The wrong cure
In our endless hunt for the mysterious ‘edge’, fatigue is our number-one enemy. So how do we combat it? With a variety of ‘slap-yourself-in-the-face’ stimulants to keep us on track, of course. Coffee, energy drinks, chocolate, more coffee, rubbing the eyes, pulling the hair, another coffee. It works, in the short term, but it’s liable to put you more ‘on edge’ than give you any real edge to your focus or productivity.
When we finally get home we unwind with a couple of glasses of wine, which we think helps us sleep, and it can, but the quality of your sleep is usually compromised, leaving you drowsy and reaching for the snooze button, reaching for the snooze button, and just one more time before yet more coffee. And so on. It’s a cycle of your own doing, and one not so easy to jump off.
We’re led to believe that fatigue is the great modern malaise spreading like an epidemic through office blocks and shopping malls, but what’s behind all this exhaustion? And are we, in fact, the main cause?
Yes, often fatigue is brought on by pushing ourselves too hard, high stress levels, too much caffeine and too little quality sleep, but there may also be other factors at play.
“The thyroid and adrenal glands produce hormones that give you an extra energy boost; however, it can be an anxiety-producing, frenetic kind of energy that does not do a body good,” says Dr Eva Cwynar, endocrinologist and author of The Fatigue Solution.
“Yes, it will help you get through the day, but it will stress your mind and your body, which will eventually lead to more fatigue. Hormones send messages to your muscles, saying, ‘Emergency, give up your sugar or else.’ The muscles sacrifice the glucose and become depleted to save other cells throughout the body. And that’s when we crash, burn, and become exhausted.”
Dr Cwynar recommends an eight-step plan to combat fatigue and increase your energy.
The first step, she says, is to boost your protein levels. “A protein-based way of eating will get your eating habits on track and fuel your body’s energy needs.”
Next, make sure you implement a healthy, consistent sleep routine by practising a calming relaxation therapy, such as meditation, prior to going to bed (which should be at the same time every night). “A healthy sleeping schedule keeps your hormones balanced and your energy flowing,” says Dr Cwynar.
Get plenty of exercise, which not only provides you with more energy but aids in improved sleep and lessens the risk of anxiety and depression. Dr Cwynar also stresses the importance of a healthy sex life.
“A good sex life increases overall energy. It releases endorphins and revs up your metabolism. But as with sleep, it’s the quality of your sex life that makes the difference.”
If you’re still struggling to shake the fatigue, have your doctor run some tests, starting with the thyroid.
“When women are rundown and overweight, many automatically assume they are having thyroid problems,” says Dr Cwynar. “For some women, that is indeed the case. For others it is not. But it’s important to know.
“Other tests will tell you if you are deficient in certain trace minerals and other micronutrients or if you have neurotransmitter imbalances that are contributing to the problems of energy depletion and fatigue.”
NEXT: Stressed? Discover how stress affects your metabolism.