Are you feeling a little lacklustre after the past year? Or perhaps a lot? Many people have shared with me they are feeling utterly exhausted, and it’s not surprising given the uncertainty and unpredictability that featured in 2020.

When our lives are very full, it can be easy to let self-care slip to the bottom of the priority list. Yet, if you don’t “put your own oxygen mask on first”, eventually you’re going to burn your health and energy out and then you won’t be able to show up each day to contribute in the way that you want to. 

The good news is that small, simple changes can make a big difference to how you experience each day. Below are some strategies to help you experience greater vitality – excerpts inspired by a few of my newly released Wellness Cards, a deck of 90 cards designed to educate and inspire in practical ways. 

Become breath aware
Notice if your breath is short, sharp and shallow in the upper chest, or if it slowly moves the belly in and out. Consciously switching to the latter – particularly extending the length of the exhalation – is one of the most effective ways that we can reduce stress hormone production. This can have a profound effect on numerous aspects of our health, including energy levels, sleep, and digestion, to name just three. 

Care for your liver
Your liver function contributes to so many processes inside you, including the storage and dissemination of nutrients, as well as detoxification. It plays a major role in how you feel, function and look each day. Focus on giving your liver more of what it loves and less of what it doesn’t – more whole foods, particularly bitter foods like green leafy vegetables, and less alcohol and highly processed foods. 

Expand the variety of foods you eat
A great way to help you obtain the essential nutrients your body needs is to expand the variety of whole foods that you eat. Consuming a wider variety of plant foods, in particular, is a powerful way to support your gut microbiome, as diversity in how we eat translates to diversity in our microbiome. 

Let yourself have what you already have 
Even if it is right in front of you every day and you don’t let yourself have it – which means noticing it, taking it in, allowing yourself the pleasure of it – it is never really yours. Because if you don’t “let yourself have” a glorious sunrise, a cool evening breeze on your face after a hot day, an awe-inspiring view, then what else are you denying yourself? We can become so focused on the big things we want to achieve that we miss the micro-moments that are happening all the time – and all the delight in them. We can experience that joy now, if we just allow ourselves. 

Chew your food
Chewing thoroughly helps us to slow down and experience enjoyment from our food, which can help prevent overeating, plus it’s key to stimulating the production of stomach acid, which is essential for proper digestion. It may sound too simple to make a difference but focusing on chewing each mouthful well can often significantly improve symptoms like bloating. 

Make water your main drink
Staying hydrated is crucial to how you think, feel and look. Your body is, on average, about 70 percent water and your kidneys use water to filter and clean your blood – keeping what you need and creating urine to dispose of the waste. If you struggle to drink enough water, try keeping a water bottle with you to prompt you to take sips regularly across the day. 

Look for laughs
Moments of laughter can help to lighten your load, see things with fresh eyes and alleviate stress. Try creating a playlist of video clips that crack you up, or seek out or reflect on scenarios that make you laugh out loud.

Prioritise sleep
If you struggle with sleep, consider if this might be driven by too much caffeine or perhaps from bright light and screen use too late into the evening. Or, is your fight-or-flight response in overdrive due to perceptions of pressure and worries? Make it a priority to work out what is disrupting your sleep, as this will help you understand how to improve it. 

Flex your “no” muscle
If you frequently say “yes” when you really want to say “no”, notice if it’s because you’re fearful of what others might think of you. Instead of judging you harshly, as you worry they will, they may instead appreciate your honesty or show concern for your workload. How others perceive us is ultimately up to them. It’s important to stay true to yourself and your values.

Focus on health, nourishment and energy, rather than weight
This shift in focus fosters greater energy, vitality, happiness and freedom, as well as optimal health. A dieting mentality is all about restriction, and it can distinguish foods as “good” or “bad”, which easily translates to a person perceiving they are “bad” when they don’t follow the diet. Harsh self-judgement contributes significantly to someone making ongoing poor-quality food choices, so to break this cycle, focus instead on nourishment and having great energy. This way, it’s all about the plethora of foods that support you to have optimal health.

Dr Libby Weaver (PhD) is a nutritional biochemist, speaker and best-selling author of 13 books. Her brand-new Wellness Cards (RRP$34.95) are available exclusively from her website