Ever feel like you’re experiencing life in slow motion, plodding through the day low on energy and high on brain fog? No, you’re not a zombie on Valium—but you’re definitely fatigued. What’s the cause of all that tiredness and what can you do to regain your vitality? Read on.
Fatigue can be a symptom of a medical condition that requires treatment, so if yours lasts for more than a few days or can’t be explained by other factors, check in with your healthcare provider. In the majority of cases, though, fatigue is symptomatic of unhealthful habits. Lack of exercise, for instance, is high on the list of energy drains.
If you’re suffering from unexplained lethargy, the Mayo Clinic suggests asking yourself a few questions about lifestyle factors that may be contributing:
- Are you using alcohol or drugs?
- Are you depressed?
- Are you doing too little physical activity?
- Do you have regular insomnia or suffer from sleep apnea?
- Are you eating well?
- Do you deal with chronic stress?
- Are you taking medications, like antihistamines or cough medicine, that might make you drowsy?
If you answered “yes” to one or more of the above questions, you may have found the root of your fatigue. Some of these factors, like depression and sleep apnea, may call for professional assistance in addition to other measures, but all may be at least partially addressed with some lifestyle hygiene. Here are a few energy-boosting options to try out:
- Watch what you eat. Diet has a huge influence on how we feel. Ever have a sugar crash? Then you know the initial burst of energy you get from eating processed sweets will be followed by a major wipeout. Keep your blood sugar in balance and your energy will remain level. You can do that by eating whole grains, which release fuel slowly and steadily. If you need a quick pick-me-up, try a snack that offers protein plus some fat and fiber. Add nuts to yogurt for a good option, or spread peanut butter on whole-grain crackers.
- Hydrate. Dehydration can leave you logy, so reach for a glass of water. You’ll need it after your new exercise regimen (see “Get active”)!
- Get enough sleep. If insomnia’s a problem, try changing a few habits and adjusting your environment. Make your bedroom an inviting place to sleep by creating a cool, dark, quiet space. Replace an uncomfortable mattress or pillow. Try breathing exercises or meditation to quiet your brain and calm your body. Go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time every morning. Stop drinking caffeinated beverages by early afternoon, and skip the alcohol before bedtime. Don’t avoid exercise, but do it several hours before you plan to go to bed—otherwise you may have trouble falling asleep.
- Get active. If you up your physical activity, you’ll up your energy. A study by a California State University researcher found that taking a brisk 10-minute walk not only increased energy in participants but kept those energy levels higher for up to two hours. After three weeks of daily 10-minute walks, participants’ overall energy and overall mood were lifted as well.
- Destress. Anxiety leads to stress, which, even at low levels, eats up a lot of energy if it continues over time. You can tackle stress by incorporating activities that are relaxing for you into your schedule. For some, that’s a five-mile run, while for others it’s listening to music or reading a book.
- Amp up the nutrients. Up your intake of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that aid in energy production with supplements. Magnesium is key in converting glucose into energy. Vitamin B12, essential for the proper functioning of the brain as well as blood cells, is used to treat fatigue. If you’re vegan, consider supplementing with B12, as it’s found naturally primarily in meat and animal products such as dairy and eggs. Our bodies use omega 3s, in particular alpha linolenic acid (ALA), to generate energy. Some studies have found that ALA helps with depression, a major energy-sap. ALA is found in seeds and nuts and is also available in supplement form. Vitamin D has shown promise in reducing fatigue and daytime sleepiness. It is also recommended for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression.
The upshot? Once you’ve ruled out and addressed any underlying health issues, you can boost your energy by making a few changes in your habits and routines. There’s no better time to start than the present!
“5 Strategies to Ensure a Great Night’s Sleep” by Sherrie Bourg Carter, High Octane Women blog, www.PsychologyToday.com, 3/12
“Correction of Low Vitamin D Improved Fatigue: Effect of Correction of Low Vitamin D in Fatigue Study” by S. Roy et al., N Am J Med Sci, 9/14
“The Facts on Omerga-3 Fatty Acids,” 3/27/15; “Top 10 Ways to Boost Your Energy” by Colette Bouchez, 7/09; “Ways to Improve Your Energy” by Stephanie Booth, 8/16; “Vitamin B12”; “Vitamin D: Daytime Energy the Old Fashioned Way” by Michael Breus, Sleep Well blog, 1/20/11, www.WebMD.com
“Fatigue: Causes” by Mayo Clinic Staff, www.MayoClinic.org, 2015
“Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution,” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, www.hsph.Harvard.edu