The mid-afternoon slump hits when your energy supply is exhausted and your tank is on empty. The activity of the day has begun to wane, along with your enthusiasm, vitality, and drive. The quick and easy fix for this decline in energy often comes in the form of a snack loaded with sugar or caffeine. A candy bar or espresso provide just enough juice to help you make it through the day. But this approach often results in soaring blood sugar levels—and the inevitable sugar crash; a short-lived, imbalanced energy spike; or jitters brought on by over-stimulating the nervous system.
The good news is that you can get the same results by using a more holistic mind-body approach. Long before society became largely motivated by convenience, traditional wisdom cultures practiced methods for creating, harnessing, and maintaining vital energy within the body using simple and natural remedies. These practices leveraged a deep understanding of what the body needs to stay in a state of optimum health and balance. Fortunately, these methods are simple, effective, and as relevant now as they were hundreds or thousands of years ago. Let’s explore some of these practices and see how you can incorporate them into your daily routine.
1. Move Your Body
Your body is designed to move and be active. You’re meant to walk, run, bend, twist, extend, reach, jump, and squat. It’s only been in recent history that people have become more and more sedentary. Spending large portions of the day sitting not only contributes to serious health conditions, but it also robs you of energy.
One of the surest and fastest ways to increase your energy is to simply get up and move. No matter what activity you choose—walking, light mobility or calisthenics, dancing, bodyweight exercises, a light jog, or moving your body through a yoga sequence—your energy levels will increase from even the slightest amount of physical activity. As you get up and move, your heart pumps harder and faster, recirculating the blood that was pooling in your lower extremities. This helps to carry more oxygen through your system and to your brain, helping you feel an increase in awareness and energy. The movement of your arms and legs also increases the circulation of lymph, hormones, and neurotransmitters throughout your body, regulating and balancing your mind-body system and further enhancing your energetic output. For an excellent and quick series of yoga poses that help to nourish and energize the entire physiology, try sun salutations or Surya Namaskar.
2. Breathe Deep
The next time it feels like you’re running on empty, notice your breathing. Chances are your breathing will be slow and shallow. This is due to the fact that you consume less oxygen as your mind and body become tired and dull. But just as the state of your mind and body can influence your breathing, your breathing can conversely influence the state of your body and mind. Therefore, if slow and shallow breathing is a byproduct of low mind-body energy, rapid and deep breathing can swing your energy gauge in the opposite direction.
When you breathe deeply, you use your lungs to their full capacity, taking in approximately 5,000 milliliters of air with every inhalation. By comparison, shallow breathing draws in only 500 milliliters. That extra air not only contains oxygen, but also Prana, a Sanskrit term for the vital life force that animates all living things. An ancient art in and of itself, Pranayama, or the control and governance of life force through the breath, is an extremely powerful tool for the optimization of mind-body energy.
You don’t have to be a trained yogi to benefit from this. Simply take full, deep breaths whenever you feel low on energy and notice how even just a few minutes of practice will help you to feel more awake. For an effective Pranayama exercise to boost your energy, try the Bhastrika Breath.
3. Get Outdoors
For many, the workplace is a very controlled, confined, and artificial environment. Florescent lighting, air conditioning, cramped cubicles, and dull colors can make for a dreary and heavy office. These conditions not only affect your mood, but they can severely deplete your energy reserves.
The ancient wisdom traditions knew little of this lifestyle. Our ancestors, of even just a few generations ago, spent a large portion of their time outdoors, embracing nature. Getting outside can have an almost instantaneous effect on mood and vitality in several key ways. First, it exposes you to the boundless energy of the natural world. There is no shortage of energy in nature. Feeling the sun on your face is just one way to draw in some of the vital energy that comes from your environment. It also gives you the opportunity to embrace the rich colors and textures of nature. Especially in the more vibrant reds, blues, and greens of the natural world you’re able to absorb some of the visual energy that radiates in all directions. Finally, a natural environment provides a wonderful setting to practice the earlier suggestions of moving your body and breathing deeply. Even if it’s just a quick 5- to 7-minute walk, stretch, or Pranayama session, the benefits to your energy will be enhanced tenfold by doing it outside and in a natural environment.
4. Perform Self-Massage
Your skin, rather than being a static boundary between your inner and external worlds, is a dynamic, two-way, nerve-rich sensor of the environment. It’s perpetually sending you messages about the state of your surroundings in the form or temperature, texture, and pressure.
In addition to being a doorway to the outer world, the skin also serves as a gateway to an inner pharmacy that, when activated, can release hidden stores of energy and vitality. This energy can be awakened through a self-massage, known in Ayurveda as Abhyanga. Traditionally, this massage is performed with herbalized oil, but for the sake of workplace convenience, you can forgo the oil and perform a dry massage on areas such as the head, scalp, face, neck, shoulders, arms, and legs. As you massage your body, the skin releases health-promoting chemicals, improves circulation, and increases alertness. Not to mention, it just feels good. The release of these healing chemicals helps to counteract the effect of sitting still and helps to reenergize your entire system.
The next time you feel low on gas, take 4 to 5 minutes and give yourself a vigorous mini massage. The boost in energy will hopefully entice you to make it a regular part of your day.
5. Listen to Stimulating Music or Primordial Sounds
Wherever you are, you are constantly receiving vibrational energy in the form of sound. These sounds, depending on their frequency, tempo, and rhythm can either relax and soothe your mind-body system or enliven and energize it. Imagine the way your body and mind react to the sound of softly lapping waves on a quiet beach. Contrast that to the way you respond to the cadence of a marching band during a football halftime show.
You can harness the power of sound to give yourself a needed boost whenever you find yourself in a slump. For example, if you have access to headphones or earbuds, take advantage of recorded or streaming music to deliver invigorating songs that uplift you. Choose up-tempo music with a catchy beat that’s easy to follow and let yourself get into the music. If the mood catches you, let loose with an air guitar or drum solo to move your body to the beat.
In addition, you can utilize the vibrational power of primordial sounds to enliven your energy. One sound in particular, “UU-AH-EE-MM” creates an energizing and wakeful vibration in the body and mind. Practice by chanting either silently or aloud and become aware of how your body responds to the vibration.
The next time you find yourself in a mind-body energy deficit, try one or all of these easy and natural remedies. Hopefully, they’ll give you just the boost you’re looking for.
Energize yourself and tune into the energy centers of the body with Spiritual Energy: Harnessing the Power of the Cosmos, a four-part series with Roger Gabriel, available now on the Chopra App.