- Find the type and amount of exercise that works best for you.
- Try meditation or mindful relaxation.
- Improve your sleep habits.
- Spend your energy wisely.
Do you find yourself exhausted all the time, no matter what you do? You’re not alone. According to a National Safety Council report, 43% of Americans report they are too tired to function at work, and 76% of workers say they feel tired at work. (1) Luckily, there are several natural approaches you can take to alleviate your fatigue.
4 Things You Can Do
Here are 4 action steps you can take to reduce fatigue and enhance energy.
1. Find an Exercise That Works for You. When you experience fatigue, the last thing you probably think of doing is going for a jog around the block. However, exercise can actually have a net benefit for your energy levels. When you exercise, your body releases epinephrine and norepinephrine (stimulating hormones), and endorphins (which have an energizing, feel-good effect). Plus, exercise increases blood flow throughout the body, helps to transport nutrients to tissues, and improves heart and lung health. Further, moving the body stimulates the flow of “chi” (energy) through all the tissues, and this also supports energy levels in the long run.
The key is to find a type and amount of exercise that is right for you given your constitution and current health situation. You want enough exercise to stimulate the body, but not an excessive amount that will increase fatigue. A simple way to gauge if any given activity is appropriate for you is to note how you feel after the exercise. Ask yourself, “How do I feel immediately after this exercise?” Am I invigorated, more energetic, or do I feel tired? And then ask yourself a similar question the next day, “Do I feel invigorated, or do I feel a bit more tired than yesterday?” If you are fatigued, then consider resting more the day after a work-out and consider if you should dial down your exercise intensity a bit. Ideally, we want to develop exercise patterns that allow us to feel good after exercising and good the next day also.
2. Try Meditation or Mindful Relaxation. On average, the brain consumes about 20% of the body’s energy, despite the fact that it weighs an average of just 3 lb. That’s right—an organ that makes up about 2% of your body weight consumes 20% of your energy.
While you may not think of your thoughts as energy consuming, they are! Through meditation, we can quiet the mind. By quieting the mind, we save energy. Here are a few studies that show just that:
- Nurses who practiced meditation 5 days a week for one month showed significantly decreased feelings of burnout. (2)
- Older adults who implemented mindful awareness practices for two hours per week for 6 weeks saw significant improvement in insomnia symptoms, depression symptoms, and fatigue severity. They experienced significantly fewer symptoms than the control patients, who had attended sleep hygiene educational sessions. (3)
- Cancer patients who did yoga for 60 minutes a week for 4 weeks saw an average 3-point decrease in fatigue scores, and many continued doing yoga after the study ended because they reported that it reduced their “tiredness.” (4)
3. Improve Your Sleep Habits. Restorative sleep is the most potent energizer, and indeed the first line of treatment for fatigue. All activity is based on our ability to rest. And it is during sleep that our body repairs and restores itself.
How can you improve your sleep habits?
- Try to stick to a schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at roughly the same time each day.
- Going to bed by 10 pm and getting up by 6 am is in harmony with the human circadian rhythm and promotes better daytime energy.
- Avoid eating at least 3 hours before you sleep. It’s difficult to digest food when you’re sleeping and difficult to sleep well when you’re digesting food.
- Limit your exposure to blue-light a couple of hours before you go to bed (try reading a book instead of watching Netflix before bed).
- Take care to reduce stimulants in all forms—caffeine, stressful environments (think horror movies), and alcohol.
- Cultivate an ambience of peace and restfulness one or two hours before you go to bed.
- You might even consider using wearable body-monitoring tools like the OURA ring, which tracks key signals from the body. With this kind of tool, you can see just how your meditation, exercise, and sleep patterns are impacting your health.
4. Spend Your Energy Wisely! Ancient wisdom suggests that we only have a finite amount of energy to expend in our lifetime. It is wise to consider how we spend this energy. Will you choose to stress about the little things, and exhaust yourself in the process? Or will you make peace with your situation, and choose a more life-supporting way of spending your precious energy?
Your energy is like your paycheck—you choose what to spend it on. Just like you decide whether to spend money on dinner at a restaurant or a new pair of shoes, you can decide what to spend your life-force energy on.
What is the best use of your life-force energy? Take a moment to think about how you spend your energy on a day-to-day basis. What things make you feel exhausted? What makes you feel invigorated?
- Do you spend more time complaining than focusing on things that you appreciate?
- Do you prioritize social media over spending time in nature, exercising and being physically active?
- Could you spend more time and energy on activities that inspire and uplift you?
- National Safety Council (NSC). 2017. 43 percent of Americans admit they’re too tired to function at work. Occupational Health & Safety website, July 27, 2017.
- Hevezi, J. A. 2016. Evaluation of a meditation intervention to reduce the effects of stressors associated with compassion fatigue among nurses. Journal of Holistic Nursing 34(4):343-350.
- Black, D. S., et al. 2015. Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Internal Medicine 175(4):494-501.
- Lundt, A., and E. Jentschke. 2019. Long-term changes of symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fatigue in cancer patients 6 months after the end of yoga therapy. Integrative Cancer Therapies 18:1534735418822096.