7 Everyday Things That Drain Your Energy Levels
From a messy desk to "toxic" friends, these surprising energy drainers may be making you tired.
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There are everyday habits that drain your energy beyond just obvious ones, like a lack of sleep or a stressful day at work. There are things you do (and those that you don’t) that can affect your energy levels throughout the day. So, what’s constantly zapping your energy?
To find out, we talked with two medical experts about the most common energy-draining habits and how to break them.
Your messy desk
Heaping piles of paper and junk—either on your desk or anywhere in your home—can shift your brain into overdrive and overload. In a 2011 study in The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute asked volunteers to focus on one object and then moved another object into their view. When object number two appeared, the investigators noticed a fuzzy version of that item pop up in the participants’ brain scans. Their conclusion: The more clutter in your living or working space, the more difficult it is for your brain to concentrate, causing it to tire over time.
This theory applies to the kitchen too. A study published in 2016 in Environment and Behavior suggests that a disorganized kitchen can add to stress levels and lead to unhealthy, high-calorie food choices. (These are the daily habits of naturally energetic people.)
Guzzling energy drinks
The belief is energy drinks are supposed to spike energy levels, but one expert says not quite. “Watch out for energy ‘loan shark’ drinks, including soda and fruit juices, because they are loaded with sugar,” says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. “While they provide a quick energy boost, they take away twice as much by causing a drop in your blood sugar.” In fact, a 2019 study published in Clinical Interventions in Aging, suggests a link between excessive sugar consumption and poor cognitive function in older adults.
The way you walk
Body posture can have a direct effect on your stamina, as well as your feelings. A 2016 study published in the journal Biofeedback, showed not only how changes in posture can affect thoughts, emotions, and energy levels, but also how the reverse is true: energy levels, emotions, and thoughts affect posture. “The reason for this is not well understood,” says Albert Wu, MD, director of the Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore. “Posture causes changes in the autonomic nervous system, which controls bodily functions that are not consciously directed, such as breathing, heartbeat, and digestion. These, in turn, can affect reaction time, attention, working speed, cognitive functioning.” Try these tricks to boost energy at work.
Not sipping enough H2O
Being even a little thirsty can alter your energy levels and emotions. In fact, when dehydration reduces body mass by more than two percent, mood is influenced, fatigue is greater, and alertness takes a nosedive, according to a 2015 review of research published in Nutrition Reviews. “In severe dehydration, there is decreased blood flow to the brain,” says Dr. Wu. “But in general, the effect may be a kind of warning system that there is a problem.” To stay hydrated, Dr. Wu recommends drinking eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses of water a day. Check out these 7 signs and symptoms of dehydration.
A lack of this vitamin and mineral combo
“Not getting enough energy-making vitamins and minerals—especially B vitamins and magnesium—is a key energy zapper,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. One study published in 2018 in PLoS One found that extremely stressed adults who took a combination of magnesium and B6 had a 24% great improvement in stress than those who took magnesium alone. (These eating habits can also give you more energy.)
Working out too much
Exercise is a surefire way to boost energy levels (along with mood and overall health). However, too many hours of pounding the pavement or running on the treadmill can backfire. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows that doing more than moderate exercise may undo the benefits of exercise. The researchers found that light and moderate joggers have a lower mortality than sedentary non-joggers, whereas strenuous joggers have a mortality rate not statistically different from that of the sedentary group. Here are 10 running mistakes you didn’t know you were making.
The people in your inner circle
Toxic friends can be exhausting. “Friends and colleagues who are ‘energy vampires’ leave you feeling emotionally drained after speaking with them,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. And according to research, including a 2016 study published in PLoS One, people tend to unconsciously mimic others’ facial expressions to create the same emotions—whether positive or negative—within themselves. “So if being around someone feels bad, the healthy answer is usually saying ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’,” adds Dr. Teitelbaum. Check out these natural energy boosters.
- Harvard Business Review: "The Case for Finally Cleaning Your Desk"
- Environment and Behavior: "Clutter, Chaos, and Overconsumption: The Role of Mind-Set in Stressful and Chaotic Food Environments"
- Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution
- Clinical Interventions in Aging: "Habitual sugar intake and cognitive impairment among multi-ethnic Malaysian older adults"
- Biofeedback: "Increase Strength and Mood with Posture"
- Albert Wu, MD, director of the Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: "Physiology, Autonomic Nervous System"
- Nutrition Reviews: "Do small differences in hydration status affect mood and mental performance?"
- PLoS One: "Superiority of magnesium and vitamin B6 over magnesium alone on severe stress in healthy adults with low magnesemia: A randomized, single-blind clinical trial"
- Journal of the American College of Cardiology: "Dose of Jogging and Long-Term Mortality: The Copenhagen City Heart Study"
- PLoS One: "Spontaneous Facial Mimicry Is Enhanced by the Goal of Inferring Emotional States: Evidence for Moderation of “Automatic” Mimicry by Higher Cognitive Processes"