It is certainly a crazy busy time of year for many – and the frantic pace definitely has some feeling more fatigued than usual. Not to mention seasonal allergies, busy work schedules, lack of sleep, hormonal imbalance, and chronic illness that keep many feeling a lack of energy on most days. From an acupuncture perspective, fatigue can be caused by numerous different types of imbalances in the body – you can learn more about that here. And while there can be medically significant types of fatigue (always tell your practitioner if you are feeling more fatigue than normal and don’t know why), often time fatigue can be managed with lifestyle changes. Here are a few suggestions to try to boost your energy and get you back on your feet.
Exercise! Again and again, research shows that a healthy amount of exercise boosts energy levels. (Too much exercise can further deplete you, though, so find your perfect balance!) This amount of energy is different for everyone – some people feel great after a 10 mile run, and others feel better after a 10 minute walk around the block. Either is going to be helpful, if it is the right thing for you. Moving, in some way, increases circulation, improves focus, and reinvigorates you when you feel that afternoon slump coming on. Getting started is often the hardest part: try getting up from your desk or couch and taking a short walk or doing 10 minutes of stretching right where you are.
Drink more water. Dehydration is one of the most common causes of fatigue – and we know from working with patients that most people don’t get enough fluids during the day. Monitor your water intake and try to be sure you are drinking water consistently throughout the day. Room temperature water is best – cold water can shock the system and actually have the opposite of the desired effect. Adding lemon to your water can also help the body’s tissues to absorb the water more easily. If you are feeling really dehydrated, drinking water with electrolytes can be a good idea. Coconut water is naturally high in electrolytes, or you can buy electrolyte tablets to dissolve into your water at health and sporting goods stores. (Stay away from the more sugary electrolyte options, like Gatorade.)
Snack and eat regular meals. Another common culprit of fatigue is unstable blood sugar levels. When you are hungry, a natural reaction is to feel tired. Be sure to eat regular meals throughout the day – don’t skip breakfast – and also keep protein-rich snacks on you at all times. Even a small handful of nuts, or a piece of fruit with some cheese, or a health bar can pick your energy up. As long as you don’t have an allergy, nuts are great because many (cashews, hazelnuts, almonds) are high in magnesium which has been shown to boost energy.
Cut down on refined sugar. Eating sweets puts a huge drain on our energy. For more information on living a sugar-free lifestyle, check out this blog post from a few years ago. More and more research suggests that sugar behaves in our systems like an addictive drug – and we need more and more of it to feel satiated. Sugar causes dramatic ups and downs in our blood sugar levels, which contributes to erratic energy throughout the day. From an acupuncture perspective, sugar weakens the energy of the Spleen and Stomach, which control digestion but also control our day to day energy levels. So try reaching for one of those protein rich snacks instead of a baked good or candy, or try naturally sweet foods like fruit to try to satiate that craving.
Meditate. Regular meditation has been shown to boost overall energy levels. It also helps you to de-stress, promotes better quality sleep, and actually can create a need for less sleep overall, for you to function optimally. It also produces certain substances in the body – such as DHEA and growth hormone – which are sometimes found in energy drinks and energy bars.
Identify possible food triggers. Undetected food sensitivities can often cause fatigue, sluggishness, and feeling foggy-headed. If you suspect you may be sensitive to a certain food, try cutting it out of your diet for 30 days, and see if you notice a difference in your energy levels. If you don’t know where to start, try cutting out the most common culprits – dairy, gluten, and sugar. After 30 days, you can start to slowly reintroduce foods, one at a time, and see what changes they make to your energy levels. Some people tolerate dairy and gluten just fine – for others, these foods can cause micro-inflammation in the body, which leads to pain, fatigue, and a host of other low-grade health issues.
Get more sleep. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it is probably worth mentioning. If you are consistently tired, look at your sleep patterns. Do you feel rested when you wake up in the morning? If not, chances are you aren’t getting enough sleep. Try to rework your sleep habits to go to bed and get up around the same time each day. Limit screen time before bed. Seek treatment for insomnia if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night.
Get treatment. There are numerous treatments from health professionals that can help to boost energy levels – acupuncture, reflexology, and Chinese Herbal Medicine all work on boosting the systems of the body that are weak and causing fatigue. Massage has been shown in clinical trials to alleviate the fatigue associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and can increase circulation, reduce tension, pain, and stress, which are common culprits of fatigue. If you wonder what holistic treatment is right for you, don’t hesitate to call us at 781-898-4083 and we will help you decide!