Tired, fatigued, exhausted, flat, wiped out? …..Is this how you’re feeling and it’s not even the end of the day? We can all feel this way to varying degrees and for some it can be intermittent during increasing workloads and obligations, while for others it can be a real struggle to perform relatively easy day-to-day tasks like getting out of bed. In many cases it’s a symptom of what I call “the plague of the modern world: the compulsion to be busy” or for others it can be a result of serious health issues.
Before we talk about energy boosting strategies we need to consider possible reasons for this lack of the usual get-up-and-go. In clinic, I recommend my clients have investigations to rule out the medical causes of fatigue which can include thyroid problems, anaemia, diabetes, heart disease and sleep apnoea. Other causes can be chronic fatigue syndrome, post-viral syndrome, depression, hormonal imbalances and sleep problems. These all require specific treatments and in some cases medical as well as complimentary therapies.
Is Stress Zapping your Energy?
Adrenal exhaustion or fatigue, although not a recognised medical condition, describes a state that is an ever-increasing picture and a major culprit for lack of energy. Previous articles of mine demonstrate my sympathy for our adrenal glands and the effects that living under constant stress is having on them.
How are your adrenals doing? …. Waking up unrefreshed, can’t start your day without help from your stimulant of choice (coffee, other caffeinated beverage, sugar hit, cigarette) and at about 3pm need said stimulant to keep going but then you’re too wired at night to switch off and sleep? Your adrenals are out of balance and possibly heading towards exhaustion. The good news is a few simple changes can restore your adrenals to being those energy generators they are meant to be.
Think of your body’s energy as being contained in a “jar”. Optimum health and vitality means our jar has sufficient supplies to meet daily demands and when energy is taken from this jar the levels are easily restored. Reliance on stimulants suggests an empty energy jar and a hint that our bodies are unable to meet the demands. So strategies to aid the body naturally refill the jar are needed.
Let Food be Your Medicine
Eat regular meals of nutrient-rich food. You don’t expect your car to run without petrol or on “dirty” petrol so you need to feed your body the best quality food possible. Buy whole, unprocessed, additive-free foods not those that come in a box with “numbers” as ingredients.
Keeping Blood Sugar Balanced
Include protein foods with every meal and snack. This is important in treating another major cause of low energy – blood sugar instability. Adequate protein is needed to keep the blood sugar levels and the body’s energy stable. That 3pm dip in energy and craving for a sugar treat can be a sign you’re not having enough protein at lunch. Try a salmon or chicken salad for lunch and reach for nuts and seeds instead of chocolate before the 3pm dip strikes.
Expend Energy to Build Energy Stores
Exercise –initially gentle, it doesn’t need to be strenuous marathon training (although the feel good endorphins may lead to that eventually). To restore adrenal balance exercise is best in the morning and outside. Cortisol, the adrenal hormone needs to be high in the morning and low at night and a simple way to help this balance is exposure to morning light. “I’m too tired to exercise!” A gentle walk – even 20mins every second day is a good start to help fill your energy jar. It seems a contradiction but gently expending energy will cause an increase in your body’s energy jar!
Get Adequate Sleep
An hour before midnight is worth 2 hours after midnight. It’s true and because of our body’s biochemistry. “But I’m too awake to sleep at 10pm!” If you’re used to going to bed at midnight try an unwinding process that will get you to bed at 11:30 and then gradually move sleep time earlier. Preparing for restorative sleep involves restricting technology for an hour before bedtime – switch off that iPad, turn that mobile to airplane mode, read a book with paper pages or take a bath with lavender essential oil drops and dim the lights – basically let your body know it’s night time, relaxation time, sleep time.
Have herbal medicines prescribed that help to restore your adrenals and increase your energy. Herbalists have adaptogenic herbs – that not only help adapt to stress but build your energy reserves. Some examples are Rehmannia, Licorice (not the confectionary kind), Rhodiola, Withania, Siberian ginseng to name a few. And in the evening taking relaxing herbs can help you sleep better – Passionflower, Magnolia, Zizyphus are some of my favourites.
Often low energy is a reaction to overload, so prioritise your obligations and assess your work/ life balance. To be healthy we need a balance of work and relaxation but this is not the norm in our world where being “busy” is glorified. Slowing down, seeking stillness and breathing (10 minutes of focusing on your breath counts as a meditation) will naturally restore your energy levels, lead to a sense of vitality and ultimately better health.