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Published on August 10, 2021

How Effective Stress Control Can Boost Your Energy

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How Effective Stress Control Can Boost Your Energy

Contrary to popular belief, effective stress control isn’t about eliminating adversity altogether. You and I both know that’s impossible.

So what can we do?

Society’s Acceptable Stress “Fixes” – A Tarnished Gold Standard

Reclaiming our power over our stressful lives requires emotional energy management for intentional stress relief. We must release the standard go-tos which, surprisingly, do more damage than good. This includes anything that stifles our emotions or keeps us distracted, preventing us from dealing with feelings of stress.

It can be a challenge to switch gears from avoidance tactics to proactive measures. Society enables—and even encourages—methods for stress relief that actually sabotage both our mood and energy.

Alcohol is one of the most common vices utilized to numb the unpleasant emotions arising from stress.

Over the past year, alcohol use has skyrocketed due to elevated fear, anger, anxiety, and sadness associated with global events. According to a RAND Corporation study, women increased their heavy drinking days by 41% during the pandemic compared to before it.[1]

This isn’t an isolated incident, however. A notable escalation in women’s use of alcohol was documented prior to the pandemic, showing an 85 percent rise in alcohol-related deaths among women during the years 1999-2017.[2]

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“Ugh, I need a drink!”

Have these words ever escaped your lips in a moment of exasperation? Before ditching alcohol two years ago, I often uttered them during high stress moments, too. Sometimes we want to tune out and forget our troubles for a little while. Relaxing with cocktails felt like a mini vacation for my busy brain.

Unfortunately, this stress relief tactic comes with a price. Afterward, I often felt bogged down, foggy, grumpy… and guess what else? The issue I’d successfully evaded the night before still required resolution. Only now I was even less equipped to deal with it, because the effects of drinking had further diminished my mental and physical energy.

Drinking as a means of stress control is a Catch-22. On one hand, it reduces the magnitude of our initial stress response. There’s even a scientific term for this: “stress-response dampening.”[3]

On the other hand, the pleasurable sensations elicited by drinking alcohol are relatively short lived. This temporary relief is accompanied by numerous unwelcome aftereffects, even when indulging in low-to-moderate amounts.

Effective Stress Control to Boost Your Energy

In the long run alcohol – in any amount – not only fails to improve stress relief and energy, it actually depletes them.

Here are five ways that alcohol negatively impacts your stress and energy levels, and what to try instead.

1. Downward Sleep Spiral

One reason alcohol is so popular for stress control is its sedative effects. At first, we may feel relaxed, even sleepy. After falling asleep, this wears off, and a phenomenon called the Metabolic Rebound Effect (MRE) occurs wherein our bodies’ metabolism of alcohol interrupts restorative sleep cycles.

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MRE amplifies our stress responsivity. We may feel anxious due to the inability to return to sleep. We also tend to experience heightened stress reactions in everyday life.

Action tip: Booze-free tonics can better aid in relaxation and sound sleep. A soothing cup of lemon balm tea or a few drops of valerian root tincture calms you without pesky side effects.

2. Your Brilliant Brain’s Muddled Mood

Funky moods mess up our energy. There’s a billion dollar “growth mindset” industry precisely because emotional energy directly affects our happiness, productivity, and success. But taking charge of our mindset isn’t just about rewiring our belief systems—it also requires emotional management. Dopamine and serotonin are two natural brain chemicals at the root of this.

Alcohol use for stress relief is tricky. It does initially cause a surge of these feel-good chemicals to flood the brain. This temporary sensation makes us feel like the alcohol has boosted our mood. But the brain quickly gets to work to rebalance these neurotransmitter levels, using a counterbalancing approach to return them to baseline. As a result, these chemical levels actually drop lower than they’d been before we had a drink. This process is not limited to heavy or problem drinkers; it occurs even with a single exposure to alcohol.[4]

Action tip: Use sustainable feel-good brain chemical boosters. Exercise, nature immersion, meditation, laughter, time with loved ones, and aromatherapy massage are just a few self-loving actions to support effective stress control and boost your energy.

3. Naturally Energizing Nutrients Are Depleted

One of the most essential nutrient groups our bodies need for energy and nervous system support is that of the B vitamins. Interestingly, they promote healthy levels of those feel-good brain chemicals, serotonin and dopamine.

The B vitamins also directly help convert food into energy for the body and brain. These water-soluble nutrients are not stored in the body. Therefore we need consistent consumption of them to maintain their benefits.

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Alcohol, however, impedes absorption and utilization of many nutrients (including B vitamins).

Action tip: Regularly restore B vitamin levels. Salmon, brown rice, spinach, eggs, lean beef, oysters, clams, beans (black, kidney, chickpeas), lentils, chicken, turkey, yogurt, and sunflower seeds are rich sources of these nutrients for natural energy boosting and stress control.

4. Compounding Problems Exacerbate Stress

Have you ever been late paying a bill? For whatever reason—unavailable funds, lost in the mail, etc. —your payment wasn’t delivered on time. Upon discovering this, did you try to save yourself from worry by throwing the notice in the trash? Or did you address it immediately in order to prevent potential fees, dings to your credit, and loss of service?

