There are so many reasons we all feel knackered right now – with lockdown limbo, healthy anxiety and just general end of year fatigue.
Even when we aren’t doing very much, we still feel incredibly tired.
So with 2022 finally here, how can we go about feeling more energised in day-to-day life?
There are a number of simple-yet-practical lifestyle changes we can make to help increase and maintain energy levels – and stop feelings of grogginess.
If you’re finding yourself complaining that you’re just ‘so tired all the time,’ here are some expert tips on how to perk up going forward.
Don’t drink alcohol at bedtime
Many of us enjoy a nice glass of wine in the evenings to wind down, but experts say this could actually be wreaking havoc on our sleep.
Dr Karina Patel, a sleep medicine expert from The London Sleep Centre, explains that alcohol decreases overall sleep quality in a variety of different ways.
‘It acts as a central nervous system depressant, but is short acting – meaning it can cause insomnia. So, although you may fall asleep quicker, it may not last for very long and you may wake up frequently,’ she says.
‘Have your last tipple a couple of hours before bedtime to give your body more time to normalise before sleeping.
‘Alcohol also triggers inflammation, causing the soft tissue lining in the airway to swell up to constrict the airspace. This can mimic, or worsen, symptoms of sleep apnoea (when your breathing stops and starts), and can cause snoring.’
Buy a wake-up light
Stephanie Taylor, a health and wellbeing expert at StressNoMore, says a light wake-up alarm could help you feel significantly less groggy in the morning.
She says: ‘They give out gentle light which simulates the sun rising, so your body’s wake-up hormones reach their optimum level by the time your alarm sounds.
‘The soft white LED light and changeable settings can help tackle the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) by creating the perfect light intensity, which works by triggering a chemical change in the brain that is responsible for lifting your mood.
‘Plus, many sunset lamps come with ambient mood lighting colour settings to match the user’s mood, with different colours predicted to have different effects on the brain’s activity and emotions.’
Of course, every individual needs a different amount of shut-eye, but there is such a thing as too much sleep – also known as hypersomnia.
Stephanie adds: ‘Hypersomnia can cause you trouble waking up, as well as issues concentrating and grogginess during the day.
‘The perfect nap length is around 10 to 20 minutes, so if you are overindulging in a mid-afternoon nap, or two, then any longer than 30 minutes will make you feel more tired than before you went to sleep.
‘Ensure you only get the amount of sleep you need. This can vary from person to person depending on age, activity level, health and genetics.
‘You can track the amount of sleep you’re getting with sleep monitors, which record duration of sleep, breathing rate, heart rate, plus how often you take to drift off and wake up during the night.’
Take a step back
Wellness and fatigue coach Pamela Rose explains that when we feel tired it can often be an indication that we are doing too much.
She says: ‘Try building a new habit where you look at the week ahead, and plot on a single page all the non-routine commitments you’ve got coming up. This allows you to see the shape of the week coming up and whether you’ve overcommitted your time and energy.’
Pamela stresses that this weekly habit allows you to manage things in advance – so that you can make smart decisions about whether something needs to be moved or cancelled.
‘This will help your mindset as well as your energy levels, as you’ll start the week feeling confident that things feel manageable, and avoid those anxious moments where you find yourself in the middle of something that you know has been too much,’ she adds.
Stick to a consistent bed routine
It might sound simple, but keeping up a consistent bedtime routine will help your body develop better sleep habits.
Pamela adds: ‘Other helpful things include: not eating too close to bedtime – try and leave a two hour gap between that last mouthful and tucking yourself up in bed – and reduce screen time in the evenings and use table lamps to keep artificial light low-level.
‘And try not to stimulate your brain too close to sleep time – listening to an audiobook in bed, rather than reading a physical book, is much more relaxing.’
Try breathing exercises
Vanessa Michielon, a movement expert and founder of the Transformative Movement Method, says that even just breathing exercises can go a long way to help combat tiredness.
‘Use conscious breathing and movement to improve blood oxygenation and lift your energy up when you feel lethargic,’ Vanessa says.
‘For instance, a quick pick-me-up practice from yoga is called Breath of Joy, which is also suggested for depression treatment. You breathe in in three stages lifting your arms first in front of your shoulders, then to the side, then above your head, and exhale fully dropping your arms with a vigorous out-breath.
‘You can try this five to 10 times choosing your desired amount of intensity, to feel more energised and focused.’
Dr Roshane Mohidin, a behaviour change specialist at Vitality, says it’s a good idea to exercise regularly to keep tiredness at bay.
‘Getting active provides a natural boost to your sleep hormones and improves sleep quality at night. However, avoid heavy exercise too close to bedtime as this can keep you awake,’ says Dr Roshane.
‘There’s no need to overdo it and spend hours in the gym, as this can backfire and leave you feeling more tired all the time. Gentle, regular exercise can be enough to maintain your circadian rhythm and boost your energy.’
Check your vitamin status
Nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr explains that being low or deficient in certain vitamins and minerals can leave you feeling constantly tired and fatigued.
Some of the common ones to look out for include B12, iron, folate and vitamin D.
Clarissa says: ‘Vegans and vegetarians have a higher risk of lower levels of B12 and iron, thanks to lowered intake of animal foods that contain rich amounts of these nutrients. And with iron, women have an increased risk of low levels due to menstrual cycles and previous pregnancies. If you are on a vegetarian or vegan diet, it might be worth taking a B12 supplement.
‘To increase iron intake, ensure you are eating dark leafy greens, pulses, tofu and whole grains regularly and avoid caffeine close to your food – it can block the absorption of iron.’
Balance your blood sugar
‘Balancing our blood sugar levels can help contribute to consistent energy and mood, and help us avoid energy highs and lows,’ stresses Clarissa.
She says to aim for a meal that consists of a quarter of your plate as protein, a quarter complex carbohydrates, ½ fruit and veg and then add on one to two thumbs of fat.
Clarissa says this gives you adequate amounts of all the essential macronutrient groups without restriction or elimination – which can often be one of the reasons that people feel low in energy.
She adds: ‘Swapping from refined carbohydrates to complex carbohydrates can provide us with a steady stream of energy. Swap white bread to wholemeal alternatives or options such as rye, white rice to brown or wild and white pasta to whole-wheat or pulse based options.’
Try to keep a positive mindset
Self-care expert and founder of BlissBox Shareen Kullar explains that our mindset and the way we think also has an impact on our bodies.
She says: ‘For example if you are thinking negative thoughts, your body will tense. And if you are thinking negative thoughts for a whole day, then your body has been tense for a whole day.
‘Think about how much energy you are wasting doing this. Giving the mind space and a positive environment saves energy – your body will be more relaxed and, as a result, you will be more relaxed and happier.’
Shareen says it’s a good idea to try and keep a more positive mindset – as much as you can.
‘A positive mindset takes discipline. As humans, we are drawn to negativity, whether it be negative news or negative feedback or a bit of drama,’ she continues.
‘But choosing to be in a good and positive mood will increase your energy levels and everyone else’s around you. Your energy is contagious – choose it wisely.’
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