Our existences are anything but simple, and most of us will find ourselves overworked and exhausted from time to time-or all the time. Fatigue, true fatigue, is much more than feeling overworked and just being sleepy, although it can make you want to curl up in bed and forget the rest of the world. It creeps into everyday life and effects your physical and mental well-being making it very difficult, if not impossible, to get things done. My own personal struggles with fatigue at point strained relationships-it is hard for people to understand that horrible exhaustion unless they experience it themselves. To the outside world, you just look lazy when all you want to do is lie in bed.
Fatigue is a difficult thing to manage, as it is such a vague symptom or condition. There’s physical fatigue, emotional fatigue, fatigue as a symptom or as a disease in and of itself. There is a good chance there’s an underlying medical condition causing fatigue, for example depression or low blood sugar, and this must be addressed before you can hope to get rid of the exhaustion. But if you haven’t been able to pinpoint the cause of your fatigue (and of course you’ve had it checked out by a doctor) it can often times be traced back to a number of habits and lifestyles that seem to have a tendency to develop in the modern world. If you find it dogging your footsteps and dragging you down, don’t sink into despair, there are plenty of changes you can make and natural remedies you can utilize to fight the feeling effectively.
1. Get active
We’re awfully quick to assume that if we feel exhausted, we should take a nap. But have you ever noticed that if you lie in bed all day, barring recovery or illness, you feel more sluggish? Your head may feel a bit fuzzy and achy, and you feel like energy was sucked out of your body, instead of replenished. This is because over-resting or sleeping has the exact opposite effect we want it to have, while exercise boosts our energy long-term. If you are feeling fatigued and not moving around much, you may just need a good regular dose of fresh air to rejuvenate your body and mind. As a bonus, when you do rest, it will feel that much better and be that much more refreshing than if you’d sat around all day and done nothing. It also improves mood, thanks to the endorphins being released, and feeling gloomy is a major contributor to fatigue.
Note: Excessive or extreme activity can sometimes create feelings of fatigue, however you generally feel refreshed in the long term.
You will need…
-A good pair of shoes (optional, unless you plan on walking into a store.)
It is of the utmost importance that you keep your exercise regular to boost your energy, particularly long-term. Don’t set the bar too high in the beginning if you think you’ll easily get discouraged attempting a 4 mile run. Just lace up, slip on, or leave off your shoes and get outside. Take your dog for a walk, go for a casual stroll-anything-even a little exercise is better than none. If the weather isn’t cooperating, turn on some tunes and come up with an indoor workout routine. As you get into the habit, slowly increase your level of activity.
2. Sip Some Potato Water
While a brimming glass of fresh potato water may not sound like the first thing you’d want to relax on a hot summer day with, it’s actually a great home remedy for fatigue. Soaking slices of potato in water makes a potassium rich drink that can help you feel less tired and sluggish, as it replenishes a mineral many people have trouble getting enough of. Like magnesium, the body does not produce potassium-we have to consume it from outside sources. Because our diets these days tend to lean towards being nutrient deficient, it’s no wonder we find ourselves lacking in the potassium department.
Potassium doesn’t give you a direct jolt of energy, per say, but along with magnesium (as well as chloride and calcium) it is an electrolyte that is vital for the proper functioning of our cells and the release of energy and the conduction of electricity. Without enough of it, our muscles wouldn’t move properly and our nerve impulses wouldn’t fire right. By ensuring you have healthy levels of potassium, you can get an edge on feeling dull and tired all the time.
You will need…
-1 unpeeled potato
-8 ounces of fresh water
Slice up the potato (there’s no need to peel it- I realize I show them peeled in the photo but I went on auto pilot) and add to a glass of water. Allow it to steep overnight in the fridge, and drink first thing in the morning.
