For people with chronic conditions, feeling tired is very common. Contrary to “as seen on TV,” drinking a Red Bull, or a Five Hour Energy drink is not what you need to do and in fact can be dangerous. Since continuing fatigue can decrease immune function, and lead to other illnesses and depression, getting a handle on it is important.
While a lot of articles about reducing fatigue and increasing energy will mention having your thyroid tested-which is important-one of the areas where less attention is paid is sleep quality. I’m particularly sensitive to this topic as a friend died this summer because of it, which I wrote about at the time-Take Sleep Disorders Seriously: They can be Lethal to Your Health Following Alan’s death, one of his good friends mentioned about the incredible fatigue he had experienced in the afternoon, particularly if he ate lunch. He eventually was diagnosed and successfully treated for sleep apnea and his energy levels skyrocketed.
Certain types of treatments, such as chemotherapy, can cause extreme fatigue. Talk to your care team for tips. How to Fight Cancer-Related Fatigue is another resource. Many of the ways they suggest for increasing energy appear below.
Consider the following options:
• Drink water: Stay hydrated. Unless you have had your water tested and found a problem, drinking water from your tap is fine. Avoid bottled water if you can because it’s expensive, bad for the environment and the quality could actually be worse than what’s coming out of your tap. Vitamin water and sports drinks add extra calories that most people do not need. Diet sodas, while calorie free, are just bad news for the body, so skip them as well. If you want to spruce up your water, add slices of lemons, limes, oranges or even cucumbers. The latter is very refreshing in the heat of the summer. Avoid alcohol.
• You are what you eat: If you skip breakfast, eat a heavy lunch with lots of starches, such as a burger and fries, have an afternoon snack of a candybar, by dinner time you are dragging. Instead, try the following;
Eat Breakfast: Mom was right; it’s the most important meal of the day. Eat a high carb-high fiber breakfast for short term and long term energy boosts. Good choices include whole grain cereals and breads, fruit and lean protein. An egg on whole wheat toast is good. My favorite is an apple with natural peanut butter. Avoid the doughnuts, pancakes, pop tarts and the sugary breakfast treats.
- Don’t skip the Protein: Providing the body with energy needed to repair and build tissue, it’s not surprising that many athletes work out and then down a protein shake. Depending on condition, some people do well having a protein shake or two throughout the day. Protein is available in a variety of foods including: chicken, turkey, dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt), tofu, nuts, and lean red meat.
Complex carbs offer a good boost: Use whole grains and avoid the white pastas, sugars etc.
Snacking is good: So Mom wasn’t right on this score. It wont spoil your dinner, and in fact may help you to eat smarter at dinner. Snacking helps to keep a steady blood sugar level, thereby avoiding the energy highs and lows. Plan snacks in advance and consider snacks that combine protein and a complex carb. Some tasty snacks to consider-fruit with a nut butter (almond butter is very tasty); veggies with humus dip
Magnesium: This mineral serves to keep your body working, and even if it’s a little low, it can contribute to fatigue. The recommended daily intake is 300 milligrams for women and 350 for men. Natural sources include: almonds, hazelnuts or cashews (a handful should do it); whole grains, particularly brain; and fish, especially halibut
• Take Breaks: Multitasking isn’t an option for anyone (see Multitasking in the Health Care Setting: How to protect yourself http://healingwhole.blogspot.com/2013/10/multitasking-in-health-care-setting-how.html) but as you go about your day, take breaks. A short break of just 5 to 10 minutes, where you do nothing, meditate, power nap, or a five minute yoga stretch, can increase your energy and your accomplishments. One of my favorite daily breaks is Seven Minute Qigong.
• Move: Even if it’s walking around the office or the house for 10 minutes, it can help to energize you. Whenever possible, go outside and walk in the sunshine, be in nature, walk on the beach etc. Regular exercise does wonderful things for body, mind and spirit so try to do 30 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be all at once.
• Hang out with positive people: You are the company that you keep. If you spend time with people who are negative, it can cause you to become stressed and depleted. In short, try to eliminate the energy vampires in your life.
• Reduce Stress: Use relaxation methods to help you stay mindful and minimize the stress in your life. To help reduce stress, every Wednesday a different “take a break” activity is posted on this blog.
• Sleep: Too little or too much can drag you down.
• Talk to your medical provider: Sometime you do everything right and you still are fighting fatigue. Discuss this with your medical provider, as it might be a matter of adjusting meds, prescribing medication for thyroid or ordering some sleep studies.