“I feel tired all the time”, seems to be a typical complaint among moms, young professionals, and even teens. Even for those who are getting an adequate amount of sleep each night, low energy and fatigue during the day can be a real concern and feel like an endless uphill battle. Although it would be nice to curl up on the couch all day, this rarely solves the problem and can lead to even more fatigue, muscle soreness, and feeling guilty for “wasting the whole day”.
There are many possible causes of chronic fatigue and low energy and the fix may not be as simple as a nap. Here is a shortlist of the possible culprits and what you can do about it.
Depression: low energy and tiredness are common symptoms of depression. As hard as it may seem, try to get some fresh air and go for a walk to help your body renew its energy supply and increase oxygen in the brain. You should also consider reaching out to a neighbor or friend. Connecting to someone you know will help you feel less isolated.
Anxiety: living in a constant state of anxiety sends your body into overdrive. It burns more energy, causes muscle tension and headaches, and increases blood pressure, which may make your body feel depleted all the time. A simple way to combat anxiety it to breathe. Take slow and mindful breaths through your nose for 5 minutes and notice how you feel. Shaking off or stretching arms and legs, taking a hot bath, and practicing a mindful activity, like painting or putting together a puzzle, can also be very helpful in slowing down your mind.
Chronic stress: Much like anxiety, living in constant stress causes your body to expend enormous amounts of energy, only to crash later. But the worry that your source of stress may be causing you, may make it be hard to actually fall asleep, which starts the whole cycle again the next day. If this is what is going on with you, try to look for opportunities to reduce small stressors. Many people find that their week is less stressful if they meal plan, get caught up on laundry, and complete other household tasks on the weekend, leaving the weekdays a little more free to practice self-care. Only 30 minutes of exercise each day can have a huge impact on your stress level. Yoga has been shown to reduce stress and improve sleep, so attending a yoga class each week will have a big payoff on your health.
Nutritional deficiency: many people don’t realize how much what we eat can affect our bodies and minds. Processed foods, simple carbs like baked goods, sugar, and too much caffeine can cause your body to slow down your metabolism and give you that “crash” sensation. Our very own, Michelle Spillane, LPC and nutritional counselor, says that the key is to consume the foods you love with the foods that your body loves. She works with clients 1-on-1 to help them learn how foods affect their bodies and mind. For example, adding a leafy green vegetable to your lunch and dinner will give you more vitamins, minerals, and fiber which will help regulate your digestive system and improve your energy and mood. You can also add almond milk or coconut milk yogurt to your breakfast to help replenish your gut flora with essential probiotics. Iron and vitamin D deficiency are also common causes and contributors to fatigue. A simple blood panel can help you and your doctor determine if you are low on these or other important nutrients.
Hormonal imbalances: Hormones play essential roles in your bodies, from growth to metabolism. Hormonal problems can cause mood swings, fatigue, heart palpitations, lightheadedness or dizziness, and appetite problems. Unfortunately, all of these symptoms can also be symptoms of mental health conditions, and oftentimes people are mistakenly diagnosed with depression or anxiety. If you have unexplained or unresolved symptoms, especially if you have a healthy lifestyle, it’s best to consult your doctor for some guidance.
Alcohol: Consuming alcohol causes our bodies to dehydrate and also affects sleep. In addition, wine and mixed drinks tend to contain a lot of sugar, which can also affect your metabolism, cause weight gain and increase cravings for fatty foods and carbs (ever craved fast food right after a night of heavy drinking? That’s why!).
If you just make one change in each of these areas, you can start feeling improvement in your energy level right away. But be careful not to go too fast: making too many changes at once can cause you to feel overwhelmed and will reduce your chances of sticking to them. You can start making changes by adding fruits and vegetables to your meals, adding a 15-minute walk or a quick yoga practice before bed, and checking in with a friend once a day. Try to stick with it for one week and then reassess how you feel. Your therapist can also help you evaluate your mood, sleep, appetite, eating habits, and other issues that could be contributing to your fatigue.
Priscila Norris, LCSW, RYT.
Thrivemind Counseling and Wellness
Owner, Psychotherapist, Yoga Teacher