4 Ways to Maximize Energy: Part 3

In my last two blog posts, I focused on two of the four ways to maximize energy.  The first and most important of the four is sleep and the second is by eating nutritious food.  The third way to increase and sustain our energy level is to engage in some form of physical activity on a regular basis.  After a long day of work or school, going to the gym or for a run or bike ride is the last thing we want to do.  We are tired and just want to relax.  Nothing sounds better than parking ourselves on the couch and either putting on a sports game or watching the next episode of This is Us.  Don’t worry, I won’t talk more about this show in case some of you haven’t caught up on the episodes yet!  However, if you are able to overcome this inclination and make the extra effort to incorporate some form of physical activity into your schedule, over time you will notice some significant improvements in your energy level.

Benefits of Physical Activity

Physical activity increases the blood flow to your body and improves overall cardiovascular health.  This will allow more blood and oxygen to get to the body which will provide more energy to do work.  Physical activity conditions our body, which increases our stamina.  For example, if you go out today and run a mile, you may end up walking half of it because your body lacks the stamina for long-term activity.  However, if you run a mile a few times per week, within a few weeks, you will be able to run the entire mile with no problem at all.  In addition to being able to run a mile without losing your breath completely, you will also have the energy to take on more responsibilities and tasks during the day.

Regular exercise also impacts the brain in many different ways.  It improves our memory and thinking skills and makes us sharper overall.  It nourishes our mental health, self-esteem and confidence as we start to notice positive changes with our body.  When we are physically active and get our heart rate up, our brain releases chemicals called endorphins.  Endorphins are neurotransmitters which function to transmit electrical signals within the nervous system.  They interact with the opiate receptors in the brain and make us feel relaxed when released.  Not only will this contribute to a boost in energy, but it will also serve as a means of coping with stress.

3 Ways to Stay Active

I don’t know about you, but whenever I think of running, I think of Back to the Future 3 when the man above says, “Run for fun?  What the hell kinda fun is that?”  However, if you prefer running as your method of engaging in physical activity and even consider it to be fun, then continue to do it!  If you are anything like me, you may want to consider alternative ways of incorporating activity into your routine.  The following are a few ways.

1. Sign up for a gym membership

A gym membership can offer you many different options for physical activity.  You can focus on free weights or other weight machines, cardiovascular equipment like ellipticals or treadmills, or you can take fitness classes that help to improve posture, muscle tone, balance, coordination, and/or flexibility.  Some gyms also offer basketball, racquetball, volleyball, and other sports that you can get involved in as a part of your weekly activity training.  My family and I have been going to Team85 in Bordentown for the last few years and love it.  They have a ton of classes to select from including Body Pump, Insanity, and Yoga along with plenty of weights, cardio equipment, a pool, and a gigantic field house that includes two full basketball courts, batting cages, and more.  In addition, Team85 offers child care as a part of the monthly fee! (This is purely a personal recommendation, I gain nothing from the endorsement.) Snap Fitness, Jersey Strong, and RWJ Fitness and Wellness Center are a few other local options for memberships.

I know that it is sometimes difficult for people to find the time and finances to commit to a gym membership.  However, I believe that we find the time and finances for the things we value.  If you are able to rearrange your monthly budget and time schedule to make a gym membership work, it will definitely pay you dividends in more ways than one.  If you are not able to make a gym membership work, another suggestion is to engage in either workout videos at home or to purchase weight or cardio machines to store in your house.  Surprisingly, the downside of working out at home is that it may be more difficult to find the motivation to keep a consistent workout routine because it doesn’t connect you with other people.  Finding a workout buddy to go to the gym with, having a reason to get out of the house, or even just being around others in general can help increase motivation to workout regularly.

2. Outdoor activities

There are plenty of things to do outside that require physical activity and are also entertaining.  You can either choose to do these activities alone, with a friend, or with your family.  Some ideas include the following.

Hiking, bike riding, sports (basketball, baseball, tennis, soccer, etc.), kayaking or canoeing, swimming, walking or running, mountain climbing, rollerskating or ice skating, skiing or snowboarding, gardening, sailing, fishing, and more.  

