By Nancy Rones, REDBOOK
Every day, 2.2 million Americans complain of being tired. Most of us chalk it up to having too much to do and not enough time to do it in, especially during extra-busy periods. But often the true culprits are our everyday habits: what we eat, how we sleep, and how we cope emotionally. Read on for some simple, recharging changes that can help you tackle all of the energy stealers in your life.
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1. Have breakfast... even if you don't feel hungry. You'll be a lot perkier: Studies show that people who eat breakfast feel better both mentally and physically than those who skip their morning meal. British researchers at Cardiff University even found that spooning up a bowl of breakfast cereal every morning is associated with lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
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2. Stay hydrated. Water makes up the majority of your blood and other body fluids, and even mild dehydration can cause blood to thicken, forcing the heart to pump harder to carry blood to your cells and organs and resulting in fatigue. Also, ample fluids keep energy-fueling nutrients flowing throughout the body, says Nancy Clark, R.D., author of Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook. To gauge your hydration, Clark recommends monitoring how often you urinate. You should be going every two to four hours, and your urine should be clear or pale yellow in color.
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3. Suit up in a "power" outfit to beat the blahs. Fight the tendency to throw on sweats when you're feeling sluggish. While it may seem counterintuitive to slip into the skirt you save for special occasions, it helps to look in the mirror and see an energizing image-not a deflating one that confirms and reinforces your internal state, says Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., founder and executive director of the Domar Center for Complementary Healthcare in Waltham, MA. Dressing for success will give you a big mental boost every time you catch sight of your reflection (or receive a compliment) throughout the day.
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4. Hide your alarm clock. Watching the clock to see how long it's taking you to drift off or how much time you have left before your alarm goes off can result in a poor night's sleep, says Kelly A. Carden, M.D., medical director of the Sleep HealthCenter Affiliated with Hallmark Health at Medford in Medford, MA. This hypervigilance keeps the brain awake and alert and prevents you from slipping into deep, restorative sleep. The easy fix: Set your alarm clock, then either face the numbers away from you or put it on the floor, in a drawer, or across the room.
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5. Follow the 15-minute rule. If you can't fall asleep, or if you wake up and can't get back to sleep within about 15 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing that will help clear your head, such as reading, meditating, or knitting (but not watching TV or surfing the Web). Then, once you feel sleepy again, go back to bed. If you stay put and fret about being awake, you'll only make yourself more anxious-and less likely to catch the z's you need.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.