I struggled with fatigue throughout grad school. I woke up tired, went to school tired, felt tired through every lesson, and felt even more tired after meals. I was a zombie, a walking dead at some critical hours of the day. The only time I didn’t feel tired was when I was working out, but I pretty much crashed into lethargy a few hours afterwards.
Today, I am a completely different person because of a few key changes that I want to share with you in this article. My transformation has also unveiled the realization that exhaustion drives a great deal of our unhappiness. However, the quest for an energetic body is more than just the pursuit of happiness. It is the pursuit of the life in which you can burn with the brightest flame.
Your number one resource to living the life you want is a healthy, fit and energetic body: in that order. You can never achieve your dreams without these. But we are increasingly becoming a sick and tired society. Even healthy and fit people like me are also reporting feeling tired, exhausted and drained of energy at unusual times, most of the time or like some friend of mine said about herself, all the time. And with the fatigue comes
- Slow action and reaction times
- poor decision making and very little to no creativity
- low productivity
- low confidence
- lifelessness, unhappiness and an inability to enjoy many things
- mood swings and grumpiness
- Easily hurt emotions (easily triggered)
Did certain things on that list surprise you?
My poor friend exclaimed in disbelief “Does confidence really reduces because one is tired?” Of course, it does. Just maintaining an upright body posture which is fundamental in the perception of confidence is almost impossible with exhaustion. Don’t we all slump over when we are tired? Confidence comes down to how you feel and how other people perceive you. Feeling and looking tired, slump over, or sleepy is therefore, by no means, perceived as confident.
Now, if you feel tired is that automatically a problem? Not at all. Feeling tired is not ideal and I would prefer not feeling drained of energy at all but like every animal, it is inherent in our nature to get tired. We naturally get tired and worn out by physical or mental exertion. That is normal and expected.
However, there are those times when you know you shouldn’t be feeling so tired and struggling to be awake. Everyone would agree, you shouldn’t be feeling fatigued when you get out of bed in the morning. After a good night sleep, you should wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tear into the day firing on all pistons like a brand-new Rolls Royce.
But that’s becoming an occasional and rare experience for a lot of people, especially knowledge workers. More and more people are waking up in the morning feeling drained, beat and half alive. Why am I feeling so tired, you wonder. But you have no easy answers.
Should you simply accept it as this is just the way I am? Have you? Has Coffee become a clutch you rely on in the morning to fully wake up or has it become a must have afternoon beverage to keep you from crashing into a slumber? That is the reality of some people. The alternative is a quick nap or going around dragging yourself barely alive talk less of awake. It is a pain and a struggle, and I know it firsthand. I prefer the nap, and I frequently need it.
But these are just reactive band aids to the problem. What are the proactive long-term measures to actually solve the problem? What can you start doing to help yourself. Oh yeah! It comes down to self-help.
I know there are some who are against self-help but really it is the only help that is affordable, sensible and sustainable for most of the issues we face. Here are things I found work for me that set me on a path of jolting out of bed instead of merely waking up.
#1: Know your Chronotype
According to the Sleep Foundation: “Chronotype is the natural inclination of your body to sleep at a certain time, or what most people understand as being an early bird versus a night owl. In addition to regulating sleep and wake times, chronotype has an influence on appetite, exercise, and core body temperature.” Yes. It is now scientifically known that we all have different times we are more inclined to sleep. Early birds sleep at 9/10, night owls have a thing for 1/2am. This was my first screw up in grad school. I am an early bird. My body demands that I go to bed early for a well-deserved, natural, sound sleep. When I do, and I don’t always, my body will wake me up when it’s had enough rest. So, know your chronotype and respect it. Be keen about when you naturally want to go to bed and make that time your regular bedtime. Then destroy all alarms. You are not smart enough to decide when you’ve had enough sleep. For that, your body is the only certified expert.
#2: Sleep enough
You are now ready to go to bed at the time defined by your chronotype, but how long should you sleep? The answer like I’ve hinted above is let your body decide. Here is what the science says. Adults require on average 7 to 9 hours of nighttime sleep to be fully rested and reap a tone other benefit from this shut eye ritual. But as you know, with modernism, we are getting less and less nighttime sleep. If you are an early bird, you have a natural advantage to sleep enough hours because you have the full length of the night and the calm and quite that it accords.
#3: Create an environment that supports sleep
What does the body need to sleep well? Darkness, silence, minimal interruptions, a cold, calm room and a comfortable bed. The science recommends temperatures of 18–20 degree Celsius. For some of us, that might actually be too cold because of what our bodies are used to. But we all experience restless sleep when it’s hotter than normal. So cold is definitely better. Next, definitely keep that poster child of hyper connectivity called your smart phone away. If you can discipline yourself, put it to sleep as well and wake it up when you’ve gotten your beauty and youth restored by a decent sleep, your body will reward you immensely. Lastly, keep the lights and speakers out.
#4: Mind your diet
Not every food adds to your energy pull. Some foods are energy vampires and when you eat them before bed, you’ll definitely wake up a zombie. Eat them during the day and you still become a day zombie. My recommendation? Find out what your energy vampire foods are and avoid them. It might seem that they are safe before bed because you are going to be sleeping and don’t need energy, but that depends on how much energy they drain. You gonna have to experiment here. Also make sure you find out which foods are nutritious and add to your energy pull. Finally, when it comes to dinner, eat less or just enough and wait for the food to get digested before you go to bed. That often requires a minimum of an hour or more between your last bite and bedtime.
#5: Physical activity and Exercise
No one really needs a lecture on this. A healthy fit and energetic body is an active body. Engage exercise not just to be active but to get stronger over time. Build some muscles. They are great for everything health in the body and for a sharper mind. Incorporate stretching and range enhancement / mobility exercises in your workout. I don’t wanna make this long so go study what these exercises are.
If you do these, you’ll just be wowed by your own body and its response to these minor adjustments.