Home to airport, airport to home, home to airport, airport to home… sound familiar? Living between two (or three!) countries is great fun, but it also has its downsides. For me, the biggest by far is the constant (air) travel. Combined with the seemingly endless to-do lists most PhD students will be familiar with, it sometimes means that all I have energy for come evening is sofa, Netflix and social media.
And it’s clear that I’m not alone. In January, magazines, blogs and podcasts are full of advice on how to be more efficient, feel more energetic and generally rock it in the new year. Many of the tips seem to make sense on intuitive level, but few are backed up with scientific evidence.
There’s a reason for that, I soon found out, as I started digging deeper in search of scientific proof (this is what working in academia will do to you). Reliable information on the topic is not easy to come by. Most of the articles I found on the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, my go-to source for trustworthy medical information, predictably focus on fatigue as a medical problem, rather than on the “normal” lack of energy that all of us experience from time to time.
Moreover, even when tiredness is not a symptom of a certain illness or condition (such as anemia or pregnancy), it can have many different causes, and what benefits one person might not work for another. For instance, a tip I came across quite often was to limit the consumption of alcohol – great advice for sure, but not really applicable to those of us who don’t drink any to begin with.
After spending hours googling and skimming through medical journals and psychological databases, I did manage to narrow the sea of advice down to three evidence-based tips that not only have scientific evidence backing them up but also seemed uncomplicated enough for me to try out immediately.
[Just to state the obvious, I have no medical training and this blog post is NOT (and is not intended as) medical advice. For trustworthy medical information and guidance, contact a healthcare professional.]
So, here we go..
Three tried & tested easy ways to feel more energetic in 2018
1. Drink more water
This is probably the most important tip for me. Not surprisingly for someone who was born in Russia and lives in England (two countries famous for their love of chai), I drink tea all day every day. But, at least when it comes to energy levels, tea is no substitute for water: tiredness is often a sign of dehydration, and caffeinated drinks can actually make it worse.
So, in a bid to improve our water-drinking habits, we’ve bough a water filtering system for our London flat. I’ve also set up reminders on my phone to make sure I opt for a glass of pure cold water more often. Can you think of any other concrete steps we can take?
2. Go for a walk
Studies have found a clear connection between walking and increased energy levels (as well as a range of other health benefits). This is great news for me, as I love walking! What’s best, research suggests that even a ten-minute stroll can help keep tiredness at bay.
3. Practice sleep hygiene
This one kind of goes without saying, right? Yet it’s probably the most difficult one to adhere to. We all know that lack of sleep can lead to several problems, of which tiredness is but one, and that what counts is not just the amount but also the quality of sleep. Yet many of us suffer from what has been described as ‘catastrophic lack of sleep’ (click for source).
The advice given to improve the situation can sometimes be conflicting: for instance, I’ve found some reliable sources that say napping during the daytime is OK, while others discourage it. However, there are some tips most seem to agree on: maintaining consistent sleep schedule, limiting the use of digital devices before bedtime, and sleep-proofing ones bedroom – in short, practicing good sleep hygiene.
In addition to these three evidence-based measures, I’ve also adopted a couple of other suggestions I found during my research – I’ll present them in another post very soon. But before that, let me know: Have you tried any of these tips, or do they come to you automatically? Do you know of other tried-and-tested measures that can help people feel more energetic, easily? Please leave a comment below!
Gloady, R. (2006). Walk Your Way to More Energy
National Health Service
National Sleep Foundation
Russell, K. (2017). Is prioritising sleep the first step in academic self-care? Tips for getting a good night’s sleep during postgraduate study. PsyPAG Quarterly, issue 105