If you’re a fiscally responsible person, you likely took action right away no matter how frustrating it felt in the moment. The same applies to dealing with stress. It might feel like we’re conserving energy and boosting our mood by turning our thoughts away from stressful situations, but the fact is that ignoring our problems will not resolve them, and often makes them worse.

The only way out is through. This means we must face our obstacles head-on, from a place of emotional intelligence and maturity.

Action tip: Instead of heading for the wet bar, ask yourself, “What is one small action I can take right now to remediate this source of stress?”

In the bill example, even if you don’t have the money to pay it right away, other steps can be taken toward resolution. You might call the biller and request an extension or establish an installment plan to pay in bite-size segments.

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No matter the issue, breaking it down into smaller pieces and taking action on them individually can provide massive relief and help in navigating the next steps to reconcile the stressor for good.

5. Heightened Stress Response

We already discussed the “stress response dampening” effect caused by alcohol. Doesn’t that mean alcohol alleviates stress?

Remember, this calming effect is only temporary. In fact, alcohol literally rewires our brains, making them incapable of dealing with stress.[5]

Over time, the artificial “feel good” stimulation our brains receive from drinking makes us neurologically unable to experience pleasure from everyday activities we once enjoyed, like seeing a friend, reading a book, or even having sex. All of these, by the way, are effective stress control activities in themselves.[6] These effects are not limited to the time while we are drinking.

Just like with any drug, our brains build tolerance with repeated alcohol use. This is why you’ll notice that the 1-2 drinks which used to take the edge off eventually stop working. Over time, it’s common to gradually require 3, 4, or more cocktails in order to experience the same relaxing effect. Becoming aware of this escalation in ourselves can cause even more anxiety as we wonder, “Do I have a drinking problem?” Then comes the fear of shame and stigma. This is yet another way in which using alcohol backfires, causing more anxiety and draining our energy.

Action tip: Assess your habits and be honest with yourself. If you feel worried or anxious about your alcohol use, or the effects don’t feel as good as they once did, it may be time to make a change. Avoid “labeling” yourself — this perpetuates negativity and often prevents people from seeking answers and support. You don’t have to be an alcoholic to decide to change your relationship with alcohol.

Self Leadership Is the Solution

Avoiding our feelings is culturally popular and acceptable, but ineffective at relieving stress and usually involves practices that further deplete our mood and energy. Facing our emotions directly and deliberately allows us to achieve unfeigned stress relief. We’ll never eliminate stress completely—life inherently ebbs and flows—but armed with the knowledge and tools shared above, we can reclaim control of our energy and emotions to regain a happy, healthy life.

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It only takes a few simple shifts to show up for ourselves with habits that support us.

Featured photo credit: engin akyurt via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leah Borski

Certified NeuroHealth Coach, specializing in Stress Management and Integrative Wellness Lifestyle for Work-Life Balance

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Published on November 18, 2021

The Importance of a Healthy And Balanced Diet for Energy

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The Importance of a Healthy And Balanced Diet for Energy

Do you feel like you lack energy? Maybe you should start looking into what you eat. A healthy and balanced diet is crucial for everything in our lives. But oftentimes, people get consumed into the marketing of special “supplements,” energy drinks, powders, pills, and the list goes on and on. This happens to the point that we forget to go back to the basics—having a healthy and balanced diet.

Eating healthy is not about doing cleanses, starving ourselves, or even restricting food groups. It is not even about “dieting.” If all this sounds familiar—yet shocking—to you, it’s probably because you may need to start making some changes to your eating lifestyle. A healthy and balanced diet is the solution to more than 90% of health problems, especially energy-related ones.

Keep reading to learn more about the importance of a healthy and balanced diet for energy.

1. A Healthy and Balanced Diet Is Key to Boosting Your Metabolism

When you eat healthily, you’re nourishing your body with everything it needs. Your metabolism depends on all the necessary nutrients to be efficient. We all need enough amounts of protein, healthy fat, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and water. Without any of these elements, your body would not perform well. Whether you want to lose body fat or build muscle, you need to have a healthy and balanced diet.

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2. It Helps Improve Your Memory and Productivity

Studies show that when you have a healthy and balanced diet, your brain works better.[1] This is because you’re feeding your body with all the right nutrients including omega-3, which enhance memory and productivity. When you feel tired, especially at work or even after eating, it’s most likely because you’ve not been eating well or eating too much over-processed food. Eating healthily will also boost your creativity and make your ideas flow better.

3. It Helps You Have a Healthy Weight

This seems like a no-brainer, but again, common “dieting” trends have made people obsessed with extremes to achieve a healthy weight. You don’t have to do any “fad diets” to lose weight.[2] There’s no need to break the bank to eat healthily or even spend on expensive supplements. If you want to get a healthy weight, all you need to do is learn how to eat in a balanced, healthy way. Eat more whole foods from all food groups, and stay away from refined, overprocessed foods.