3. Boost Red-Blood Cells
Iron is important. Without it, our bodies cannot produce enough red blood cells. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, the iron rich protein that carries oxygen throughout our body. Many people think of oxygen’s use ending when it enters our lungs, but it must travel throughout our bodies and get delivered to all of our cells and organs for them to function. As you can imagine, a lack of oxygen would lead to a decrease in the bodies functioning, which will result in fatigue. This is called iron-deficiency anemia. To combat this, make a tea with nettle leaf (fresh is preferred but dry works as well.) Nettle is rich in iron, as well as vitamin C. The latter part is relevant because vitamin C has been shown to help increase the absorption of non-heme iron (iron found in plants vs. fish, meat, etc.) which isn’t always absorbed as easily as heme iron. Adding in some dandelion boosts the iron content of this tea even more but beware-it is bitter, so I recommend plenty of honey!
You will need…
-1 cup each fresh dandelion & nettle OR 2 teaspoons each dried dandelion and nettle
-1 cup of freshly boiled water
-Your favorite mug
Bring water to a boil and place your herbs in a mug. Pour the boiling water over them and cover, steeping for 10 minutes. Remove the herbs, add plenty of honey to taste, and drink 2 times daily.
4. Get Some Ginseng
Possibly the “most famous of all Chinese herbs”-that’s a hefty title, considering Chinese herbal medicine dates back hundreds of thousands of years and is full of staple herbs and natural ingredients. But Ginseng has a special place in history, although it’s many varieties can make utilizing it a little confusing. Ginseng refers to any one of 11 species of slow-growing perennials in the genus Panax. It is found in North America as well as in Eastern Asia. It is often referred to as an “adaptogenic” herb, which means it helps the body adjust to stress-whether that stress is caused by being in an extreme heat or cold, hunger, or exhaustion/fatigue (just think adaptogens = adapt to stress.) They are thought to help the body in coping with stress by improving the health of the adrenal system, which is the body’s command center when it comes to your hormonal response to stress. Cortisol, the “stress” hormone, can effect if you sleep through the night, and dictate if you can fall back asleep, as it suppresses melatonin, which we need to have a regular sleep/awake cycle. Too much cortisol, and you could be left feeling fatigued and exhausted because your sleep is disrupted. In the morning our cortisol levels are at their peak, and then gradually fall throughout the day, but if they remain too high, this diurnal rhythm will get thrown off, as will the precious sleep that you need to rejuvenate. Having a bit of ginseng may help regulate your cortisol, and help you get the rest you need to function properly.
You will need…
-1 tablespoon of dried ginseng root OR 1 inch of fresh ginseng root
-1 cup of fresh water
-Honey/lemon to taste
Slice up 1 inch of ginseng root into small pieces, or place 1 tablespoon of dried ginseng in a tea ball. Cover with hot water and steep, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir in honey and or lemon to taste and replace your morning coffee. Ginseng must be drank daily to have any effect.
5. Perk-Up With Citrus
I adore citrus in pretty much all its forms. From lemon juice to orange juice and everything in between, it never ceases to come in handy for home remedies, and it’s refreshing as all get up. In the case of fatigue, start off your day with a glass of lemon water. The smell of a freshly sliced lemon alone will perk you up instantly, and the hydration will set your day up for success. Lemon water helps a number of conditions-such as preventing constipation-but there’s something about it that just revitalizes a tired body. If you find yourself dragging in the middle of the day, treat yourself to another glass. I couldn’t list off the chemical and molecular components of lemon water that fight fatigue, I can just say anecdotally that I (among many others) find it almost wondrous in regards to keeping up on energy.
Squeeze the half of a freshly sliced lemon/lime into a full glass of water. If it’s winter, make it warm water-if it’s summer, enjoy it chilled! Drink the whole thing, and repeat twice daily (with a mid-day boost if needed.)
6. Make Your Own Energy Drink
Don’t turn to store-bought “energy drinks.” They are, I think, one of the most ridiculous marketing schemes to take over in recent years. You’re paying an absurd amount for something that is doing you more harm than good-and it’s really not going to wake you up in the long run. It will, in all reality, probably make things worse. So make your own instead-they’re delicious, satisfying, good for you, and will give you the wonderful long lasting energy you’re looking for.
7. Hello, Yoga.
Like so many things that become trendy, yoga’s image has been somewhat distorted. If you avoid it because you think of it as a craze that attracts flocks of young folks hanging out before hopping over to the juice bar, just erase that thought. Sure that might be part of it now, but yoga dates back to roughly 5th and 6th centuries B.C., well before stretchy pants became a staple of closets across western society. Yoga isn’t just a form of physical exercise, but a spiritual one as well. It helps you calm your mind, focus your breathing, and tame inner turbulence (which can become very draining day after day.) The actual physical part of yoga, like many forms of exercise, will actually boost your energy. The combination of mind and body work out can make you feel like a brand-new person, and is indeed even recognized as a form of alternative medicine to fight chronic fatigue by the Mayo Clinic. There’s no need to even join a class (although I love having an instructor)-you can do it right at home.
You will need…
-A bit of self-discipline
Forget the trendy part and just try it. There are specific poses that help energize you, such as tree pose, downward dog, and cobra. Some require focus and attentiveness, others are more to strengthen muscles and increase flexibility, but all can help fight fatigue.
8. Love Your Licorice
Licorice root is an herb that I tend to go to when it comes to something like a sore throat, but one of its main constituents (glycyrrhizin) can actually help with fatigue as well, especially fatigue that is associated with less-than-optimal adrenal functioning. Like ginseng, it can help regulate cortisol levels. It actually helps boost cortisol, which may seem counter intuitive (read the ginseng remedy for a briefing on what cortisol does), however if you aren’t producing enough, your body can sometimes over-produce in an attempt to compensate. This can leave you feeling tired during the day, but laying wide awake and frustrated at night. Cortisol requires a balance-too much and you’ll be unable to sleep, too little and your rest will also be disrupted.
You will need…
-1 tablespoon of dried licorice root
-1 cup of water
-Honey/lemon to taste
Steep 1 tablespoon of dried licorice root in boiling water, covered, for 10 minutes. Strain, add honey/lemon to taste, and drink first thing in the morning.
9. More Magnesium
I mention magnesium a lot, but it is an important mineral that we really truly suffer a lack of these days. The body does not produce magnesium on its own-it’s up to us (and our diets) to provide this essential nutrient. The problem is, many diets these days suffer from a lack of good wholesome food. It is a cofactor in 300 plus enzyme systems that regulate a wide variety of biochemical reactions. Everything from muscle and nerve function, protein synthesis, and energy production require magnesium. The best way to get the proper amount is to eat the right foods rather than take a supplement. Dark leafy greens, nuts, fish, whole grains, and bananas are all rich in magnesium.
You will need…
-Magnesium rich foods OR a high quality supplement
Include a healthy dosage of magnesium rich foods to your everyday diet, or take a high quality supplement. Adults should take no more than 350 mg/day in the form of supplements-while getting more in terms of diet isn’t necessarily harmful, it’s easier to take too much in the form of concentrated supplements.
10. Eat (and drink) good stuff.
What is food to us? Why does it matter? It is literally our energy, it’s our fuel. We tend to overlook its importance in today’s society. It’s right at our fingertips all the time, and the old adage “you are what you eat” has faded into the background. But if we skimp on meals or stuff our diets with sugary drinks and greasy, fatty, food, we won’t run right, or at all. You’ll find yourself feeling worn out and fatigued.
When we eat, our bodies break down the carbohydrates (sugars and starches) which are then broken down again into glucose (blood sugar) and absorbed into the blood stream. Put simply, glucose is the energy needed for all systems to go, from our brains to our leg muscles to our heart, and everything in between. Now all carbs aren’t good for you-they must be complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are made of long, complex (hence the name), chains of sugar molecules. This is turned into glucose, and gives us energy. Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar from cakes and cookies, artificial syrup, candy, etc. provide essentially zero value to your body, contribute to weight gain (among other things) and will make you feel not so hot. These simple carbs have only 1 or 2 sugars and are burned up quickly. You might get a temporary boost in energy as your glucose spikes, but you’ll crash pretty fast. Complex carbs will give you a steady, even, release of energy. If you’re eating an unhealthy diet, chances are you’re eating bad carbs, and that means you aren’t turning a whole lot of your food into energy-which is likely why you’re fatigued.
Keep in mind the following fatigue tips and questions:
Content ratio: The higher the sugar and the lower the fiber the worse the carbohydrate. Use that as a general guideline to indicate which carbs are good or bad.
Know the good from the bad: The word “carbohydrate” has been tossed around a lot, first we hear they are good, then all of a sudden they’re bad for you. The answer is they are both, but we can easily separate the good from the bad. You need the good, so educate yourself and don’t steer clear of carbs altogether or you’ll get drained.
Fiber, fiber, fiber and more fiber: Foods high in fiber are digested slower than foods with very little fiber, avoiding spikes in blood sugar levels. Examples are whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans.
Is it refined? Is it processed?: Foods like white bread and white rice are stripped of fiber and full of simple carbs. Avoid along with the obvious things like fast food, sugary goodies, soda, etc.
11. Nip the Naps (kind of)
Naps are beautiful. There’s nothing like having the luxury of being able to snooze in the middle of the day and wake up feeling refreshed and brand new. It is, actually, healthy to take time for naps to an extent. They reduce exhaustion, sharpen your working mind, improve your mood, and make you more alert. But they’re also a double edged sword when it comes to being one of your home remedies for or tiredness-have you ever taken a long cat nap and woken up feeling groggy, disoriented, and more exhausted than before? I know sometimes I get so sucked into a nap I can barely wake myself up and when I do, I probably wouldn’t pass a sobriety test because I am so out of it. It’s the classic “too much of a good thing” scenario.
Your biological clock gets thrown off when you sleep too much, and it messes with your cells energy cycles. This makes you feel tired, groggy, and “sleep drunk.” That drunken feeling is called sleep inertia, and it happens when you wake up abruptly from slow-wave sleep. Because a nap doesn’t take you through a full sleep cycle, you often times get woken up out of slow wave sleep. This can seriously impact how you function-sleep inertia can take anywhere from 2-4 hours to dissipate. But, there is a proper way to take a nap-you just need a smidgen of self-control.
You will need…
-A cozy place to nap
The brain enters slow wave sleep after roughly 20-30 minutes, so limit your time to a “power nap.” Unless you’re extremely sleep deprived, a 20 minute or so nap should leave you feeling refreshed and awake, not groggy, fatigued, and tempted to go back to sleep. Set aside a time not too close to bed time to treat yourself to an energy boost.
12. Special Spinach
As cliché as it may sound, Popeye really was onto something with spinach and the energy/strength it gives you. Rich in iron, it can help boost red blood cell count, therefore providing you with more energy and fighting anemia. It is also full of magnesium-1 cup of spinach contains 39% of the recommended daily intake for magnesium. Early research shows that it may even improve muscle function during a workout.
You will need…
-At least 1 cup of spinach
Enjoy at least 1 cup of spinach daily, raw or cooked.
Fatigue is a tricky thing because you have to not only figure out what’s causing it, but also be dedicated to overcoming it. This is, of course, made all the more difficult by the fact that you’re exhausted all the time. One of my favorite sayings is “seeing the obstacle is one thing, getting around it is another.” Remember there are two halves to the battle, and the latter-actually getting around said obstacle-is usually the hardest. Stick with it!
By Claire GoodallClaire is a lover of life, the natural world, and wild blueberries. On the weekend you can find her fiddling in the garden, playing with her dogs, and enjoying the great outdoors with her horse. Claire is very open-minded, ask her anything :) Meet Claire
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