Being outdoors will not only provide for a place for physical activity, but it will also boost your mood for a myriad of reasons.  I will be writing more about this concept in a later blog post as it is a substantial topic and requires a lot of attention in itself.  Once you begin to integrate physical activity into your routine on a regular basis, you will find that you will have more energy,  a well balanced mood, and an overall stronger mental and physical health.  Keep reading next week when I introduce the 4th and last tenet to maximize our energy level – a well balanced lifestyle!




4 Ways to Maximize Energy: Part 2

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In my last blog, I started to discuss the four ways to maximize energy.  The most important of the four is sleep.  The second way to increase and sustain our energy level is through the food that we eat.  If you take a look around when you are out on the road, you will find people driving while holding a sandwich in one hand, a coffee in the other, and most likely steering with their knees.  The drive thru for Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s is rarely empty and society continues to be in a rush to wherever it is that they are going.  These behaviors indicate that we don’t truly value food.  We quickly eat, are unaware of how our food choices impact our body, and move on with whatever task it is that we were doing.  Shortly after we have a spike in energy, we may start to experience fatigue, muscle weakness, irritability, headaches, and impaired decision-making and judgement.  It isn’t until we develop a healthier connection with food and change our food choices that we will overcome this pattern of behavior.  Here are some tips that may help you do this.

Be mindful of food

Often at times, people eat without thinking.  We scarf our food down and before we have the chance to realize what happened, it is gone.  Slow down!  Savor each bite that you take of your meal.  Take a break and sit down to eat as opposed to eating in the car or on the run.  The experience will be much more enjoyable.

Eat food that takes your body longer to break down

If you reach for foods that are higher in sugar or break down quickly, your body will experience a spike in insulin and crash shortly after.  In order to increase and sustain energy, select foods that metabolize slowly.  Vegetables like spinach, breads with whole grains, peanuts, almonds, oats, and other food that is higher in protein are all choices that will help you maintain energy until your next meal.

Grow or pick your own food

I strongly suggest that you find the time to build your own vegetable garden.  Not only will nutritious veggies be more readily available to you, but growing your own food will strengthen your connection with the food you eat.  If you have kids, they will be much more likely to eat their vegetables if they are involved with the process of growing them.  They will be happy to harvest and eat whatever is ripe as they are playing outside.  Kids will also be excited to share with and educate their friends about their knowledge of vegetables and gardening!

In addition to growing your own food, purchasing a share at a local Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA) is a great option.  CSA’s typically cost around $400 for an individual share per season (May-Oct) and provide plenty of fresh veggies for a family of four.  Pickup is once per week and includes a large variety of nutritious fruits and vegetables.  Many even have the option to pick additional produce yourself each week which can be a fun family activity.  My family has been members of Honey Brook Farms in Chesterfield, NJ for the last 4 seasons and have been very happy with it.  Fernbrook Farms is another popular CSA in the Allentown area.

Stock nutritious food in your house and cook more often

When we are looking to snack after work, school or at night, we choose to eat whatever is stocked in the pantry.  If potato chips or cookies are accessible, you better believe this is what we will lean for.  However, if mixed nuts, hard boiled eggs, fruit, granola bars, or other nutritious foods are readily accessible, we will select one of these to satisfy our hunger instead. By keeping whole foods in and keeping more highly processed foods out, you and your family will be making better choices in the pantry.

It is also helpful to cook more often as opposed to eat out as you will have more control over your food choices.  This can be challenging as most people get home from work late and don’t want to start preparing a meal for themselves and/or their family.  However, by preparing weekly meals ahead of time, using a slow cooker, or an electric pressure cooker, you can still cook nutritious filling meals for your family on busy nights. We have owned an Instant Pot  for a few years now and it has definitely made it easier to make homemade, nutritious, “set it and forget it” meals on busy weeknights. I highly recommend them!

