As fall progresses into winter, the days will continue to get shorter and shorter. For many people, work, athleticism and everyday activities become more difficult to accomplish because of the lack of light outside. However, work and life don’t stop simply because the sun isn’t out to greet us in the morning or when we return home from work.
Keeping your energy up during fall and winter can be a real challenge. You might be tempted to guzzle more coffee or caffeinated sodas, munch on a sugary treat or load up on energy drinks to stay alert, but these things not only cause major energy crashes later on, but can also be detrimental to your health.
Fortunately, all hope is not lost! There are many natural methods you can put into action every day to keep your energy high, even when the sun is not. Incorporating a few of these methods into your everyday life can also improve your general wellbeing, mood and more all year long.
How shorter days affect your energy levels
It’s normal for people to recognize that they feel more sluggish when the days get shorter and darker, but understanding why this happens can help you combat fatigue more easily.
The body operates on 24-hour cycles called circadian rhythms. These cycles control all aspects of your body, including sleep, heart rate, hunger and more. Unfortunately, these body clocks tend to run in accordance with the average day, meaning the change in light can throw these cycles out of whack.
One major component of the body that is run by circadian rhythms is the production of melatonin, a hormone released by the brain that activates your need for sleep. In the presence of daylight, melatonin production is stalled, helping us stay alert until nightfall. However, when the sun sets earlier and earlier each day, it can lead to melatonin production at odd times and contribute to you feeling tired during the day.
When you start to feel tired, it’s also easier to let bad habits sneak in. If you’re feeling sluggish, you might begin to skip your daily workouts, binge-watch Netflix too often each day and cook less and eat more junk food. All of these things can contribute to even less energy, more health problems and worse moods, creating a vicious cycle of fatigue until winter is finally over.
In order to make a change, you’ll need to take action right away and commit to improving your energy levels every day.
Methods for keeping your energy high
There are many ways to keep energy levels up when the sun doesn’t come out as often. Each of these can be used year-round to boost your wellness, as well.
- Stay hydrated: Water is at the root of everything in your body, and without enough of it, your body will begin to shut down. Dehydration can make you feel physically tired and reduce your ability to focus, remember things and operate efficiently. Sipping on water all day can keep your mood up and energy levels higher.
- Eat healthy snacks: If you’re going to do things, you need to fuel your body appropriately. Junk food and added sugars make the body sluggish and fatigued because they don’t provide the nutrients your body requires to work at peak performance. Start your day off with a healthy, balanced breakfast, and follow it later in the day with a hearty lunch and healthy snacks. Taking bites of a granola bar, fruit and veggies during the day will continue to give your body the complex carbohydrates and other nutrients it needs to produce energy.
- Exercise: It can be tough to get off the couch when it’s dark outside and you feel exhausted, but exercise can actually help energize you. Merely taking a 10-minute walk can get your blood pumping and your mind activated, and more complex workouts can help your brain release feel-good, energy-boosting hormones and adrenaline. You’ll probably be surprised that, even though you didn’t want to go for a run because you were feeling sleepy, you feel better and more energized after it’s over.
- Take adaptogens: Special herbs called adaptogens help your body cope with stress (which can make you feel more tired, too!) can and boost your energy. Asian Panax ginseng is one of many adaptogenic herbs that can keep your energy up when the fall and winter blues have you feeling down.
- Sleep steadily: Mid-day naps become more common when the sun goes down early, and sleep schedules often get disrupted because of them and the outside changes. Instead, try to stick to a steady sleep schedule in which you go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. This can help regulate your circadian rhythms and keep you in a routine.
- Get up and moving during the day: Sitting at a desk all day, away from windows, can get you into a slump fast. When you’re feeling sluggish, take frequent breaks to walk around, and make sure to head outside to soak up some sun while it’s still out. Getting some rays can improve your vitamin D intake (which is necessary for energy), help you feel better, and remind your body that it’s not yet time to go to sleep.
Everyone falls into a fall and winter-time slump once in a while. The important thing is to not let yourself fall into a cycle of bad habits that only make you feel more tired. Sticking to your regular sleeping and exercise routine, eating healthier and ensuring your body is getting the nutrients it needs—especially vitamin D—is critical to maintaining high energy while the sun is low.