Why do we ‘put up’ with feeling tired and low in energy? By being constantly below par and failing to say an enthusiastic ‘hell yeah!’ to life, we cheat ourselves out of better quality days.
When it comes to the underlying causes of tiredness, there are some obvious candidates and some that slip below the radar.
Below are eight proven ways – including three curveballs – to see an end to your tiredness.
1. Get more Z in your life
Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis is a sure-fire way to feel like you need a week long nap. The brutal effects of lack of sleep have been written about time and again. Even having one bad night’s sleep can open you up to all manner of detriments – including a likely brawl with your boyfriend.
Need an extra incentive to prioritise sleep? Lack of sleep can raise the sensation of hunger by 25%. Sleep more and you can eat more or burn more calories.
2. Up your O2
Is your breath as shallow as your tastes in men/women?
When you don’t breathe properly throughout the day, you deprive yourself of one of nature’s biggest energy supplies and stress busters. Did you know that over 90% of your energy comes from breathing?
So how do you stop being a shallow breather?
Becoming aware of how you are breathing throughout the day is the place to start. Cultivate mindfulness with breathing – so whenever you remember throughout the day, slow down your breathing, do full belly breathing, and make your exhales longer.
Self-development heavyweight, Anthony Robbins, recommends breathing in a ratio of 1-4-2 for inhale-hold-exhale. That means if you deeply inhale for 7 seconds, you hold for 28 seconds and exhale for 14 seconds. If you do this alone for 10 times three times a day you can significantly raise your energy levels.
Alternatively, you could try Andrew Weil’s tried and tested 4-7-8 technique which also helps to alleviate stress and anxiety.
Related to not breathing in enough oxygen, is not getting your butt out of breath with a good aerobic exercise session. We breathe harder when we do aerobic exercise, oxygenating our blood. This not only wakes us up but also hastens fat loss.
Not exercising regularly, as well as making you less attractive, leads to a health problem called deconditioning in which the organs of the body begin to deteriorate, resulting in fatigue.
Plus, by not exercising, you deprive yourself of the boost to your neurotransmitters, which is going to impact on your attitude and zeal.
3. Keep your engine juiced
Dehydration should be the first place you look when you feel tired, but you’ve slept OK. You’ve all heard the statistic – we are 60% water.
Water is effectively the cash flow of the body. Food that is supposed to be a good source of energy has no value to the body until is hydrolyzed by water and energised in the process.
Aside from drinking good quality water (i.e. preferably filtered rather than bottled, and definitely not tap), factor it in to each decision you make about what to eat and drink. Select foods with a natural higher water content and make a food’s ‘juiciness factor’ your guiding principle. Herbal infusions (teas) and cold pressed fruits and vegetable juices and coconut water all count towards your liquid quota.
How much to aim for? Probably the world’s leading authority on water, Dr Batmanghelidj, recommends drinking roughly your weight in kilograms multiplied by 0.033 – that will give you the liters amount. So if you weigh 60 kilograms, drink around 1.8-2 liters every day. If you consume a diet high in watery foods, then you don’t really even need to think about how much plain water you are drinking.
Dr Batman also suggests making a point to drink water before meals, two and a half hours after a meal to complete the process of digestion and first thing in the morning to correct dehydration produced during sleep.
4. Minimize stress
Aside from making you tired, stress will probably kill you. Lowering stressful situations and adopting a positive psychology for dealing with them is paramount if you want to enjoy an energised day and a happy and fulfilling life.
5. Upgrade your food choices
Whilst there is probably no health benefit to completely shunning coffee (unless your adrenals are in a poor state), you should be strategic about your caffeine if you want to keep the effects positive.
A five year old could tell you that feasting on processed foods won’t do you any favours. Sugar, too, is a fairly well known evil, although not everyone is familiar with the concept of carbohydrates being a large source of excess sugar (bread, for example, contains up to 70% sugar).
Other ways to eat to avoid fatigue through diet? Avoid overeating, avoid foods/ways of eating that promote sleepiness and drink less alcohol. Make green tea and dark chocolate your afternoon slump, remedy-of-choice. Oh and smoking? Just say no.
What if you’re on top of your sleep, water intake, food and exercise, and you breathe like a good yogi – but you’re still feeling pooped? Here are three sneaky culprits that might be scuppering your efforts.
6. Get familiar with good food combinations
Do you often feel tired after mealtimes? Rather than experiencing an energy lull after we eat, we should be pretty much instantly recharged after an effective pit stop. Do you experience poor or sluggish digestion, bloating, or feel regularly constipated?
These symptoms mean you’d likely benefit from some small changes to mealtime choices, in order to maximize the benefit from the foods you eat, and minimize the energy drain of digestion. Digestion is the most demanding task that your body undertakes on a daily basis. Ease the burden by making smart food choices.
