Feel a little tired? It’s no surprise. Fatigue has become a way of life for many of us. We’re overwhelmed by responsibilities and stress, but we march on with the help of just enough caffeine and sugar to fight the brain fog temporarily. Then, once we make it home, we collapse.
Fatigue is one of the most common problems people report to their doctors. About 31% of people age 51 and older say that they always feel tired, according to a Harvard Medical School study. Why? The reasons include everything from stress, to poor diet, and sleep problems.
There are ways to fight fatigue that go beyond getting enough sleep and eating “three square meals a day.” A few changes to your daily routine may be all that you need to feel more alert and active. Here are ten suggestions to increase your stamina and strength all day long.
1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT BREAKFAST
Mom said it a million times. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, grabbing a donut and a cup of coffee as you rush to work or school does not count as a meal. You need to start the day with a healthy and complete breakfast combining fiber with complex carbohydrates and proteins. Your body needs the proper fuel to get started and prevent a midmorning slump.
2. HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE
Now that you have had a good breakfast, don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Feeling tired is one of the first signs of dehydration, so keep water with you while you are on the go. It will also help your digestion and improve your skin.
3. TAKE TIME TO EXERCISE
It may not be easy to find time for a quick work out during your busy day, but it’s worth the effort. Regular exercise will help you feel less tired in the long run, and you’ll have more energy. A short, brisk walk can help keep you alert. Ten minutes of stretching at your desk also improves blood flow and boosts energy. The benefits increase with more frequent physical activity.
4. CONNECT WITH OTHERS
Improve your energy by feeding off the energy of others. The more that you relate with your co-workers and others, the more you will feel energized by your surroundings. It is easier than you think. Instead of e-mailing a question to someone on the other side of the office, get out of your chair and ask them yourself. It will give you a chance to connect with the people around you.
5. EAT SMART
A good breakfast only goes so far. Going without food for too long drops your blood sugar and energy levels. Don’t skip lunch or you will wind up snacking on easy-to-grab, unhealthy junk food. Make sure that every meal contains a healthy protein (chicken, fish) and carbohydrate as well as a fruit or vegetable. Healthy snacks like fruit, yogurt or nuts will also help you make it through the day.
6. TAKE A BREAK
You have been running around and working like crazy for several hours. It’s time to slow down and take a break. All of that pressure can suck the energy right out of you. Step back and fight the fatigue with a time-out. Something as short as a five-minute walk in the fresh air and sunlight can improve your energy and your mood.
7. REDUCE STRESS
We all face stress, and it uses up a lot of our energy. Researchers at Yale University say that “stress leads to fatigue and a loss of motivation – in other words, feeling drained.” Try reducing some of that stress by assessing your priorities. Put them in order of importance and decide which ones you can deal with now. The others can wait for another day. You can also fight stress by fitting some relaxing activities into your day. It might be some quiet time with a book or enjoying time with friends. Whatever relaxes you will improve your energy.
8. DON’T OVERDO THE CAFFEINE
You might turn to a cup of coffee to fight fatigue, but it can slow you down in the long run. A cup or two may be fine, but too much caffeine, especially in the afternoon, can lead to sleepless nights. Those sleepless nights then lead to more fatigue the next day. Reducing caffeine intake can help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
9. AVOID ALCOHOL
The same issues arise with alcohol. A few glasses of wine in the evening may help you fall asleep at first, but you sleep less deeply after drinking alcohol. That means you will be tired the next day even if you sleep a full eight hours.
10. SLEEP SMART
Get a good night’s sleep. That sounds a lot easier than it is. The National Sleep Foundation found that more than 60% of Americans have trouble sleeping. Many say they don’t get enough sleep to stay alert the next day. Adequate sleep is vital to your good health so try these tips for a sound sleep:
- Create a bedtime ritual. Perform the same relaxing activities every night so that your body knows it’s time to relax and go to sleep. That includes setting a bedtime for yourself. Use the same sleep pattern on weekends.
- Power down. Turn off all of your electronic gadgets at least 20 minutes before you go to bed. That includes your cell phone, computer and TV. This will give your brain and body a chance to power down as well.
- Keep your room completely dark. Darkness causes levels of melatonin (a hormone that helps control your sleep and wake cycles) to rise and bring on sleep.
Fatigue is a symptom, not a disease. Different people experience it in different ways, and it usually goes away after a good night’s rest. However, persistent fatigue can be disease-related. If your fatigue will not go away, or if you have other related concerns, talk with your doctor.