Winter is coming. As December begins, so does the holiday whirl. Office parties. Family get-togethers. Late nights spent trying to put together toys that have instructions written in a foreign language.
It can be easy to get overwhelmed, and feeling tired will make it more difficult to get through the month. So here are five ways to beat some of that fatigue, giving you more energy to face whatever is on your calendar.
Eat healthier food more often.
Most people understand the essentials of healthy eating: Eat several servings of fruit and vegetables every day, plus servings of grains, dairy, and a variety of proteins. Reduce fats, sugars and sodium.
But another way to evaluate how you eat is to look at how often you eat. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom notes that “a good way to keep up your energy through the day is to eat regular meals and healthy snacks every three to four hours.” This helps to keep your blood sugar levels more consistent, rather than spiking after large meals.
Just remember that if you’re eating more frequently, your meals should be smaller. Your daily intake should still remain around 2,000 calories, regardless of how it is eaten throughout the day.
Hydration is a key component of your diet. While you may not reach 64 ounces of water a day (and most doctors agree that eight 8-ounce glasses of water is a bit much for most people), drinking fluids throughout the day is essential. Not only can dehydration cause fatigue, it has also been shown to impair activity, alertness and concentration.
If you’re drinking more than water (and most of us are), try to remember this mantra: Don’t drink your calories! Drinks can add up to a lot of additional calories throughout the day, particularly if you are drinking sodas or specialty drinks from the corner coffee shop. Aside from the additional calories, drinking sugary drinks may initially give you a spike in energy, but it is often followed by a crash, where you may have less energy than before.
When fatigue is a concern, the NHS recommends cutting two kinds of drinks: those that contain alcohol and caffeine. Even though a glass of wine or a pint of beer may help you relax in the evening, you won’t sleep as well after drinking alcohol, which means you’ll be more tired during the next day. And, like sugar, caffeine can cause spikes in your energy, leading to crashes afterward, making you feel even more tired.
It may seem counterintuitive, but if you’re feeling lethargic, taking a walk or doing some exercise is a great way to have more energy. WebMD points out that “Even a single 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost, and the benefits increase with more frequent physical activity.”
Yoga in particular may be especially helpful in increasing energy. A study done in 2009 found that after doing yoga once a week for only six weeks, the subjects had more energy and confidence that those that did not do yoga.
Exercising more may also help you lose weight, another factor in fatigue. “If your body is carrying excess weight, it can be exhausting,” notes the NHS. “It also puts extra strain on your heart, which can make you tired. Lose weight and you’ll feel much more energetic.”
If you’re struggling to fit exercise in during a busy season, here are some tips to fit exercise into your daily routine. You can also talk to a physical therapist about creating a safe and effective exercise plan. As musculoskeletal experts, physical therapists can evaluate your fitness and discuss what you should target to grow stronger and healthier. Use our clinic locator at the bottom of this page to see if there is a Physiquality PT near you that can help you develop a personalized fitness plan.
Catch some ZZZs.
Most of us don’t get enough rest to keep going — adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night to be well-rested. In addition, pay attention to your habits. If you get up and go to bed at the same time every day, and allow yourself some time to relax before bedtime, you will feel better and have more energy.
If you do fall short on shut-eye, the doctors at WebMD recommend a brief afternoon nap. They explain that “a 10-minute nap is usually enough to boost energy. Don’t nap longer than 30 minutes, though, or you may have trouble sleeping that night.”
Talk to your doctor.
Finally, WebMD reminds readers that fatigue may be a sign that something is wrong, particularly if it comes on suddenly or lasts for a long time. They note, “It is a common symptom of many illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, anemia, thyroid disease, and sleep apnea.” Fatigue could also be a side effect of medications. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you feel unusually tired, and make sure to tell her about any new medications if a different doctor prescribed them.
Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity. Mayo Clinic, October 13, 2016.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Key recommendations: Components of healthy eating patterns. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th ed. December 2015.
Self-help tips to fight fatigue. National Health Service (UK), February 21, 2015.
How exercise can help prevent disease. Physiquality, June 2, 2014.
9 ways to get your energy back. WebMD, April 1, 2014.
Freedhoff, Yoni. Eat your calories, don’t drink them. U.S. News and World Report, August 2, 2012.
Hartfiel N, Havenhand J, Khalsa SB, Clarke G, and Krayer A. The effectiveness of yoga for the improvement of well-being and resilience to stress in the workplace. The Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, January 2011.
Brody, Jane E. In summer’s heat, watch what you drink. New York Times, June 28, 2010.