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Steps to jump-start your energy level

Dear Readers:

Last week’s column addressed the relationship between aging and having less energy. The topic emerged from conversations with several women about the joy and work associated with celebrating Easter and Passover. All declared they were “exhausted.”

There is good news. As we age, fatigue and energy loss are not life sentences.

A Harvard Medical School Special Health Report on “Boosting Your Energy” describes “A 7-Step Plan to Jump-Start Your Natural Energy” for all ages.

Step 1: Set goals – determine where to expend your energy. Setting goals can be a motivator. Ask yourself why you want more energy. Is it to just feel better? Is there something you are doing that would be more enjoyable with more energy?

Write down priorities so you can direct energy into activities that mean the most.

Step 2: Control stress. According to the report, stress is the most common cause of persistent fatigue. The response to stress is the problem. Some individuals are better at handling it than others.

Consider the following as stress reducers: talking to a friend or therapist; joining a support group; using relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, tai chi and massage; and writing your feelings in a journal.

Note, centenarians are known to be natural stress shedders .

Step 3: Decrease your load. Overwork is one of the main reasons for fatigue. The heavy load may include obligations that are professional, family related or social.

Saying “no” can be difficult. But we don’t have to accept every volunteer work opportunity or social invitation. The key is to streamline and simplify the “must do” activities.

Overload from work is a challenge, particularly in the current environment of layoffs and furloughs. Perhaps the best one can do is to be efficient and ask for temporary assistance.

Social and volunteer commitments may need to decrease, upsetting the semblance of a balance in life. Hopefully, if the imbalance occurs, it will be temporary.

Step 4: Get regular exercise. Sometimes the last thing we feel like doing when exhausted is exercising. Yet that’s exactly what we need.

Exercise increases our body’s capacity to make fuel. When we use our muscles, more mitochondria, which are energy producing, form in the muscle cells. Therefore, muscles have more energy to burn.

Also, exercise creates more capillaries, the tiny blood vessels that carry oxygen to the cells. When we breathe deeply and our heart rate increases, more oxygen gets circulated.

Finally, with a workout, our body releases epinephrine and norepinephrine. In small amounts when created by exercise, these stress hormones make us feel more energized.

Step 5: Improve sleep. Suffering from a sleep disorder such as apnea requires medical care. For most others who don’t sleep well, changing lifestyle habits can help.

First, avoid smoking. Nicotine is a stimulant to the nervous system, increasing heart rate, raising blood pressure and stimulating brain activity associated with wakefulness, making it harder to fall asleep.

Second, consider exercise. According to the report, “exercise is the only proven way to increase the amount of time in deep sleep, the type of sleep which restores energy.”

Third, keep the bedroom as a sleep environment, “for sleeping or sex.” And go to bed when you are tired. Get up if you can’t sleep rather than tossing and turning and worrying that you are not asleep.

Finally, if all else fails, speak to your doctor about sleep medications. Know that some medications cause dependency; others may leave you groggy the next morning.

Next week, we’ll address the sixth and seventh steps to boost your energy. If you are concerned about not having enough “oomph,” try working on the first five steps of the “jump-start” plan.

For classes on stress reduction and exercise, contact the Beach Cities Health District at 310-374-3426, Ext. 126; Torrance Memorial Medical Center’s Advantage Program at 310-517-4666; or the YMCA.


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