Membership & Fellowship: 4 Daily Rituals to Maximize Your Energy

American culture is notorious for its infatuation with the daily grind. In 2016, the US workforce clocked roughly 25% more hours toiling away than those laboring in European countries. In the medical community, schedules are even more demanding: per a study conducted by the American Medical Association, over 40% of physicians across all age groups put in at least 50 hours or more during a standard workweek.

Since most of us need to keep this schedule up for a good three or four decades until retirement, fatigue is almost inevitable. Many people just tread water, barely staying afloat as they trudge through each day in an exhausted haze—but you can choose a different fate.

In this edition of the ACOG Member Insurance Program's work-life balance series, we'll cover four simple rituals you can incorporate into your life to help you attack each day head-on.

Water Your Weariness

If your morning routine doesn't include gulping down at least one big glass of water (preferably two), you're missing an easy opportunity to rev up your body for the day ahead.

Say you sleep seven hours each night. That means in every 24-hour period, your body goes over 400 minutes straight without taking in any liquids (despite continuing to use water while you're away in dreamland). Because of this, we're often at our most dehydrated upon waking.

Water is human gasoline, fueling digestive functions, cell regeneration, hormone creation, temperature regulation, and just about everything else. It's also one of your best defenses against headaches—the majority of your brain tissue is made of water, and when the tissue starts to dry out, throbbing pain kicks in.

So, tomorrow, when you clamber out of bed, try downing a hearty glass of water before doing anything else. It might be just what your body needs to prepare for the day ahead.

Loosen Your Ligaments

Here's another pro strategy for wringing extra energy out of your day: spend a few meager minutes doing basic body stretches within your first waking hour.

After laying down for several hours straight, our bodies tend to contort and tighten. Stretching helps wake our muscles and joints by increasing blood flow to the body (including our brain!), while also reducing aches and pains throughout the day.

Simple yoga moves can be fantastic building blocks for increasing circulation and energy in just a few short minutes. If you're looking for a brisk sequence to kick-off your day, try starting with the cat-cow pose, transitioning into downward-facing dog, and finishing with a standing forward fold. And don't worry if you have poor flexibility—these moves can be adapted to any fitness level.

These poses have an added bonus of focusing on the spine, which needs all the help it can get in supporting the body's weight. This basic routine can improve spinal flexibility, reduce stress and tension, and allow nutrients to surge through the body at a faster rate throughout the day.

There are hundreds of different stretching routines out there, so if this particular combination doesn't interest you, experiment with different techniques until you find something you're happy with. The point is to at least try something, because after a few weeks of stretching each day, you may start to wonder how your body ever got along without it.

Practice Your Posture

A staple of childhood teachings, maintaining good posture is still much easier said than done. Hunching over with drooped shoulders might seem like a picturesque pose of relaxation, but chronically poor posture can do a real number on our overall health and energy levels.

You're already carrying the weight of your patients' wellbeing on your shoulders—why add the weight of your cranium, too? Bad posture can wreak havoc on our joints, screw with our digestive system, and up our risk factor for cardiovascular problems. It also gets in the way of proper breathing, which, you guessed it—makes us fatigued.

Maintaining good posture can be surprisingly difficult for those out of practice. In fact, it can feel downright uncomfortable. But over time, your muscles will naturally strengthen and you'll notice an uptick in mental clarity.

A new study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information also shows a promising correlation between good posture and reduced symptoms of depression and lethargy—so consider this yet another tool for health care workers caught in the maelstrom of dark emotions.

The benefits are numerous, so keep your chin up and let the energy flow!

Dim Your Devices

Our bodies rely on melatonin for proper sleep, but most modern households are riddled with electronic devices that interfere with our rest. Things like your phone, laptop, and television all emit blue light, which actively suppresses melatonin. The longer into the night you stare at glowing screens, the worse your quality of sleep becomes.

Far be it from me to advocate the outright ban of nighttime device use—it's a simple pleasure for many people, after all. But there are some small steps you can take to mitigate the damage to your rest.

The next time you're using an electronic device before bed, try turning the screen's brightness down to its lowest setting. It's a minor change, but one that can pay big dividends by reducing the blue light you're exposed to.

To take it a step further, try decreasing the color saturation on your screen. This can be accomplished through free apps like f.lux, or by using the night shift setting on iOS devices. Doing this will change your screen's output to more closely mirror the amount of light given off by mother nature at the corresponding time of day. This type of lighting better syncs with our biological clocks, allowing us to still get some quality sleep after burning through a nighttime Netflix binge.

Fight Your Fatigue

Though societal demands often conspire against our own wellness, we have the power to take back control. These four tips are just a jumping-off point, but it's okay to start small… just make sure you start with something.

Try incorporating each of these techniques into your day for the next two weeks, and see firsthand how it helps. Other than your exhaustion, what do you have to lose?

 

CITATIONS

Steverman, Ben. "Americans Work 25% More Than Europeans, Study Finds." Bloomberg. 18 October 2017. Web. 8 May 2017.

"2014 Work/Life Profiles of Today's U.S. Physician." AMA Insurance. April 2014. Web. 8 May 2017.

"The water in you." United States Geological Survey. United States Government, 2016. Web. 8 May 2017.

Moritz-Saladino, Amanda. "25 Facts About Your Gray Matter You Should Know." BRAINSCAPE. 20 January 2017. Web. 8 May 2017.

Meyer, Rachel. "Headaches and Dehydration." The Pain Center. Alliance HealthCare Services, 20 June 2016. Web. 8 May 2017.

Wahlgren, Kara. "7 Incredible Results You Can Get From Stretching Every Day." Prevention. 21 June 2016. Web. 8 May 2017.

"5 Energizing Stretches That Will Wake You Up And Improve Flexibility." MyFitnessPal. 3 September 2016. Web. 8 May 2017.

Malanga, Gerard, MD. "Back Pain and Stretching Exercises." SpineUniverse. 28 March 2017. Web. 8 May 2017.

Hein, Jane T. "Posture: Align yourself for good health." Mayo Clinic. 13 December 2016. Web. 8 May 2017.

Wilkes, C., R. Kydd, M. Sagar, and E. Broadbent. "Upright posture improves affect and fatigue in people with depressive symptoms." National Center for Biotechnology Information. US National Library of Medicine, 30 July 2016. Web. 8 May 2017.

Mercola. "New Study Reveals Harmful Effects of Dim Light Exposure During Sleep." Mercola. 22 December 2016. Web. 8 May 2017.

Painter, Kim. "Light at night may disrupt sleep and health." USA TODAY. 22 January 2017. Web. 8 May 2017.

Jabr, Ferris. "Blue LEDs Light Up Your Brain." SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. 1 November 2016. Web. 8 May 2017.

The purpose of this article is to provide information, rather than advice or opinion. It is accurate to the best of the author’s knowledge as of the publication date. Accordingly, this article should not be viewed as a substitute for the guidance and recommendations of a retained professional. Any references to external websites are provided solely for convenience. The ACOG Member Insurance Program disclaims any responsibility with respect to such websites.

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
409 12th Street SW, Washington, DC  20024-2188 | Mailing Address: PO Box 70620, Washington, DC 20024-9998