With Christmas plans filling up our schedules and the chilly weather making us shivver, it's not uncommon to feel a bit low on energy at this time of year. But the pick-me-up you need might be closer at hand than you think. Kate Hoffmann, from Spire The Glen Hospital Bristol shares nine easy lifestyle changes you can make to send your energy levels soaring.
- Cut down on the caffeine
"Whilst it's fine to enjoy your morning cup of coffee, try not to let caffeine become your crutch for the day" says Kate.
"If you're drinking coffee all through the day, you might be more prone to developing insomnia or having sleep trouble. Instead, go for a herbal tea in an afternoon for a change. These are warm and thirst-quenching like coffee but are great at releiving the symptoms of many other health problems".
Green tea is also a really good choice for a drink as it's packed with antioxidants which help keep you healthy.
- Eat chocolate (hurray!)
We don't usually need much encouragement to eat chocolate but now we can do so in the knowledge that it's healthily boosting our energy levels. A word to the wise, though, it only counts for dark chocolate.
"Research has shown us that eating dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content, is actually quite good for giving you a short burst of energy" says Kate.
"With its bitter tatse, you only need a small square to savour to feed your sugar cravings without putting the pounds on. Check the label to see how much cocoa your chocolate has and mix things up by trying quality dark chocolate with chilli or orange when you fancy a treat. Just try to train your tastebuds off milk choocolate".
- Get a good night's sleep
"Making sure you get a good night’s sleep is really important to staying in tip top health," says Kate Hoffman. "Most people need eight hours of sleep a night, whilst others are good to go on seven or even less."
If your hand is resting on the snooze button or you need a gallon of coffee to wake up it could be that you’re not getting enough sleep. Try downing tools by switching off laptops and mobile phones at least an hour before bedtime so that your body starts to relax.
- Go Low GI
"Swap your usual diet for one that features food with a low Glycaemic Index (GI) level as this helps keep blood sugar levels steady" says Kate.
"Carbohydrates such as white bread, potatoes, cereals, chocolates, biscuits and alcohol have a high GI level which means they give you a quick rush of energy before leaving you on a sugar low so try to steer clear of too many of these types of food."
To make the change to your diet fun, rope in a friend or partner so that you can swap recipes and give each other a boost.
- Mind your midday meal
"If you're used to rustling up a quick sandwich or a pasta salad for lunch, you're likely to end up feeling dreary later in the afternoon when your sugar levels crash.
"To keep yourself perky throughout the afternoon, eat a well-balanced midday meal with lots of protein and fibre and less sugar, and this should see you through to evening".
Try a salad with quionoa and feta or stir up a three-bean sou with a dash of chilli for a clever, energy boosting lunch.
- Get active
"If you spend a lot of your day sat down, it's time to get up and head outdoors for an energy-boosting walk. Getting a blast of fresh air and doing some moderate exercising can do wonders for your mood and energy.
"Aim to do 20 minutes of exercise a day to keep your body in good shape and full of energy". This could involve a brisk winter walk, a cycle round the block or a fitness class. Mix things up and try new things to keep it fun!
- Avoid alcohol
"You may think that a tipple is the best medicine for a good night's sleep but it can actually interrupt your sleep pattern, making you feel more tired" says Kate.
"Too much alcohol will also leave you feeling dehydrated and drowsy. Go for alcohol-free alternatives such as lime and soda or a slice of lemon with sparkling elderflower cordial and you'll soon notice a difference to how perky you feel".
"If you feel yourself flagging in the middle of the day, a short nap can really give you a boost.
"Try to avoid a long sleep during the afternoon as your body might think it's going into a deep sleep making it harder for you to wake up, but a short 15 minute power nap can do wonders for you. Don't forget to set your alarm clock if you think you might have difficulty waking".
- Don't be SAD
"When the winter months come round, some people notice a clear change in mood that can be a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)" says Kate.
"To keep SAD at bay, try to get outdoors as much as you can to soak up plenty of vitamin D from natural sunlight. Keep a good circle of friends around you and schedule plenty of fun activities into your diary to keep you occupied.
"A good well-balanced diet, supplemented with over-the-counter vitamins if you need, will also help keep your mood high and your body healthy".
- There's more health advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.