Living in slow-motion? 5 ways to pick up your pace

You can blame some of your energy crisis on a serious lack of shut-eye, but there may be other reasons you're slogging along like a turtle. Find out what's fueling your fatigue and how to light a fire under your butt. Head over to for the complete list.

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1. ENERGY SAPPER: Your Breakfast Menu

Missing a morning meal slows metabolism and depletes your body of the fuel it needs to function optimally, explains self contributing editor Joy Bauer, R.D. But what you eat matters as much as the fact that you eat something. Carbohydrates--as in a breakfast muffin or pastry--signal the brain to release serotonin, a neurotransmitter that brings on calm when you most want to be up and at 'em. Also, your body digests simple, unrefined carbs quickly, sending blood sugar soaring and then plummeting, resulting in an energy crash, Bauer says.


Start each day with a breakfast that contains at least 5 grams of protein. This nutrient activates the production of norepinephrine, a neurochemical that increases heart rate and alertness. Unlike carbs, protein digests slowly so blood sugar and energy levels stay stable. Some tasty recipes: a cup of cereal (with 3 g or more of fiber, no more than 120 calories per serving) topped with skim milk, 1/2 cup of blueberries and 1 tablespoon of chopped walnuts (10 g of protein per serving), or an omelet made with 4 egg whites, 1/2 cup of chopped broccoli, 1/4 cup of chopped onion and 1 ounce of lowfat shredded cheese (22 g of protein per serving).

Start your morning off right with this delicious recipe from SELF: Veggie Scrambled Eggs.

2. ENERGY SAPPER: Your Outfit

Those killer heels and pencil skirts may look polished and professional, but if you're sacrificing comfort for fashion, they can also turn you into the office sloth. Workers took an average of 491 fewer steps on days they wore more formal business attire compared with dress-down days, according to research commissioned by the American Council on Exercise in San Diego. And using less energy leads to having less energy, says Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief science officer with ACE: "Sitting at your desk all day slows circulation, so less energizing oxygen is delivered to cells throughout your body."


Wear clothes that allow for movement and cushy footwear instead of uncomfortable heels to the office so you'll be more likely to walk around. If you can't part with your stilettos, keep them on at work, then slip into flats or low-heeled shoes for a lunch-break walk outdoors and your commute. Today, companies such as Cole Haan and Aerosoles offer fashionable flats and kitten heels that won't make you look like a secretary circa 1987.

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3. ENERGY SAPPER: Your Caffeine Habit

Going on a Starbucks run at 3 P.M. can help carry you through the rest of your day, and unfortunately, well into the night. "Caffeine can stay in your system for up to eight hours or even more, so drinking coffee too late in the afternoon may disrupt your slumber, stealing the rest you need for next-day stamina," Bauer says.


Limit coffee consumption to two or three 8-ounce cups a day (about 200 or 300 milligrams of caffeine) to avoid overload and subsequent headaches and jitters, and cut out the upper about eight hours before bedtime. Still sleepy in the afternoon? Have an energizing high-protein snack; a handful of almonds will do it.

4. ENERGY SAPPER: Your Worrying

Credit card debt, a micromanaging boss' long-term stressors such as these can leave you spent. "Chronic stress increases heart rate and blood pressure, making your body work overtime," explains Nieca Goldberg, M.D., director of the New York University Langone Medical Center Women's Heart Program in New York City. "When you're on edge, you also tend to tighten your muscles, which sets you up for aches and fatigue." What's more, worriers often take shallow breaths, so they don't take in enough oxygen, Dr. Goldberg says. "You're essentially hyperventilating and building up carbon dioxide in your blood, a waste product that can make you feel tired and dizzy."


When anxiety strikes, take three slow, deep breaths to give your body a big dose of energizing oxygen while slowing down a rapid heart rate. Then, as soon as you have a few minutes of downtime, do something distracting that feels good, like talking to a friend or watching a funny movie. And always pay attention to how you talk about things, which has a direct impact on your mind-set, explains Linda Sapadin, Ph.D., author of Master Your Fears (Wiley). "Worriers tend to say 'I'll never' or 'I can't,' such as 'I can't get out of debt,'" Sapadin says. She suggests countering negative sentiments by tacking on a positive phrase at the end. For instance, say, "I can't get out of debt right now, but I can research credit cards with better interest rates."

Manage your life better: Learn how to make the best of your time at work by decreasing stress and getting the benefits you deserve.

5. ENERGY SAPPER: Your Messy Desk

Digging through piles of unorganized paperwork is a time and energy stealer in and of itself, but merely the sight of those stacks can stress you out, decrease efficiency and drain your brain, says Carol Landau, Ph.D., clinical professor of psychiatry and medicine at Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island.


"A little disarray is OK, but in general, your desk should hold only items that you use very frequently--your computer or stapler--and the paperwork you're working on that day," notes Laura Stack, author of The Exhaustion Cure (Random House). Nonessential items--a labeler and a three-hole punch--can go in a drawer. To keep your desk clear, spend five minutes at the end of each day putting documents you're working on in a neat pile and filing away the rest. "Prepping your workspace for the next day gives you a sense of completion that instantly reduces stress, which is crippling to your energy levels," says Steven Berglas, Ph.D., author of Reclaiming the Fire: How Successful People Overcome Burnout (Random House).

Continue reading this article: 5 more reasons why you may be moving like a snail.

By Rachel Grumman

[photo credit: Getty Images]