For an ailment that comes from a number of possible causes, fatigue can feel impossible to overcome, a plague that seems to haunt no matter how many naps you take—you know there are a few aspects of your life that could change, but the exhaustion that seems to lack an explanation weighs down any shot at action.
Fatigue can either be an effect of unhealthy behavior or a symptom of something that lurks beneath—depending on the catalyst, it can be a fix as simple as taking vitamin D pills or an arduous quest to diagnose and solve an underlying medical problem. If your fatigue has become too much to handle, consult a doctor or medical professional to seek out its source. From there, you can fight against it. In the meantime (or if a lifestyle change is to blame), heed these strategies for regaining that lost energy.
Look, the relationship between what you put in your body and how well it’s able to perform is undeniable. For example, various components of starchy or processed foods, sugar and bad gut bacteria are all known to negatively affect energy levels. Speaking of energy, your diet may be deficient in nutrients such as iron and protein, which are vital in energy production. This is a full-circle kind of step, though, and meeting one half of the equation can only help so much. Establish some kind of exercise regimen (it sucks, I know) to put that new energy to use. Also, for some reason, exerting energy through exercise can actually give you more.
If you’ve gotten the first step down, this one will be a little easier. When you don’t get enough sleep at night, well, you’re tired, and if you’re self-destructive like I am, you try to make up for those lost hours sometime during the day, willfully trapped in a restless (literally) cycle. As you probably know, preoccupation or anxiety can also interfere with getting enough rest, so if it’s possible, develop some type of bedtime ritual, like reading or jotting thoughts down in a journal, to help induce sleep (If said ritual includes melatonin or a prescribed sleeping pill without the dreaded “drowsy hangover,” then so be it. Also try keeping your computer out of the bedroom (or bed) so your brain won’t think your temple of rest is a workspace.
You know substances are bad for you, but then can also wipe you out. In addition to the whole living longer thing, restricting or eliminating alcohol, drug or tobacco use will reduce fatigue and inspire better feelings throughout your body. For more information on tackling addiction, consult help from a program like the Addiction Resource Center.
Time for a personal anecdote: I have depression and anxiety, take three medications for the aforementioned conditions and hardly spend time outdoors (also, the Paste office doesn’t get much sunlight). In short, I am pretty familiar with this fatigue stuff. In the midst of an extreme spell of tiredness, a relative suggested that I try vitamin D pills, which gave her, a near-physically-perfect human being, more energy. Since I started taking vitamin D, I’ve nearly forgotten what it’s like to be plagued by fatigue—something I would have called a joke months ago actually made a considerable difference. And if it is all a placebo effect, then at least it works well.
As people with mood disorders know, emotional weight or plights like anxiety can physically manifest as fatigue. It’s also a common and prominent side effect of chronic stress. Whatever’s bothering you (or clouding your head at the time, since mood disorders don’t exactly go away) needs to come out. If you feel comfortable with it, talk to someone: make an appointment with a therapist, sit down with a friend or bare your soul via internet chat—changes are that person may need someone to consult as well. If you’d prefer not to voice your anxieties, making time for an activity you enjoy, like running or practicing an instrument, can help you work through problems in a different—but still effective—way.
Main photo by JoyTek, CC BY-SA 2.0
Sarra Sedghi is the assistant editor of Paste’s food and science sections.