Once you begin to eat more nutritious food, you will find that you will have more energy,  a well balanced mood, and an overall stronger mental and physical health.  Keep reading next week when I introduce the 3rd tenet to maximize our energy level in order to help with life management – engage in some form of activity on a daily basis!



4 Ways to Maximize Energy

If you haven’t realized it yet, life can be fairly challenging at times.  Kids today are being expected to keep up with curricula that is super rigorous on top of all of the activities they are involved in after school.  It is no longer abnormal for adults to have multiple jobs on top of their responsibilities as parents.  Financial pressure along with the stress that comes with managing relationships can really take a toll on people.  It really drains our energy and can have significant impacts on our mental health as a result.  In order to manage our responsibilities as well as the daily stressors we run into, it is crucial that we maximize our energy level!  In my opinion, there are four main ways to accomplish this.  Over the next few posts, I will focus on each of these four tenets. In this post, I will be talking about the most important of the four – Sleep.
The importance of sleep
In order to maximize our energy level each day, it is crucial that we get an adequate amount of sleep per night.  Not only does it increase our ability to function but it also enhances our mood, tolerance for stress, and overall physical, mental, and emotional health.  Research has also indicated that people tend to retain information and perform better on memory tasks when they get enough sleep.
How much sleep should you be getting?
Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
Younger adults (18-24): 7-9 hours
Adults (25-64): 8-10 hours
Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours
The value of routine
It may be difficult to quiet your mind after a long day.  Although, your body may be ready to pass out after a long and busy day, it may be challenging to prepare your mind for sleep.  I suggest developing a routine each night, similar as you may do for a young child.  For example, if you plan to fall asleep by 10:00, at around 9:00, begin a calming activity (ie: reading, cross-word puzzle, meditation, coloring, etc.) to slow your heart rate down and quiet your brain.  Make sure to write down any tasks or responsibilities that you may need to accomplish the next day as these thoughts may hinder your chances of falling asleep.  Disconnect from all electronic devices as this can negatively impact your sleep cycles and distract you from both falling and staying asleep.  At 9:45, you should be in bed with the lights out.  Focus on your breathing to help clear your mind.  A white noise machine or fan may also help you fall asleep faster.
It is also important to set your alarm for the next morning (ie: 6:00).  After 4-6 days, if you go to sleep and wake up at the same time, your body will create its own time clock.  This means, your body should be ready for sleep at 10:00 every night and it should be ready to wake up at 6:00 every morning.  As long as you are consistent and persistent with your routine, you should be able to get the sleep you need each night.
Stay tuned next time for the 2nd tenet to maximize our energy level in order to help with life management – nutritious food!

On the Bandwagon


Welcome to the official blog of Main Street Counseling!  My name is Justin Kahn, and I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and the owner of Main Street Counseling.  Let me tell you a little about myself before I explain the purpose and vision of my blogs.

I graduated from The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a Master’s Degree in School Counseling.  In addition to being a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), I am also a National Certified Counselor (NCC), Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS), and Student Assistance Counselor (SAC).  I have over 12 years of experience working as a SAC and School Counselor, and I have also supervised several Licensed Associate Counselors (LACs) who were pursuing their LPC and have helped many start and grow their own private counseling practices.

I am usually the last to follow the lead when it comes to technology but thought it was finally time to jump on the blog bandwagon.  I figured a blog would be an effective way of sharing my thoughts and experiences with people on a larger scale.  My goal is to help break through the barriers of the stigma around mental health and to inform readers of strategies for self-care and how to develop and maintain relationships, as I believe both are crucial to sustaining a stronger mental health.  We need to be able to let down our guard and talk about the challenges of life together so that we have the support from one another to help face and overcome these challenges.

Each post, I will write about a particular topic related to mental health.  Feel free to comment below.  If you are new to this website and would like to be on my email list to receive updates and tips related to mental health, please reach out through the contact section of this website.  I also have a Facebook page for Main Street Counseling so please visit and like the page!  https://www.facebook.com/mainstreetcounselingallentownnj/.  Enjoy the Super Bowl and check back next week for my first “real” post.  Thank you for the support!