’
8. See The Light: A 20-minute blast of sunlight every day is enough to pep up energy levels. Going outside is best, even if it’s overcast, but standing inside in front of a window for just a few minutes several times a day will also help. Research has shown that St John’s Wort helps combat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) too, but it should be avoided if you’re on the Pill or pregnant.
9. Shaking Your Booty: Head out for a 20-minute walk at lunchtime, take the stairs instead of the lift, walk faster than normal into work or move around the office three times an hour. You’ll get a physical and mental boost an hour after exercising due to extra oxygen and nutrients being pumped around the body.
10. Eat Less, More Often: Re-fuel regularly to combat tiredness by eating five or six small meals a day, rather than three large ones. It helps keep blood-sugar levels stable and staves off energy lulls. Fill up on wholegrain foods that are digested slowly and cut down on starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweetcorn.