Today we're discussing energy levels and energy depletion. I think this is such an important topic at this time of the year, especially if you live in the UK.
There is a natural lull in people's energy at this time of year. I'm feeling tired at the moment, and I've had so many comments from people about how exhausted they are, so I thought it was time to investigate further.
How is your energy at the moment?
How do you feel after work? How do you feel at the weekend? Can you get up quickly in the morning? Maybe you can't ever easily get up in the mornings. Not everybody can, but how do you feel during the day? Have you noticed a significant change in your energy levels of late? Do you feel like having a nap after lunch?
Energy depletion is a massive pain because it's not immediately apparent why we're so tired unless we've been awake for days or we're poorly or sick.
Anything we do feels like a chore when we're tired. We don't even enjoy doing the things that we usually enjoy, we can't be bothered to do them. This impacts on everything because we put things off work-wise and socially, and then we feel like we're behind. This can lead to stress, and it's very frustrating.
When you've got low energy, you know that you need to do something, but you just can't.
Resting & reality
We're moving into winter, and it is a natural time for slowing down, resting and being kind to ourselves - things like long hot baths, cups of cocoa and roaring fires spring to mind. Doesn't that sound dreamy?
But of course that isn't the reality for us, is it? We still have to go outside, we still have to brave the elements, we still have to go to work and take the kids to school. We still have to do everything that we usually do.
I want to look at the things that we can change in our lives to see if we can increase our energy levels. I've rounded it up to four main reasons why I think our energy levels are depleted.
#1 We're all doing far too much
Everybody wants to be successful in life and in every aspect of life, it's important to us. But there's so much pressure now, especially with the explosion of social media, to be the best.
We can see how successful everybody else is, or how successful they say they are, and we feel that we're getting left behind. We think we need to be doing a thousand things a week to make sure that we're advancing.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to be successful, there's nothing wrong with wanting to be a better version of yourself. But we need to be mindful of the fact that we don't have to be the best of the best and we can take small steps towards whatever it is that we're working towards.
We need to make sure that at some point within the day and certainly within the week that we're taking some time out to have a rest, just to do nothing.
It's frowned upon nowadays to do nothing. It's seen as lazy. Hey, there's nothing wrong with doing nothing. We need to be doing nothing a lot more. Relaxing, taking some time out just to do nothing, spend some time in bed, spend some time relaxing on the sofa, or whatever you want to do. Doing nothing is vitally important and we're not doing enough of it.
Perhaps we feel like we need permission to do nothing because it's so frowned upon? We don't need permission. We're perfectly entitled to do nothing. This is fine.
Can you schedule some time in your diary? Two hours to do absolutely nothing one evening or whenever you're free. Put two hours in your diary and have that time to yourself where you're going to do absolutely nothing.
As always, it's worse for women
This is more of a problem for women because we take too much on. If we're in a relationship or have a family, we do take on more of the domestic chores.
That is a lot of great men around, who do pull their weight, but it's not just the household chores. It's the organising of the family, and the social activities and all of this added pressure can really take its toll on us.
But it's not just within the family.
Pressure to conform
As women, we feel the immense pressure of having to look a certain and act a certain way. If we take any of that on board, it takes hours and hours of our time each week. Going to the gym, getting our hair done, or going shopping for new clothes all contributes to this. If we can get rid of some of that, this frees up a lot of time and energy.
The disease to please
And what about people-pleasing? Doing things we don't want to do because we feel it's expected of us. Joys such as going to the office party, or doing extra work for your boss, or going to your cousin's birthday who you don't like? If we can cut this stuff out, and say no more, we can save a lot of precious time and energy.
We need to dig deeper into why we want to please other people rather than ourselves. We need to recognise that our own needs are significant. Somebody else's needs or expectations should never come before our own.
Saying no is not going to be comfortable for you if you've not done it before. So how about just try it in one area of your life. Think of something that you have to do this week that you don't want to do and just don't do it. Don't make excuses for it. You don't owe anybody an apology, you don't owe anybody anything, just don't do it and preserve your own energy levels.
Similar to this, can you think of something either regular or just as a one-off that you don't have to do, something that you could get away with not doing?
Not necessarily something that somebody else is expecting you to do, but something within your own schedule. Are you making life more difficult for yourself by doing certain things in specific ways? Is there any way you could simplify one of your tasks or reduce it?
#2 Food and nutrition
Obviously, you know that I'm not a doctor, but I do want to talk about health and nutrition because it's such an essential factor relating to our energy levels.
