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Fatigue is widely accepted as a natural consequence of getting older, with the occasional exception seen in a 78-year-old CrossFitter or a 100-year-old marathon runner. But fatigue can be caused by a wide range of factors, many of which are easy to mitigate for better energy levels and greater quality of life – no matter what your age is.
When you live a busy life, it can be hard to slow down long enough to investigate the potential reasons for your fatigue. Maybe it doesn’t seem necessary – you might not even realize how much tiredness is impacting your ability to concentrate on tasks and stay patient when challenges arise. But taking the time to evaluate and adjust some of your lifestyle habits, instead of continually reaching for another cup of coffee or a sugar-laden snack to help you power through that mid-afternoon slump, will improve both your energy levels and your overall health.
We’ve compiled some tips and tricks to help you boost your energy levels, for both immediate and long-term benefits. They involve no chemicals, fancy detoxes, or marathon commitments, but who knows – you just might be inspired to sign up for one if you’re not feeling constantly exhausted!
Depending on your age and gender, your body is made up of 45-65% water.1 When that water content is depleted, your blood volume decreases, and your heart has to pump harder to deliver the same amount of nutrients to your vital organs (which are also composed primarily of, you guessed it, water). The effects of dehydration can present as mental fog, difficulty remembering information, dizziness, and tiredness.2 Sometimes thirst signals can be mistaken for hunger cues, so next time you feel that lethargy setting in and start to reach for a snack, try drinking a glass of cold water first.
One cup of coffee can help your brain wake up and sharpen your focus in the morning, but if you need six cups of coffee just to function, it’s time to take a look at the underlying causes of your fatigue. The caffeine consumption you rely on could actually be the culprit: If you drink caffeinated beverages after 2 pm, you may be jeopardizing your sleep by overstimulating your body too close to bedtime. Cutting back on your caffeine intake might make you feel more tired initially, but you’ll sleep more soundly and feel more rested as your body adjusts. You might also consider swapping out the coffee for gentler sources that provide additional benefits, like green tea.
Spreading out your calorie intake throughout the day, instead of eating three bigger meals, can help keep blood sugar balanced and reduce the potential for overeating by preventing hunger from reaching extreme levels. The macronutrient content of your meals and snacks matters too: If you’re eating mostly carbohydrates, the likelihood that you’ll crash at some point during the day is much greater than it is if you eat a combination of carbs, healthy fat, and protein. Making sure to include protein in each meal and snack, and choosing complex carbs with fiber content, like quinoa and sweet potatoes, will fight off fatigue and provide fuel for your brain.3
Kids run around like crazy after they’ve had sugar, but once the initial rush wears off, the tiredness and irritability sets in. You might not feel compelled to run laps around the office after eating a doughnut or a candy bar, but the effect is the same: Sweet treats will provide a rush of energy as blood sugar levels spike, but the crash that follows will leave you more tired than before. Frequent added sugar consumption can also increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.4 When you feel like you’re fading, choose a snack like string cheese, celery and peanut butter, cottage cheese, or yogurt with heart-healthy nuts.
You can boost your energy without even leaving your desk. Just improving your posture can have an effect on your alertness – and your confidence, too! Sitting up straight not only relieves spinal pressure and prevents the onset of chronic pain and muscle weakness related to slouching, it also encourages a more positive self-image and easier recall of uplifting thoughts.5 Poor posture can bend arteries in unusual ways, reducing blood flow to the brain. It also puts stress on muscles instead of letting the bones support the body the way they’re designed to do. Sit with your shoulders back, your neck neutral, and your lower back slightly arched to stay alert and focused.
When you’re tired, the last thing you probably feel like doing is exercising. It doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial, though. Just taking a break from sitting at your desk and going outside for some fresh air can reinvigorate your tired mind and body. Studies suggest that the positive effects of walking can last for up to two hours, and consistent walking improves overall energy levels and encourages a more positive mood.6 Sunshine also helps to combat fatigue, as well as enabling vitamin D production to promote calcium absorption and support the immune system. Compound the benefits even further by bringing a friend along. Socialization boosts both your mental and physical health!4
Breathing deeply is both relaxing and energizing. It delivers oxygen to your brain while releasing tension in the muscles. When your eyelids start feeling heavy, close your eyes and sit with your back straight while breathing in for 6 seconds. Hold your breath for 3 seconds, and then exhale for 6 seconds. Repeat for at least ten breaths.
Yoga is the gold standard for stress-relieving activities, but even simple desk stretches can improve circulation for greater alertness and focus. And standing at your desk or getting up, even just for a few minutes every so often, can encourage blood flow to keep your brain oxygenated and fueled.2
It’s common knowledge in this day and age that smoking is terrible for your health for a long list of reasons. In addition to increasing your risk for serious health conditions, it also causes the buildup of tar and toxins in the lungs. These deposits interfere with lung function, reducing the efficiency of gas exchange between the lungs and the blood and lowering the amount of oxygen in the body. Quitting smoking, and avoiding all other forms of tobacco and nicotine, can greatly improve energy levels.4
As a sedative, alcohol can make you feel sleepy. This may lead you to believe that a nightcap will help you nod off, but drinking alcohol before bed frequently can actually reduce the quality of your sleep. Since it’s a diuretic, it can also disturb your sleep cycle by prompting you to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Reducing your alcohol intake can promote more restful sleep for consistent energy throughout the day.6
Stress takes a huge toll on your energy. One of the best things you can do to improve your energy levels for the long term is to evaluate the sources of your stress and determine what steps you can take to lower it. Therapy, meditation, mindfulness, and yoga can help promote relaxation and give you a chance to take a mental break from the things you worry about, but paring down your list of obligations is the more ideal solution. Chronic stress can lead to a number of serious health concerns like heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, mental health conditions, and eating disorders.7 Learning to prioritize and delegate less-pressing tasks will keep you happier, healthier, and more energized.
If your energy drags throughout the day, but you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, your sleep hygiene probably needs retooling. Maybe your bedroom isn’t dark or cool enough to promote restful sleep, or you’re not giving yourself enough time to unwind after a long, busy day. You might be consuming caffeine too late in the day to promote relaxation (refer back to tip #2) or keeping your brain stimulated by using your phone or other blue light source too close to bedtime. Sleep might be a low priority for you, given the number of obligations you have on your plate. A mindfulness or meditation practice might help you quiet your mind before going to bed, if reducing your responsibilities isn’t an option (review tip #9). It might seem counterintuitive if you already don’t feel like you have enough hours in a day, but going to bed earlier and giving yourself more time to fall asleep can promote more consistent energy levels so you can stay productive and focused throughout the day.4
Deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals, like magnesium and iron, can contribute to fatigue. Adding quality supplements that provide essential nutrients and support energy production to your healthy lifestyle can encourage greater vitality and overall health. U.S. Doctors’ Clinical offers supplements that contain nutrient blends formulated to address specific concerns, like stress, aging, and brain health, as well as products that promote general health and well-being for a more active, engaged life!
Fatigue isn’t an inevitable consequence of aging. These simple suggestions can help you improve your energy levels, combat mental fog and drowsiness, and encourage better circulation to boost your productivity, alertness, and mood. Don’t settle for sleepiness – take a look at your lifestyle and identify the changes you can make and the strategies you can employ to make these years your healthiest ones yet.