Do you feel tired or sluggish all the time, or are you prone to mid-afternoon slumps or bouts of tiredness that hit when you’re watching TV in the evenings? Many of us complain about feeling drowsy, and there are several possible causes. If you’re looking to put a spring in your step and keep fatigued at bay, here’s a handy guide to give your energy levels a boost.
If you’re exhausted, or you can’t remember the last time you had a good night’s sleep, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. It might seem a bit crazy to suggest that you put on your gym gear or go out for a run if you’re tired, but working out can actually increase your energy levels. Physical activity strengthens your muscles, including your heart muscle, improves circulation and facilitates energy production through components of the cells known as mitochondria. If you exercise frequently, you should find that your energy levels increase steadily. Often, people are reticent to take that initial step when they’re tired and all they want to do is curl up on the sofa or press snooze for the tenth time. If you can manage to muster up the enthusiasm to get your body moving, you won’t regret it.
Exercise can be a daunting proposition for those who aren’t seasoned gym-goers or sports enthusiasts. If you have a relatively sedentary lifestyle, there are some very simple ways to become more active and start incorporating physical activity into your routine. Go for walks in the evenings or stretch your legs during your lunch break, ride or jog to work, take a class after work and swap the elevator for the stairs. Look into beginner’s exercise sessions at your local gym or sports center, or try low-intensity activities like swimming or jogging. You could also sign up for an induction at the gym or hire a personal trainer to get you started. As you build your fitness and your confidence, you can try all kinds of different activities. If you love the great outdoors, why not go hiking, cycling, climbing or kayaking? If you’re the first on the dancefloor at a party, take some Latin, ballroom or street dance classes, or take your friends to a Zumba session. As long as your body is moving and your heart rate increases, you should notice a difference in your physical and mental health.
Our bodies rely on the foods we eat to provide us with energy. Planning a menu shouldn’t just be about choosing foods we enjoy. It’s also important to consider nutritional value and to ensure your body is getting enough fuel. One of the main dangers of fad diets, which have become very popular, is that they restrict calorie intake and there’s a risk of feeling hungry, craving prohibited treats and feeling tired and groggy. Rather than trying to lose a huge amount of weight in a short space of time by limiting what and how much you eat, focus on making long-term changes to your diet to nourish and protect it. Increase your intake of whole grains, fruit and vegetables, lean protein sources and foods that contain healthy fats, and try and avoid fast food or foods that are high in sugar. If you’re grabbing a takeout on the go at lunchtime, the chances are that you’ll be hungry again a couple of hours later. Opt for slow-release carbohydrates, for example, oatmeal or eggs and whole grain toast for breakfast and wholemeal sandwiches, pasta or a jacket potato for lunch. If you eat healthy, nutritious main meals, you shouldn’t have to snack, and your energy levels shouldn’t plummet.
Cooking at home is a really positive habit to get into, as you can prepare meals in advance to save time and money, and you have control over what you’re eating. If your job involves traveling a lot, or you have to eat at your desk from time to time, rustle up a sandwich, a wrap or a pasta salad the evening before and add a piece of fruit or a small serving of nuts or seeds.
Dehydration can make you feel exhausted even if you’ve had plenty of sleep. Your body needs fluids for a whole host of reasons. If you don’t drink enough, you might feel weak, dizzy and disorientated, and you’ll also be prone to headaches and muscle pain. Aim to consume 2 liters of water per day, and increase your intake if you’re working out or it’s hot outside. Your body loses fluids through sweat, so you’ll need to replace them. Keep a bottle of water in your bag when traveling or commuting.
Perk up with a caffeine boost
Statistics show that over 50% of US adults drink coffee on a daily basis. While many love the rich taste and aroma of blends like 1850 coffee, some also thrive on the caffeine hit. Caffeine is a stimulant, which can perk you up and make you feel more alert. If you start to feel tired in the middle of the afternoon, or you’re not a morning person and you need to prepare for a 9am meeting, you might find that a shot of caffeine in a cup of coffee, tea or green tea makes all the difference. Caffeine can be beneficial for increasing energy levels, but it can also be a hindrance if you’re susceptible to insomnia, or you experience difficulty getting to sleep from time to time. Avoid consuming caffeine in the evenings to help you sleep better. It’s important to note that people respond differently to caffeine. If you find that caffeine makes you agitated or restless, it’s best to stick to small doses.
Get more sleep
Many people feel tired because they don’t get enough sleep. It is estimated that around a third of US adults don’t get enough sleep. There are multiple reasons why people may experience sleep troubles.
Stress and anxiety are common causes of sleepless nights. If your mind is active, you’re worried or you can’t switch off, you might find it difficult to doze off, even if you feel exhausted. There are several self-help techniques you can try and reduce stress and anxiety, including meditation, massage therapy, exercise, creative activities and talking to a friend or family member. It’s also hugely beneficial to make time to unwind and relax before you go to bed. If work is stressing you out, for example, don’t spend your evening checking emails. Shut down, leave your work at the office and try and clear your mind before you hit the hay. Run a hot bath, listen to music, watch a TV show or read a book.
Another common problem for people who suffer from disturbed sleep patterns is a lack of routine. If you’re a parent, you have probably devoted a lot of time to getting your kids into a routine, which enables them to get enough sleep. Apply the same rules to your evenings. Your sleep patterns are dependent on your body clock and circadian rhythms. Try and get into the habit of going to bed and getting up at a similar time each day. This will adjust your body clock and make it easier for you to drift off to sleep and to wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and revitalized. Before you go to bed each night, give yourself time to relax. Put a movie on, chat to a friend or take your dog for a leisurely walk around the block.
Your sleeping environment can also play a role. It’s advantageous to create a setting that promotes calm and relaxation. Block out light using lined curtains or blackout blinds, make sure your room is free from flashing lights or beeping noises, and choose soothing shades for your walls. Pastel tones, neutrals and shades of blue, gray and green are proven to have a calming effect. It’s also wise to declutter your bedroom and to add indoor plants to improve air quality and reduce stress.
Seek medical advice
In many cases, low energy levels are linked to your diet, your activity levels and your sleeping patterns, but sometimes, underlying medical conditions can play a role. If you’ve tried all these measures, and you still feel tired or lethargic, it’s a good idea to see your doctor. They might recommend carrying out some tests to check that everything is in order. Anemia and thyroid problems are examples of issues that can cause fatigue.
Many of us watch children or pets whizzing around and lament our own plunging energy levels. If you feel tired a lot of the time, or you’re not quite as energetic or alert as you’d like to be, there are several steps you can take to try and boost your energy levels. Exercise on a regular basis, get out into the fresh air, eat well, make sure you get enough sleep and use self-help techniques to reduce stress. If these measures don’t work, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice.