We're all familiar with physical exhaustion, but mental strain — sadness, boredom, worry, anger, and general stress (the biggie) — can take an even heavier toll on vitality, completely wearing you out. Life happens, and these difficult emotions will, too. But if you react wisely, your brain and body will rebound — along with your vim and vigor.
Splash some water on your face or take a shower when you're feeling burned-out. Some 55 percent of study participants reported using these types of "water therapy" to successfully increase their energy, according to findings in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Apparently, a little H 2 O refresher can instantly help take the edge off when you're feeling overwhelmed.
Suit up in a "power" outfit to beat the blahs. Fight the tendency to throw on sweats when you're feeling sluggish. Although it may seem counterintuitive to slip into the skirt you save for special occasions, it helps to look in the mirror and see an energizing image — not a deflating one that confirms and reinforces your internal state, says Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., founder and executive director of the Domar Center for Complementary Healthcare in Waltham, MA. Dressing for success will give you a big mental boost every time you catch sight of your reflection (or receive a compliment) throughout the day.
Vent your feelings. Keeping fear, anxiety, and stress pent up inside may seem like a grown-up way to deal with these emotions. But discussing negative feelings with another person can ease them far better than keeping them bottled up; by airing them, you reduce their ability to sap your stamina, says Komaroff, who is also the editor-in-chief of the Harvard Health Letter.
Turn on some tunes. Listening to music is one of the most effective ways to change a bad mood, decrease tension, and increase energy. Consider this: Runners in one study who listened to music while on the treadmill ran faster than those who jogged in silence — no matter how loud the volume or how fast the tempo, according to new findings in the journal Ergonomics. Other research suggests that music effectively distracts you from feeling fatigue. Try burning a CD of your favorite songs and playing it anytime you need a pick-me-up. (If you exercise, so much the better — but the music will move you either way.)
Let go of grudges. Nursing a grudge prompts your mind and body to react as if they're under chronic stress, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure and potentially resulting in an impaired immune system and exhaustion over time, according to a study in the journal Psychological Science. On the other hand, practicing empathy and forgiveness after you've been wronged makes you feel as if you're back in control, which keeps the body's stress responses in check. The next time you find yourself harboring ill feelings, repeat a stress-relieving mantra to yourself, such as, "Forgiveness makes me a happier and stronger person."
Take belly breaths. When we're under stress, we're prone to take "chest breaths" — short, shallow ones, says Domar. Chest breathing brings less air into the lungs and reduces the supply of energizing oxygen to the body and brain, leaving you physically and mentally drained. The goal is deep, diaphragmatic breathing — like that of a sleeping infant: When you breathe in, your belly should round and fill like a balloon; on an exhale, your belly should slowly deflate. Of course, remembering to practice deep breathing isn't the first thing on your mind when you're under the gun, so as a visual reminder, try posting a tranquil picture (such as a pool of water or your kids smiling) with the word "breathe" next to your computer, or anywhere you tend to feel on edge.
De-clutter a corner. Go through that teetering pile of papers or overflowing closet and clear it out. Clutter can make you feel out of control and overwhelmed, especially when you're already feeling stressed or down. Plus, simply accomplishing a goal, no matter how seemingly minor, can be energizing, says Domar.
Do some good. Acts of altruism can lend a little pep to your step. In fact, one study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior found that volunteer work can boost your energy in six ways: It enhances happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, sense of control over life, physical health, and mood. Find short- and long-term volunteer opportunities at volunteermatch.org and charityguide.org.