Each day more than 2 million Americans complain of feeling fatigue in addition to the 4 million who have been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. With this chronic tiredness often comes lack of focus, feelings of being overwhelmed, flu-like symptoms, memory loss, chronic aches and pains, restless sleep, short temper and even depression.
While many people accept their tiredness as part and parcel of their daily lives, it needn’t be the standard way of life. Yes, we are more overworked and under more stress than ever, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
The following 10 lifestyle changes can make all the difference over time, if embraced as a new lifestyle approach to wellness.
1. Eat four to six times per day — In the past 10 years the idea of ditching the “three square meals a day” plan has proven successful. In its place is the three-hour diet, or eating something every three to four hours. Eating more frequently prevents one from overeating at one sitting, which zaps energy and retards digestion. Eating smaller meals more frequently also helps sustain a steady level of energy throughout the day, which helps avoid the “two o’clock crash.”
2. Consume energy-giving foods — While eating more frequently is a great way to stay energized, eating the wrong foods over and over will take the wind right out of you. To get the best energy results from food it is important to eat plenty of fiber, which helps clean fats from blood and create bulk to move stools — this frees up energy in the body. Consuming complex carbohydrates like whole grain breads, seeds and pasta provides glucose for brainpower and sustained fuel for physical energy. Eating lean protein also adds fuel for the body. And where carbohydrates are fast-burning (instant energy) fuel, proteins provide slower burning (continuous energy) for the day. Drinking plenty of filtered or distilled water keeps the body hydrated, helps move toxins from the body and aids the kidneys.
3. Avoid energy-sapping foods — Food is certainly the main source of energy for us humans, but consuming the wrong types of food can drain and waste energy faster than we want it to. The basic idea is to avoid all foods that create an instant energy rush as a sudden energy crash is soon to follow. Energy-zapping foods include caffeine, soda, coffee, chocolate, sugar and simple carbohydrates like white bread, rice and potatoes. The energy derived from such foods is fast to come and go, is harassing to the metabolism and wreaks havoc with one’s energy. In short, they cause fatigue.
4. Exercise 30 minutes per day — While it may seem counterintuitive, exercising each day creates more energy in the body. It requires energy to exercise, and the result of exercise in increased energy. Exercise creates feelings of wellbeing because one is able to let off steam, get out anger, move the blood, sweat out toxins and help the body release chemicals like endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. And mixing up the daily routine between running, walking, weight training and aerobics keep things interesting and fun.
5. Compartmentalize your time — One of the main reasons people feel overworked, stressed out and unhappy is because they do not prioritize their time. They often feel a greater obligation to their job than to their family, themselves or their friends. This is draining physically, spiritually and emotionally and can lead to an unpleasant home life. The key to maintaining harmony and prevent burnout is to set time each day for work, family, social occasions and for your own quiet time. All of these areas need to be met to maintain a whole life that is full of love, happiness and energy.
6. Derail the burnout — There are times when taking time for yourself or leaving the office on time is not an option. In these cases, where burnout and fatigue can just drain you dry, you must derail the freight train and create energizing blocks of minutes. A few suggestions include standing up and doing jumping jacks, walking a few laps around the building or parking lot, talking to someone in the office or on the phone who makes you laugh, splashing cold water on your face and taking some deep breaths.
7. Break the stress each night — It is important not to allow stress to grip you firmly all day and night. This leads to too much tension in the body, which takes up energy. Engaging in deep breathing, taking yoga or Pilates, watching sports or listening to music you enjoy are easy things you can do to relax and break the stress. Above all, it is important not to go to bed and then wake up stressed out or you will have a very difficult time waking up and making it through the day.
8. Cut out the cancer — In this sense, “cancer” is any person, place or thing that is in your life that saps your energy and spirit. If you don’t remove these things, then your energy will be drained each day. You know those friends or co-workers who expect too much from you and always ask too much of your time? Set clear boundaries and don’t allow them instant access to you or your time. Does your email fill up too fast? There is no reason to read and answer every correspondence right away. Create email folders and prioritize which ones you read and respond to, and when. Don’t allow work to interfere with personal time. Pay bills on time. Avoid unnecessary arguments. Let go of old grudges. All of these tips will cut out the old and free up stores of energy that have needlessly been wasted and made you tired and fatigued.
9. Set your sleep/wake cycle — The power of restorative rest and sleep is one of the most essential things one can do for rejuvenating the mind and body. Many people feel overly tired even at the start of each day because their sleep is not restful. They work late into the evening, lie awake in bed worrying and often awake after only a few hours of deep REM sleep. To be energized while also repairing your muscles and tissues, setting a firm bedtime and wake-up time is essential. Sleeping from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. is said to be the best time for our body clocks.
10. Express love and gratitude — One of the easiest ways to free up energy and reduce stress and fatigue is to express your love and gratitude as often as possible. Each day you can tell those around you how grateful you are for their help, work, friendship, etc. You can tell your spouse or children or parents how much you love them. Acting with love and feeling grateful for even the smallest of things makes life worth living. And with purpose to each day and gratitude for the work we do, it seems less a burden. When life burdens and we thank it for the lessons or experience we are less apt to become overwhelmed, cranky and resentful… and without these, we have more energy available for living life to its fullest.
— Dr. Mark Wiley