The Writerri small bird

Health and Beauty Articles

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had just about as much ‘get up and go’ as a slug stuck in glue this month. The cold season has definitely started to take its tole; we were all happy to accept the dark mornings so long as it was on the run up to the precious festive season, but I think we’re now all willing the summer to hurry up so that we can dust off the cobwebs and come out of hibernation! In the meantime, we could all do with a little boost in the old energy levels. The best way to up your energy levels is to first of all realise where your lack of energy is coming from, and once you discover where the problem lies there are plenty things you can do to resolve the energy dip. If ongoing fatigue isn’t fixed then your everyday life will eventually be affected as well as leaving your body vulnerable to illness and infection.

The most common sources that contribute to fatigue are diet, lifestyle, sleep patterns or an underlying medical condition.

Diet

What you eat/drink in your daily diet will determine whether you have a supercharged or a sluggish day. What we put in our bodies is either a saviour or a hindrance to our health. If we are loading up on fatty, sugary foods for most of the day then we would expect to have zero energy, so why do we still do it?

Having a quick fix of a snickers bar raises our blood sugar levels and, in toe, it raises our energy (and our taste buds) but with this high it brings with it a low, making us feel more lethargic than before with often a severe lack of concentration.

A daily diet that is bursting with energy:

Breakfast: First and foremost – eat breakfast! It’s the golden start for an energy filled day. Include wholegrain or protein, such as a bowl of oatmeal or x2 poached eggs on wholemeal toast or better yet an omelette. Include a glass of orange juice for a Vitamin C boost. There is nothing wrong with adding a cup of tea or coffee if this is part of your morning routine – the danger comes when you rely on too many cups in the day to keep you going – this gives you too many highs and lows as it fluctuates your blood-glucose levels.

Snack: Ensuring you are eating little and often will help top up your blood sugar levels. Fruit is a great option for an energy snack as most fruits are loaded with Vitamin C, antioxidants and fibre. The easily accessible options are apples, oranges and bananas (poor bananas have been getting bad press recently!) Fruit is also filling so will keep you going for much longer than a sugary biscuit or an energy drink.

Lunch: Avoid rich carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, pasta and sugary foods. Have a hearty bowl of vegetable soup with a slice of wholemeal bread or oatcakes. The combination will fill you up as well as helping raise your energy levels. Avoid alcohol at all costs as this is a sedative and even one glass will leave you feeling drowsy – even when I was on honeymoon I had to stop having a drink with lunch, otherwise I was like a space cadet for the rest of the afternoon!

Dinner: Have a good proportion of all of the different food groups for your evening meal – ¼ protein (meat/fish) ¼ carbohydrate (potatoes/rice/pasta) and ½ vegetables with a small amount of added fat i.e. butter on vegetables. Avoid adding unnecessary accompaniments such as garlic bread, and cook your meals from scratch if possible (processed foods/sauces are loaded with sugar, salt and saturated fats – a recipe for tiredness). Try not to overload your plate as large meals leave you feeling lethargic as they are very difficult for the intestine to digest – always remember it takes 20 minutes for your brain to realise you’re full, so give it time! Also avoid alcohol.

Lifestyle

A healthy mind is a recipe for vitality and energy, where as anxiety, stress and depression combine together and have the opposite effect. These factors often hinder our ability to rest and sleep as our minds are constantly in over-drive with worry, and as a result we tend to become very irritable. Seek out the problems that are causing you stress and share with someone close to you, trying to find a way to resolve them. Bottling problems up will make you feel more run down, and tired, in the long run. If you have a sudden onset of anxiety then it’s important to concentrate on your breathing to get your heart rate back to normal, you will recover from it far quicker if you attempt to control it.

Also, try to organise your day so that you don’t feel daunted by the day ahead – can you give a partner, friend or family member a couple of errands to do? Can you achieve some of these things at night instead of letting the night slip away from you? Freeing up your mind from everyday burdens will inevitably leave you feeling more energised.

Think of ways to stimulate your mind. And that starts with turning off the T.V! Watching mindless T.V will leave you feeling tired and unfulfilled if that is your routine night after night. At night time try to make a conscience effort to go visiting, indulge in a hobby or play a game with your family. Before work, during the day or after work try and fit in a scenic walk; this restores people’s energy and focus.

Exercise

One sure fire way to release stress and anxiety is to exercise! Exercise releases the chemical dopamine which can promote well-being and counter a negative mind-set. Whatever the weather, or however you’re feeling, including 20 minutes of exercise in your day will instantly increase your energy levels. The stimulation of exercising first thing in the morning has a similar effect to having a cup of espresso – so instead of reaching for the coffee cup, put on your joggers and go for a brisk walk to wake your body and mind up. Another restorative exercise is Yoga – an excellent exercise for re-energising.

Sleep patterns

It goes without saying that if you aren’t getting a good night’s sleep your energy levels will be affected the next day. Typically, getting between 7-9 hours a night is sufficient enough for your brain to rest and recharge for the day ahead. Top tips for getting a good night’s sleep are:

· Set a regular bedtime and go to bed at the same time each night, as well as waking up at the same time everyday so that you are in a routine.

· Avoid stimulating the mind before bedtime by switching off the T.V at least half an hour before bed.

· Avoid stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine after 7pm– even tea! If you can’t go without a warm drink before bed then try a small cup of horlicks (a large cup will ensure you’re up several times to the toilet!)

· Avoid napping if you feel it is affecting your ability to drift off at bedtime. If you feel like a snooze at an irregular time then activate your mind by doing a house chore or calling a friend.

· Ensure you are burning off enough energy in the day so that you are tired at night - being a couch potato will have the opposite effect!

Underlying medical conditions

Anaemia: One of the most common conditions that affects energy levels is iron deficiency anaemia. This can be caused by a poor diet, blood loss or an inability to absorb sufficient iron from food, and the main symptom is tiredness and lethargy as well as shortness of breath and changes in appearance (pale complexion, dry nails). Women who are pregnant or have heavy periods are prone to this condition more so.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME): This is a severe and disabling tiredness that goes on for at least six months. Symptoms include a sore throat, headaches, muscle and joint pain.

Underactive thyroid: An underactive thyroid means that you have too little of the thyroid hormone ‘thyroxine’ in your body. This leaves sufferers feeling very tired and sometimes can lead to weight gain and feelings of depression.

Diabetes: Diabetes is a long term condition caused by too much sugar in the blood, and one of the tell tale signs is feeling very tired. Other symptoms include feelings thirsty, going to the toilet more than normal and weight loss.

Coeliac disease: Tiredness is one of the many symptoms of coeliac disease, a condition that stems from a food intolerance to gluten, a substance found in bread, cakes and cereals. Up to 90% of sufferers are not aware that they have the condition. Other symptoms include diarrhoea, anaemia and weight loss.

So if you’re tired of having no energy, have a look at your life and work on the areas that will put the spring back in your step, unless you think there may be an underlying medical condition that you should enquire with your GP about. Because let’s face it, if we’re waiting on the sun to come behind the clouds to give us a boost, we could be waiting a long, long time - this is the Outer Hebrides after all!

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