We've forgotten the connection that we have with food and how it relates to our body. If we're going to eat shit, we are going to feel like shit. If we're going to eat things that contain a lot of sugar, or alcohol, it's gonna have a massive impact on our energy levels.
Sugar is a refined carb and we do need carbs for fuel, but if we eat too many we feel exhausted because of the spike in sugar levels and then the apparent crash. We need to be really mindful about the amount of sugar and alcohol that we're consuming.
Vitamin D is hugely important for our health and we're going outside less. A lack of vitamin D causes fatigue alongside more severe things to do with our muscles and your bones. Perhaps consider taking a supplement?
Magnesium deficiency is more common than you think. I didn't have any tests to see if I was magnesium deficient I just tried taking it and immediately felt a big increase in my daily energy levels. Magnesium helps to promote energy, sleep, and blood sugar and hormone balance, it's a really good all-rounder.
You can get natural magnesium from certain foods like green leafy vegetables, raw cacao and nuts and seeds. You would think with me being vegan that I eat enough of these things but it seems that I don't. Again, perhaps it's something to consider?
I'm definitely guilty of not drinking enough water. I have to remind myself always. Our body is made up mostly of water and fatigue and tiredness is one of the first signs of dehydration. I keep a jug of water with me all times when I'm in the house and reminds me to keep hydrated.
#3 We don't look after ourselves properly.
More than that, we don't really know how to look after ourselves properly.
We don't sleep enough, we don't have enough self-care practices, or we don't prioritise them. We don't have enough balance in our lives.
This isn't our fault. Nobody ever taught us.
Parents don't teach us how to look after ourselves from a self-care perspective. It's only when we go out into the real world as adults and start working, and start having relationships and families that we're confronted with these life balance issues.
Issues, issues, issues
Emotional issues, mental health issues, physical health issues.
So we don't really know how to look after ourselves. We learn as we go and we gradually start to develop a sense of what we need, but we never had it instilled in us that we need to take time out to concentrate on ourselves. For meditation for physical exercise or yoga or connecting with nature - those are not lessons that we learned.
So we have to teach ourselves and we have to prioritise it.
If we don't practice self-care, we can get really physically ill, including from exhaustion which I'm talking about today.
Separately, if we really start to prioritise our self-care we start to see our life advance and we can dramatically improve and increase the quality of our life.
We're not just managing our health anymore. We're growing, blooming and blossoming, but unfortunately, we don't do enough of it. Myself included.
Additionally, we're entirely glued to our screens. Historically, we would have gone to work and we would have come home and relaxed. Now we're glued to our screens the whole time so our brain never actually gets any time to disconnect.
Our brain is continuously working hard. Do you know how many calories it takes for you to think? It takes a lot. So this is obviously one of the reasons why we could be exhausted.
A quick thing that we can do to care for our mind is meditation. If everybody did a 10-minute meditation every morning before they started work or when they came home, this small little act of connecting to ourself and calming the mind could dramatically improve our energy levels and how we feel.
# Highly Sensitive People
Highly sensitive people make up about 20% of the population, could you be one of them?
It's a condition where we take in far more stimuli than other people which can be overwhelming and exhausting.
There are different ways that you can be sensitive, for me it's environmental. Nowadays I can't go to a shopping centre or a cinema or anywhere noisy or bright or I'd be absolutely exhausted afterwards.
People who are highly sensitive to the environment suffer from the following symptoms:
- Feel uncomfortable in large public crowds, in a room full of people talking or when too many things are happening simultaneously
- Feel uncomfortable when exposed to bright lights, loud sounds or certain strong scents
- You might startle easily as sort of noises, traffic or other unpleasant noises
- You won't be able to watch violent things on TV because it'll just make you feel very shocked
- You find social media completely draining.
There are three areas of highly sensitive groups and as mentioned I am environmental. Another is being highly sensitive to other people and another is highly sensitive about yourself. Perhaps it is worth investigating if you are exhausted, whether you could be a highly sensitive person. It's not a medical diagnosis you can read more about it here.
Thanks for listening/reading up until here. I've certainly found investigating this topic useful I hope you have too. Please do send me an email if you have any comments.
To receive honest and absorbing stories to help us try and make sense of our world please get on my email list.
Hannah Anstee is a former British Wellness Journalist turned Women’s Midlife & Wellbeing Coach.
You may know her from her work as Beauty Editor at YOGA Magazine or her contributions to The Independent or Psychologies Magazine.
Hannah uses a kind and candid approach to help women rewrite their stories.