Are you feeling tired all the time? Here Michele O’Connor explores the unusual causes that could be behind your daily fatigue – from limiting your caffeine to exercising more
Image: Getty Images/Tetra images RF)
Eating the wrong lunch
An unsatisfying lunch can affect your concentration and focus, leaving you lethargic for the rest of the day.
“Many people rely on sugar for energy,” explains Dr Jeff Foster, Medical Director at h3health.co.uk and author of Man Alive (Little Brown, £14.99).
Most either skip breakfast or eat a bowl of cereal or white toast and jam, then wolf down a sandwich and crisps.
“This causes an initial bounce, but then a big drop,” says Dr Foster.
“It’s no wonder they feel famished and catch up in the evening with a big meal that’s difficult to digest and metabolise.”
- Energy boost: Redistribute your daily calories, advises Dr Foster. Have porridge or eggs for breakfast, then choose a lunch that combines protein, good fats and fibre such as chicken with brown rice, salmon and avocado salad or homemade soup.
Get all the latest news sent to your inbox. Sign up for the free Mirror newsletter
Sedentary lifestyles tend to go hand in hand with lots of screen time.
“TV shows being available 24/7 have made it permissible to sit for hours,” says Dr Foster.
“I see so many people who complain of fatigue and say they are too tired or don’t have time to exercise.”
However, the more physically active you are, the more energised you feel.
- Energy boost: Start by getting out for a daily walk in the natural light to help you to feel more awake in the day and sleep better at night. “Make an effort to also take regular exercise – anything that leaves you out of breath and raises your heart rate,” says Dr Foster. “It doesn’t have to mean the gym, find something you enjoy and do it regularly.”
Too much caffeine
In small doses, caffeine is energising, but too much mimics the stress response and can leave you feeling drained of energy,” says Dr Sarah Brewer, Medical Director at Healthspan (healthspan.co.uk).
- Energy boost: Stick to just two or three caffeinated drinks per day, says Dr Brewer.
“Tea is better than coffee as it contains an amino acid called L-theanine which has a relaxing effect that helps to neutralise the effects of caffeine.”
Getty Images/Blend Images)
“Having too much stuff lying around can sap your energy,” explains Bianca Riemer, Women’s Leadership Coach (biancariemer. com).
“It’s annoying at best and distracting at worst, keeping you from being able to focus fully.”
- Energy boost: Schedule time in your diary to have a clear out. Aim to leave your desk as clutter-free as possible. Be ruthless. Put things away in drawers and get rid of anything you don’t use.
Social media scrolling
The average Brit spends nearly two hours a day on social media, often reaching for their phone as soon as they wake.
According to a TED talk by psychologist Adam Alter, our digital usage has increased because, unlike books which have chapters and TV episodes, there are no “stop cues”.
Digital devices make us want to keep on consuming for hours at a time with no breathing space.
- Energy boost: Be proactive about setting boundaries. Set an alarm, or stick to a regular schedule of breaks. Be mindful about whether you’re reaching for your phone out of boredom and do something else instead – preferably something active, suggests Dr Foster.
Energy vampires can often be people who drain your positivity, explains Bianca Riemer. They feed on your willingness to listen and care for them, leaving you exhausted and overwhelmed.
- Energy boost: Stop engaging, she suggests. “When they start complaining or gossiping, don’t validate their opinion and try to gently change the topic.” Make a reasonable excuse not to be around them: “I’m too tired” or “I’m too busy” will do. When it comes to colleagues, limit interactions by not stopping at their desk to chat.
The pandemic has had a psychological impact on all of us, says Dr Foster. There’s a feeling that our lives are still on hold and that a return to any sort of normality is built on sand.
“It takes an enormous amount of energy to feel worried, angry or frustrated. It’s no wonder many people feel drained,” he explains.
- Energy boost: See this extraordinary time as an opportunity to reflect, re-examine your life and make positive changes, says Dr Foster. If you’re working from home, take regular breaks outside.
A blast of cold air should make you feel invigorated and ready to power through the rest of the day. And, while it’s tempting to engage in low-effort activities such as watching TV, research shows it’s far better to unwind with activities that make you feel relaxed and produce a sense of achievement, such as yoga, writing or running.
Having a sense of progress from learning a skill appears to reverse the impact of stress and anxiety that underpins fatigue.
Many people feel tired and frazzled because they are simply trying to do too much. “You get burnout when your plate is already full, but you keep adding to it,” says Bio-Kult nutritionist Rosie Millen, who specialises in fatigue and energy management.
- Energy boost: “Learn to say no without explaining yourself,” says Rosie. “Consider writing a ‘stop doing’ list where you add all the things that zap your energy or take up too much of your time, then delegate where you can.”