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Tired all the time?

Lydia Rolley explores the issue of tiredness and offers some practical ways to manage our energy levels

Tiredness is a peculiar thing. After a busy day, tiredness is healthy, as it tells us when we have done enough and need to stop. It enables our bodies to relax and our minds to calm down so that we know when it is time to go to bed and fall asleep.

Awareness of early signs of tiredness enables us to establish healthy personal boundaries. However, unhealthy tiredness can cause a decrease in tolerance, stamina and motivation. It can negatively impact our physical and mental health, as well as our relationships, social life and work performance. No one wants that kind of tiredness.

Why are we all so tired?

It is hardly surprising that unhealthy tiredness is rife in our current society. The last two years have seen a constant onslaught of crises, fears and uncertainties with the pandemic lockdowns, bereavements, losses, adjustments, the toll on the NHS, war in Europe, climate changes, the cost of living crisis … and so it goes on.

How does uncertainty affect you?

What helps you to live healthily during uncertainty?

Visit your doctor if prolonged tiredness continues for more than four weeks. Consultation and blood tests will help identify if the reason for your tiredness is physical, psychological, or due to your lifestyle. Treatment will be different for each one.

What can we do about it?

Tiredness can be addressed by making the following simple lifestyle changes:

1 Be intentional
Choose to prioritise your health by giving it the time and attention it deserves.

Focus on regulating your energy to combat tiredness.

What helps or hinders you from prioritising your health?

Take time to plan any lifestyle changes needed.

2 Be aware of your current capacity
We all have a certain amount of energy which, once spent, is gone. There may be times when you need to keep going but that should only be for a season, rather than a lifestyle. Be mindful that inactivity and boredom can also produce tiredness.

If overstretched, are you able to say ‘No’, delegate or cancel some tasks?

If inactive, consider ways to gradually increase your movement and activity levels, such as stretches or healthy exercise.

3 Consider the different types of energy

Most activities use these types of energy:

It is useful to consider which type is being used when learning to regulate your energy levels.

Take note of which activities tire you and which activities energise you

Which energy type do you mainly use?

4 Seek balance

Try to balance out the different energy types by switching your activities around and doing them in smaller chunks. For example, if you experience increased cognitive tiredness, you might benefit from interspersing short mindless physical activities throughout the day.

How do you plan to balance out the activities that tire you most?

5 Learn healthy rest

Many of us have not learnt how to rest in a restorative way. Often, we crash and burn because we do not know how to stop and rest. We work through our lunch breaks, fall asleep in front of the TV, take daytime naps and are constantly glued to our phones.

Take short rests before tiredness forces you to rest.

Take 5 minutes out. Move and find a quiet place. Turn off your phone. Sit and be present. Nothing more, nothing less.

6 Establish a sleep routine

We often presume that we will sleep well if we are tired. This is not always the case.

Thirty minutes before bedtime, switch off all devices and bright lights.

Relax and unwind.

Set an alarm for the same time each morning and avoid oversleeping.

7 Drink more water

Most of us do not drink enough water. Tiredness, headaches, dizziness, memory and concentration difficulties are all symptoms of mild dehydration.

Start today and drink more water.

8 Eat healthily

Food is your fuel, so eat a healthy, balanced nutrient-rich diet. Limit your sugar intake, which gives an immediate rush of energy but is quickly followed by a crash, with increased tiredness. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which interfere with your quality of sleep.

Plan your meals and shop at a time of day when you have more energy.

9 Acknowledge stress and anxiety

Carrying unacknowledged stress and anxiety is exhausting and our bodies take the strain. Symptoms include muscle tension, headaches, pain, digestive issues, fatigue and sleep difficulties.

Name and acknowledge your feelings.Get help to manage stress and anxiety.

10 Encourage yourself

It takes discipline to form new habits and make consistent lifestyle changes but, in time, you will experience the benefits of increased energy, better health and less tiredness.

Stay positive and motivated by encouraging yourself with kind words and telling yourself ‘Well done!’

Lydia Rolley DipCOT, MSc, is the author of The Fatigue Book: Chronic fatigue syndrome and long COVID fatigue: Practical tips for recovery (Hammersmith Health Books, £16.99, 20 October).

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