Combatting low energy levels is a common theme for nursing students. The key to restoring your vitality and getting through the long hours is to get to the root of the problem. When you feel your internal battery losing charge, ask yourself these 5 following questions to diagnose the energy drainer and correct your course:
How’s my water intake?
Lack of energy is just one of many consequences resulting from dehydration. Lack of water slows blood flow from your organs to your brain, resulting in exhaustion and lack of focus. The formula for how much water one should consume for optimum efficiency is not exact; however, a good rule of thumb according to the Mayo Clinic is that on average women need 2.2 liters (about 9 glasses) and men need 3 liters (about 13 glasses) a day. These averages are net totals, meaning that the water lost during activities like exercise or caffeine consumption must be reimbursed and that the daily water consumption that day should be greater than the recommended amount.
Am I moving around enough?
Fatigue can actually be caused by lack of movement! Your muscles store energy. When you use your muscles, that energy is released in your body. Although you may feel too tired after studying to exercise, push through the weariness and move in order to gain energy. Twenty to thirty minutes of exercise each day optimizes your energy levels, but even a quick brisk walk or doing a few jumping jacks will get your blood pumping and energy levels rising.
Do I need caffeine or sleep?
Four cups of coffee can compensate for four hours of missed sleep, right? WRONG. Replacing caffeine with sleep confuses your body and isn’t sustainable as a long-term solution. When you consecutively miss sleep, you obscure your natural sleep cycle, which is unhealthy for cognitive and physical development. Caffeine only provides the illusion of energy, as it dilates your pupils, quickens your heart rate and raises blood pressure. Caffeine is a supplement, not a substitute for sleep! If your energy levels are dropping, put down the energy drink and opt for a 20-minute power nap instead.
Am I eating right?
Eating enough to feed your body and your brain is key to a productive day. Federal guidelines suggest the average person needs 2,000 net calories per day for optimum performance. If you consume too few calories, your body can go into starvation mode, which slows your metabolism and depreciates energy levels. Waiting long periods of time in between meals also takes a toll on your energy as your body tries to conserve energy due to lack of nutrients. Try eating small meals every 2 to 3 hours to increase your metabolism and make sure that you’re consuming the correct portions of grains, vegetables, fruits, fat, dairy and protein. For a visual take on the New Food Pyramid, click here.
If after this series of questions your exhaustion persists for no known reason, ask yourself one final question:
Why am I still awake?
Unless the answer is “Because I’m driving” or “I’m in class,” stop what you’re doing and take a power nap! Most of the time, the solution is that simple.