4. It Can Help With Your Fitness Goals

If you’ve been trying to get fit, get toned, and lose some body fat but keep struggling, take a closer look at your diet. Remember that fitness results are based on 80% healthy nutrition and 20% exercise.[3] When you eat healthily, your energy levels increase and so does your whole body composition. The first thing you need to focus on—before your weight—is improving your energy and metabolism, and the best way to achieve these is with balanced nutrition.

5. It Helps Improve Your Immune System

The thing about having more energy as your diet improves is that it directly affects your immune system as well. When you eat healthier food, you start feeling more energized and getting sick less often. Personally, I’ve experienced more wellness, and I hardly ever get sick. This includes the infamous flu. One of the best things is seeing how your body changes and that you don’t have to depend on medications or shots to stay healthy. If you’re looking to improve your immune system naturally, many foods can help boost your immune system.[4]

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6. It Can Help Save You From Unhealthy Food Cravings

Having a healthy and balanced diet helps reduce food cravings, especially sugar. Eating in a balanced way means that you’re including enough protein and fiber at each meal. Increasing protein in your diet is important not only to increase your energy and boost your metabolism but also to control cravings. Protein is actually the most satiating nutrient, besides fiber.[5] Having healthy fat foods like oils, nuts, seeds, and fruits like avocado will also help keep your blood sugar in check, reduce cravings and increase your energy.[6]

7. It Will Help You Save Money

If you have been spending tons of money on energy drinks to stack up for the day yet still feel awkward, then it’s time to change your eating habits. When you eat in a balanced way that embraces all food groups (AKA colorful plate), then your energy levels will increase. You won’t need to keep buying any more energy drinks or rely on coffee to boost your vitality. Always start with a great breakfast. Starting your day with a balanced meal is the best way to fuel up your body with all the energy you need. Quality whole foods are less expensive than investing in energy drinks and caffeine. By doing this simple change, you’ll notice a significant improvement in your budget.

8. It Can Help You Have Better Mood

Have you noticed how you have constant mood swings when your diet is full of junk food? Well, this has to do with the lack of essential nutrients and the excess of sugar, sodium, saturated fats, and additives. All these substances, especially refined sugars, cause your body to have constant energy crashes.[7] This is the reason why you often feel miserable and tired throughout the day. Start with an easy change, such as including more fruits and veggies, even in your snacks.

9. More Energy Means Better Workout Performance

When you’re heading to the gym, the first thing you usually think about to boost your energy is getting that supplement, those amino acids, or pre-workout shake mix. This is not altogether bad, but did you know that the quality of your diet throughout the day matters more than what you take during workouts? Yes, it’s the foods that we eat during the entire day that will make a huge difference. Therefore, instead of putting all the emphasis on your pre and post-workout snacks only, focus on eating quality meals throughout the day.

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Also, don’t rely on workouts to increase your energy. Remember that exercise is only a component of the whole package, so eat healthier meals, and train according to your goals. When you eat right, your energy levels will increase, which means that you won’t feel unnecessarily exhausted after working out.

10. It Can Help Enhance Your Sex Drive

Sexual health is often overlooked when touching on this topic about eating healthy. But besides the common myths and noise about the aphrodisiac foods that can improve your sex life, a healthy and balanced diet can actually impact your sex drive.[8] A healthier diet leads to a healthier body, thus more vitality to perform well in bed. So, if you need to spark up your energy during sex, start by making healthier food choices overall.

11. It Helps Improve Your Digestion

When your energy increases through balanced eating, it directly impacts your digestion as well. Having a healthy metabolism also helps in digesting and absorbing the nutrients from foods. You can see the difference in how you feel after eating. Notice if you constantly feel bloated, have constipation, and even indigestion. When you eat more healthily, you’ll see a change in your gut health for good. A lot of energy problems are related to a poor digestive system. Good fiber foods like fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts, and whole-grain cereals will help improve your digestion and give you more energy.

12. It Helps Protect You From Chronic Diseases

Reducing the risk of suffering from chronic diseases has been by far the biggest benefit of having a healthy and balanced diet. Simple wins, such as not relying on medications to feel well, not having to check in with the doctors regularly because of symptoms, or even saving on medical bills is what I call prevention. This is what I call quality of life.

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When you feel more energized because of a healthy and balanced diet, you are at less risk of suffering from chronic diseases. Problems like heart blood pressure, diabetes, gut issues, obesity, and even cancer are very common. The truth is that something as simple as having a healthier diet can help you avoid most of these problems. Therefore, a healthy and balanced diet for energy should be one of your top priorities if you want to stay away from chronic health issues and doctors.

Final Thoughts

A healthy and balanced diet can improve your life overall, not only your energy. You can have a better quality of life by simply including more whole foods rather than processed. Also, eating enough amounts of protein, healthy fats, fiber, and staying hydrated each meal will keep you energized and improve your mental health.

Quality nutrition is key, as lack of energy is often linked to stress, poor sleep patterns, and anxiety and metabolic dysfunctions. Make sure you include a variety of foods in your diet, and your life will change for the better!

More Tips on Leading a Healthy And Balanced Diet

Featured photo credit: Pablo Merchán Montes via unsplash.com

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Reference

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