America is a nation of coffee drinkers. In spite of the inroads that regular and herbal teas are making, most of us start the day with a cup of coffee and continue to drink it until we go to bed. This may be why America is also a nation of insomniacs who need more and more “sleep aids” to go to sleep.
If you’d like to ramp down on your coffee consumption, but wonder how you’ll make it through the ten o’clock, one o’clock or three o’clock slump, here are some alternatives that will increase your energy without turning you into a bundle of nerves.
One thing that many people don’t realize is that your energy level in the afternoon is deeply affected by what you fuel your body with in the morning. Eating something in the morning is what revs up your metabolism and wakes you up.
Sure, a cup of coffee will wake you up and it even contains some antioxidants, but it doesn’t do anything to nurture or sustain your body. Worse yet, when the caffeine buzz wears off, you’re faced with a slump that makes you feel even tireder than you did before.
So go ahead and enjoy your morning cup of coffee, but have something with it. Whole grain toast is nutritious and supplies B vitamins for energy. Spread a little peanut butter on it, add a small dollop of organic blueberry jam and you have antioxidants and something sweet that’s actually good for you.
If even toast is too much of a hassle when you’re still bleary-eyed, grab a banana or an energy bar or even some cold pizza from the night before. Make some muffins and pop them into the freezer, so you can nuke one in the morning or leave it out the night before to defrost.
But what about that mid-morning or after-lunch slump, you say? When your chin hits your desk or steering wheel and you still have ten pages to type or your daughter’s soccer practice to drive to? There are better ways to stoke your energy fires than with a latte.
Sip some green tea, which has less caffeine than coffee, more antioxidants and l-theanine, which calms you down without making you drowsy. And while you sip, munch on some protein like a few almonds or cottage cheese. Nibble a few black olives for the omega oils they contain. Put a pinch of ginger in your tea or eat some candied ginger.
One of the most effective, but little-used ways to revive your flagging energy, is with scent. If you’re at home, light a stick of incense like sandalwood or jasmine – both guaranteed to stimulate your senses and make your brain come alive.
Or sniff some Rosemary essential oil. Rosemary is the herb of remembrance for good reason. The pungent, pine-like smell sharpens your senses and opens your eyes. Peppermint, spearmint and cinnamon are also good wake-up calls for your nose. (Put a cinnamon stick in regular or herbal tea and double the effect of both.)
Exercise is good for that afternoon slump too, as is fresh air and sunshine. With all the emphasis on avoiding the sun to prevent skin cancer, I think we’ve become too solar-phobic. After all, life on this planet, including human life, depends on the sun. Without it, we’d die.
The sun helps our bodies manufacture Vitamin D, which energizes our bodies and strengthens our immune system. Catch some rays at lunch with a short walk and feel your body respond to the light and warmth with renewed energy and stamina.
Whatever you do, stop drinking coffee at lunchtime, especially if you have trouble falling asleep. Too little sleep leads to tiredness the next day which leads to increased caffeine consumption which leads to too little sleep … Obviously not a cycle you want to fall into.
If you’re already in it, cut back slowly on your coffee consumption, starting with the cup you drink at the latest point in the day. Then cut back from there, day by day, until you reach the point where you’re only drinking two cups.
If you’re still having energy/sleep problems, you might have to consider the fact that caffeine is a problem for you. Some people are sensitive to it and need to avoid it entirely. If that’s you, switch to decaf and herbal teas, plain water or juice mixed with seltzer to cut calories and sugar.
Running on empty is no fun. If all of the above tactics still don’t have your motor revving, see your doctor to rule out thyroid problems or another reason for your lack of pizazz. It’s bad enough that the world is facing an energy crisis. Don’t let low energy turn into a personal crisis too.