Food combining is the little understood, often overlooked, secret to optimal wellness and energy levels. If you want to keep energy where you need it – with your brain and muscles – then you can help out your digestive system by pairing food wisely.
This isn’t complicated. Here are three simple rules to always follow:
- Eat fruit and drink smoothies/juice alone
- Combine your protein with vegetables
- Combine your good grains (i.e. quinoa and rice) with vegetables
One bonus tip – reduce the amount of foods in your diet that are notoriously difficult to digest – such as dairy products, wheat, and nuts beans and legumes. Mostly stick to wholefoods – fruits, vegetables, eggs, potatoes, and good quality meats and fish.
If you are seriously digestively impaired like lots of us are, then you might need some extra measures. Taking a good daily probiotic is an excellent place to start.
You should also consider making fermented foods a part of your diet. Fermented foods have been used for centuries in many cultures to improve wellbeing. The importance of good microbes to energy levels (along with a whole host of other things) cannot really be overstated.
7. Address your bad attitude
Having a negative attitude as you navigate your daily grind is guaranteed to make you feel tired (and everyone else you come across too). For the same reasons negative people zap your energy, negative emotions, such as resistance, anger and regret, can be exhausting.
Dealing with your bad attitude involves training yourself to look at the positive side of things rather than the negative side. Psychologists call this reframing, which means changing negative feelings or thoughts into positive ones. It takes practice, but it works if you give it a chance.
Remember that you generate each day – and your experience of it is entirely your creation.
If there are elements of your life that are currently not ideal for you – then drop the resistance. Letting go of resistance is one of the most powerful things we can do for our health and wellbeing.
Accepting what is doesn’t mean you can’t work towards change – it means lifting up your energy and choosing your life as it is right now, whilst working on your goals at the same time.
The key for all of us is to manage our state no matter where the day takes us, and take everything on with enthusiasm (or at least contentment)!
Other things you can do to deal with negativity:
- Watch who you are hanging out with as we absorb the negativity of others
- Learn to communicate effectively – be honest and authentic
- Do work you love or learn to love what you do
- Take responsibility for life areas in which you might feel ‘out of control’, such as your finances
8. Know where the real energy is
If you still reach for processed sugar for an instant ‘energy fix’, then you really need to keep reading this blog. Eating sugar for energy is one big fat myth. Although we do need some sugar in our diet, and some good quality dark chocolate before a heavy training session is OK, mostly you’re better served reaching for a green juice or smoothie to get you through the afternoon energy slump.
The only real way to deliver energy to your cells is to up your intake of green stuff. This is one of the reasons for the incredible popularity of juicing. Green juices and smoothies make people feel fantastic, because they deliver real lasting energy.
The other reason why green is linked with energy is magnesium. Magnesium is involved in over 1000 enzymatic reactions in the body. It’s vitally important in providing our cells with energy. And the best sources of magnesium are green vegetables.
A quick note about B vitamins, which are broadly divided into two categories – B12, and the others. These help to furnish your nervous system and calm you down, and many are directly involved in creating energy at a cellular level.
To up your intake of B vitamins, consume lots of green vegetables like asparagus and broccoli. Brown rice and eggs are also good sources. You also want to consider a good quality B12 supplement, particularly if you don’t eat eggs and other meat products.
If you really want to a B vitamin superhero, consider making spirulina part of your life. Spirulina has generated a lot of buzz lately, due to its range of benefits, making its superfood status well deserved.
Tips for upping your green intake:
- Whenever you order or make a juice, put something green in it – spinach, kale, cucumber, lettuce are all great One dark leafy green with one light coloured one per drink (along with a sweet fruit to make it yummy) is a good rule of thumb
- Use a wheatgrass powder – this can just simply be mixed with water. Its a great travel companion for when you are on the move and aren’t sure of getting access to lots of salad
- Eat one massive green (kale or spinach based) salad per day, or a serving of steamed broccoli
So to summarize, here are some actionable steps you can take to banish ‘I’m tired’ from your vocabulary forever!
- Get regular bedtimes times – adopt other good sleep hygiene and only use your bed for sleep and sex
- Breathe mindfully throughout the day
- Make eating foods with high water content a guiding principle of your nutrition
- Exercise – if for some strange reason you aren’t already. Not just weights, aerobic too
- Reduce your intake of processed foods and sugar (including excessive carbohydrate consumption)
- Be strategic with caffeine use
- Reduce alcohol and stop smoking
- Consume something green each day
- Practice effective food combining
- Quit being a negative Nora
- Address stress in your life
If you look like the cat after that lot – I’ll eat my hat.