Have you ever noticed that in times of stress, you tend to feel tired? Think about the last time you had a long, intense day. Perhaps even the mere thought of making dinner may have seemed too much to bear, so you ordered in. Did you fall into bed or even just wind up crashing on your couch?
In our go-go-go society, stress is a major energy drainer. Many of us try to find energy boosters, such as caffeine or energy drinks, just to help keep us going, even when we’re already exhausted. But it’s important to find ways to increase your energy levels that are both healthy and sustainable. You may be surprised to learn that some of the energy boosts you turn to can actually drain you! That’s why it’s best to turn to natural ways to increase your energy.
In this article, we’ll review four of the top surprising energy drainers and some of the best natural (and easy!) ways to increase your energy in times of stress. Here’s to a healthier, happier, more energized you!
If I asked you to name a top energy booster, my guess is you would probably say either caffeine and naps. But what if I told you that too much caffeine is actually an energy drainer? Yep, it’s true. While caffeine may give you a quick boost in the short term, in the long term it actually depletes your energy. And it’s not the only energy drainer in disguise. Here are some of the top surprising energy drainers you should look out for.
While it may seem like the adrenaline rush of stress gives you a boost, over time you’ll find that constant adrenaline takes a toll. Chronic stress can wear you out and leave you feeling exhausted and depleted, not to mention at greater risk of further health problems. [1, 2] I find that most people who are under chronic stress will report that they crash after lunch. And they often find themselves wide awake in the middle of the night, which doesn’t help you have more energy the next day. Finding ways to reduce stress is key to increasing your energy levels.
Grabbing a quick energy drink in the afternoon may seem like a way to power through but think twice. These drinks are high in sugar and caffeine. The high sugar content causes a spike in blood sugar, which may give you a quick boost, but then will cause you to crash.
Caffeine causes the body to increase cortisol production, just as if the body were experiencing a response to stress. So, if you are experiencing adrenal fatigue, that cup of coffee can actually worsen the situation. Heavy consumption of caffeine can also lead to anxiety and panic attacks. 
Consuming energy drinks can also disrupt sleep patterns, leading to further fatigue. A survey by the CDC of service members who drank energy drinks found that those who consumed three or more energy drinks per day reported more sleep disturbances and more instances of falling asleep during briefings or on guard duty. 
The high volume of caffeine in energy drinks can lead to cardiovascular risks such as an irregular heartbeat or even cardiac arrest. 
So many of us rely on our morning cup of coffee to start our day, including me. While that cup of joe may be a comfort in the morning, relying on it to keep you going throughout the day is actually counter-productive.
Similar to energy drinks, because coffee contains caffeine it also causes the body to increase cortisol production and sometimes cause anxiety if consumed at a higher volume. Not only that, but drinking coffee throughout the day can actually interfere with your natural cortisol rhythm.
Caffeine withdrawal also occurs with coffee consumption. Just like with energy drinks, this can cause sleep disturbances. 
Finally, coffee consumption can also affect your heart rate and cardiovascular system due to its caffeine content. 
When you feel exhausted, an afternoon nap can sound like a great idea. But resting too long during the day or napping too frequently can set you up for insomnia and further exhaustion.  If you absolutely feel like taking a rest in the afternoon, be sure to set a timer or alarm and limit your nap to 20 minutes. 
Now that you’ve learned a little bit about how some of the typical “energy boosters” can actually drain your energy, you’re probably wondering how to increase your energy naturally. I’ve included some natural ways to increase your energy below that can help you find the boost of energy you need without sacrificing your health.
And if you’re wondering how to increase your energy without caffeine, you’re in for a surprise—only one of these tips includes caffeine, but it’s also loaded with antioxidants and health benefits.
These six tips may be surprisingly simple, but they can go a long way to not only increasing your energy levels, but also improving your overall health and wellbeing. Ultimately, finding ways to support your health and unwind, relax, and let go of stress will help you to boost your energy levels.
Getting some exercise each day not only helps improve your health and wellbeing, but it’s also one of the top natural ways to increase your energy.  For example, just taking a 10-minute walk can help get your blood moving, which helps to circulate oxygen throughout your body and improve your energy level. Exercise also helps to improve your mood.  In stressful situations, taking a walk will not only wake you and improve your cardiovascular health, but it also can reset your brain to tackle the situations when you return.
If you start to feel a slump, skip the afternoon latte and try doing some brisk walking around the block instead. Or, crank up your favorite tunes and dance! Check with your doctor first before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any medical conditions.
Eating a healthy, plant-based diet helps to ensure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs. If you’re wondering what foods increase your energy, you actually have quite a few healthy choices—and eating healthy doesn’t mean boring, tasteless food!
Focus on vegetables, organic and sprouted whole grains, legumes, berries, and nuts. Try dairy alternatives such as nut milks or oat milk. If you eat meat, focus on leaner choices such as fish and poultry and limit your intake of meat.
It’s probably not a big shock to hear that if you’re sleep-deprived you’re also likely tired and lacking energy. Prioritizing sleep is critical not only to maintaining your energy, but also to your overall health. Making changes to your diet can also help you sleep better. Certain herbal remedies can help as well, such as lavender, lemon balm, and bergamot.
Practice good sleep hygiene, such as cutting back on caffeine, having a relaxing bedtime routine, leaving your smartphone out of the bedroom, and sleeping in a cool, dark room can help. If you have chronic trouble sleeping, see your healthcare provider for guidance.
Drinking water is key to maintaining energy levels.  This is yet another reason why it’s so important to stay hydrated! My general recommendation is to drink about half your body weight in ounces per day on a day with normal activity. If you’re outside where it’s hot and/or exercising a lot, you probably need to drink more water. You can also drink coconut water and eat vegetables and fruits with a higher water content, like watermelon, zucchini, and cucumbers, among many others.
I don’t know about you, but I love aromatherapy! If you haven’t tried essential oils, I highly recommend that you do. Peppermint essential oil is one of my top choices when I’m feeling low on energy and need a pick-me-up.
I mentioned that just one of these tips contains caffeine and this is it. Now, that being said, green tea contains a much lower amount of caffeine than coffee and black tea. And it also contains many antioxidants and properties that help promote several health benefits, including helping to lower blood pressure, possibly helping to prevent cancer, and helping to boost the immune system, among others.