This is a guest post from Tammy of tammystrait.com
Feeling tired? Join the club. The combination of hyper-productive, over-scheduled, picture perfect, stressful lifestyles have contributed to an energy crisis in America. When it comes to energy, it’s not finite — but you can waste it. The good news is you can also increase it. James Redfield said, “Where intention goes, energy flows.”
We all want to feel alert, well-rested and energetic, but for many of us this is a dream, not a reality. Most of the time, fatigue can be traced to one or more of your habits or routines. It can be a normal and very important response to physical exertion, stress, poor eating habits, boredom or a lack of sleep. The truth is there are quite possibly a myriad of reasons why your body feels fatigue, exhaustion and/or a general lack of energy. In some cases, however, fatigue is merely a symptom of an underlying medical problem. When fatigue is not relieved by enough sleep, good nutrition, exercise and a low-stress environment, it should be evaluated by a doctor.
If you feel like you’re burning out, stressing out or overwhelmed, maybe it’s time to step back and take a break. Here are 20 signs you’re pushing yourself too hard.
Remember that where intention goes, energy flows. Where is your focus? What has your attention? When it comes to our body and life, oftentimes the default response is to focus on lack. What’s missing? Where am I falling short? How did I fail? What’s wrong with me?! These common thought patterns can lead to depression, anxiety and a sedentary life. To create more energy, shift your attention (and intention) in each the following areas:
Have you ever found yourself completely exhausted rehashing an argument, second-guessing a decision or in the downward spiral of regret? I’ve been through too many emotional roller-coasters to count and each one left me feeling depleted and defeated. Before you try to increase your energy, take a minute to honestly evaluate how and where you’re currently investing what you have. For many, this is a simple shift to think about energy from an expenditure to an investment. Where are you wasting it? Toxic relationships, negative thinking, impulsive decisions and bad habits siphon away vast quantities of energy and leave you with nothing to show for it. Instead, decide to “invest your energy into something that is going to contribute to your growth.” In other words: Use it wisely.
One of the best ways to change your lifestyle is to establish boundaries. Not sure how? The Boundaries book is one of the best kicks in the gut you’ll ever take. A note of forewarning: the first time I read it I got mad. Really mad. Each time after I got smarter, braver and a lot more free. If you wonder how to set physical, emotional or spiritual boundaries, or silently wonder if you can set limits and still be loving, this book is for you. Are you surrounded by critics or negative people? Do you have a friend that’s passive aggressive or mean? Do you find yourself exhausted by the same crisis or circumstance time and time again and can’t seem to break free? Life is too short. When you learn to set boundaries physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, you can stop squandering the energy you already do have and channel it into something you want.
If you aren’t currently looking at the ingredients in the food you eat, you need to start. There is a whole host of hazards in our food supply and, it turns out, not only is it dangerous to your health, but directly affects your energy levels. They say abs are made in the kitchen and, while I certainly haven’t found any in my pantry, what you put in your body will show up on your body. Fatigue and exhaustion are a heavy cloak. This summer I got out of my normal routine. Traveling, stress, camping and the season of summer in general lent itself well to convenience, cocktails and comfort food. Mid-summer I found myself beyond just tired, unable to make it through a single day without a nap. Food was ultimately part of the problem and I needed to course correct.
But please, don’t start another diet! If you struggle with nutrition or constantly find yourself on some fad diet or another, start with this free resource. It’s an honest look into why diets don’t work and provides a comprehensive list of foods to eat and ingredients to avoid to change your lifestyle. As much as you can, eliminate processed foods and choose foods that have a lot of nutrition per calorie. These include vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, whole grains and lean animal protein. Make breakfast a priority. It’s an easy meal to skip, but one or two easy go-to breakfast ideas is all you need. Not only will breakfast help get your metabolism going, it sets the stage for a healthy day of eating. Snack smart. Real food is your best form of energy. Combine complex carbs with protein and fat to give you lasting energy. Try nuts and dried fruit, avocado toast, Greek yogurt and granola, or apple slices with honey, oats and cinnamon. Try to get at least one source of omega-3 fats in your body every day and don’t overeat. Large portions can drain your energy. Finally, increase your water intake and limit or eliminate alcohol. So long summer.
It seems logical to assume that exercise would drain your energy, leaving you feeling more tired, but it literally does the opposite. Exercise actually creates energy in your body. This happens on the cellular level, where energy production begins. When challenged physically, your body rises up to meet the demand for more energy by becoming stronger. This energy process begins with tiny organs in your body called mitochondria. Located in your cells, they work like little power plants to produce energy. The number of mitochondria you have, which is your ability to produce energy, is affected by your daily activity. So the more cardiovascular exercise you perform, the more mitochondria your body will make to produce the increased energy your body needs.
Want to increase your energy? Set a new goal. Challenge yourself to walk or run a 5k or half-marathon. Remember that goal you had a decade ago and haven’t reached? Go for it! I recently signed up for a marathon to shoot for my lofty, long-held goal to qualify for the Boston marathon. Two months ago I literally couldn’t drag myself out of bed and today I finished four miles of intense speed drills on the treadmill. The energy is in you, but first you’ve got to move.
4. Self Care
When I was going through my own fatigue crisis this summer I pursued help along every avenue I could think of. I started physical therapy for a five-year old injury, went regularly to a sports massage therapist, began taking epsom salt baths and icing my muscles on a daily basis. In response to my what’s wrong with me?dilemma, one provider casually remarked, “sometimes our bodies just want to be pampered.” Something in her off-hand comment rang true. So often we rush through our days and our lives never listening to our body. It’s telling you. Mine was definitely telling me. I needed to take care of myself in all of the ways above: mentally/lifestyle, nutrition and exercise — but I also just needed to be kind to it.
It makes sense that if you’re tired, you might not be getting enough sleep. If you’re not sleeping well, it will be next to impossible to avoid lagging energy levels. Considering that two-thirds of people now suffer from sleep problems, it’s not only quantity that matters, but quality. Due to technology, the number of people going to bed on devices is staggering. Create a sleep routine. Turn off electronics or, better yet, leave them in a different room. Draw a bath, light a candle, read a good book, or take a nap. Taking care of yourself is the best gift you can give to your body and sometimes shutting down, disconnecting and deciding to listen to the rhythm of your own life will refuel and recharge you in a way that nothing else can.
With energy, much like life, you have to decide to invest in yourself. “Where intention goes, energy flows.” Decide today that you will intentionally choose where to expend, how to no longer squander, with what you will fuel and where you will build. Above all, listen and love yourself well. Chances are, you already have a good idea of what’s causing your fatigue because your body speaks. Listen. By making a few simple mental and lifestyle changes, nutrition tweaks, exercise goals, and some pampering from time to time, you have the power to increase your energy, take back your power, and reclaim the life you love.
Tammy is the founder of COR44™, a wholehearted fitness company designed to empower every woman to find her strength, love her body, and intentionally design her life. She launched Personal Training Cards™, a product designed to equip, empower and inspire women to work out and find their strength no matter their fitness level. She also writes about food, fitness and freedom on her blog at tammystrait.com.