Over the last several weeks, a large number of my patients have been reporting varying degrees of fatigue. Some feel tired all day but can't get a good night's sleep. Others are experiencing Zoom fatigue from being on the computer for much of the day. A few feel like their energy crashes in the middle of the afternoon. Why are so many people feeling so tired? Stress.
Stress, especially when experienced for long periods of time, can result in fatigue. It's understandable why so many people are fatigued. Pandemics are fatiguing, and even though the rate of transmission of Covid-19 continues to slow down here in New Jersey (thankfully!), remaining vigilant until a vaccine creates a solid herd immunity is critical, but it's also fatiguing.
There are a number of things you can do to rebound from fatigue.
1. Improve your nutrition. Of all of my suggestions, this one is the most important. If you've been indulging in comfort food over the last few months (you're not alone....I enjoyed bagels with cream cheese and lox for a few weeks), it's time to make different choices. We live in the garden state, and our local farms have a ton of wonderful produce available. I got the biggest head of romaine lettuce from Sun High Orchards in Randolph last week and I believe it cost less than $3, and it provided us 6 large salads. These fresh foods give us nutrients that give us energy. Some of the farms even have "pick your own" available, so it doesn't get any fresher than that. Make it a goal to have fresh produce with every meal and snack.
2. Stay hydrated. Dehydration can contribute to fatigue. Especially during these extremely hot days, it's really important to drink plenty of water. The rule of thumb is to take your body weight, divide it in half, and that number is the number of ounces of water you should drink in a day. So for someone who weighs 170 lbs, they should drink 85 ounces of water every day. If you're really active or it's a really hot day, drink a little more water. Coconut water is extremely hydrating (but don't have more than 1 serving per day). Also, watermelon has a lot of electrolytes that help hydrate the body.
3. Gentle exercise. Though exercise uses energy, movement also helps maintain the body's physiology for providing energy. If you frequently exercise but find yourself more fatigued than usual these days, try exercising a little less and doing a different activity. If you're not exercising, start slowly and build up to doing some type of exercise activity for 30-40 minutes 3-4 times per week.
4. Deep breathing. In East Asian medicine, the Kidney grasps the Qi as the Lungs are inhaling air. Taking a deep breath allows your diaphragm muscle to gently massage your adrenal glands, which can get strained because of stress. Practice deep breathing daily. Sit upright in a comfortable position or lay flat on your back. Place your hands on your lower abdomen below your belly button. Slowly inhale deeply so that your hands start to move with your expanding belly, then hold your breath for a moment, then exhale and allow your abdomen to contract as the breath draws out. Try to inhale for a count of 5 seconds, hold your breath for 3 seconds, then exhale for 5 seconds, and then hold your breath again for 3 seconds. Take 12 deep breaths at that pace every morning and early in the afternoon.
5. Get acupuncture. Sometimes our body needs a reset, and acupuncture can release the tension that contributes to fatigue. Acupuncture can also boost the adrenal glands, which are important for maintaining consistent energy throughout the day.
Rebounding from fatigue can take a while, so be patient with yourself. One day of rest won't do the trick, but following the above tips consistently will help your body gradually regain its energy.