Being lethargic is one of those underestimated problems. On the one hand it might seem like this is nothing more than a little tiredness, and that it will simply pass given time; but for anyone who has experienced chronic lethargy they will know that the repercussions are far more wide ranging.
If you are truly lethargic then this can prevent you from getting on with the things that you want and/or need to get on with during the day. You might find yourself coming home from work with no energy and simply having to collapse onto the couch or bed as a result. This can not only put you behind on things you need to be doing, but it can also prevent you from enjoying life to its fullest. Perhaps you find yourself unable to play with your children in the way that you would like to, or maybe you stay at home every night when you could be exploring the area you live in, socializing with friends and family, and generally enjoying life.
If you find yourself in this situation then you need to look into ways to combat that lethargy and to live life to the fullest once again. To that end, here we shall look at some methods for combating lethargy and staying awake and energetic at the beginning, middle and end of every day.
See a Doctor
The first thing you should do if you find yourself chronically tired is to see a doctor in order to check for any potentially serious conditions. Lethargy is a symptom of a range of different problems and illnesses and it may be that the only way to address this problem is to have that treated. It could be that you have a tiredness disease such as ME which is not fully understood but leaves patients feeling exhausted 24/7. Likewise a condition like an iron deficiency or a hypothyroidism can leave your body running a little slower than it should be and make you tired as a result.
Alternatively you may have a food intolerance to something like gluten which can often take the energy out of your subtly without being diagnosed for some time. In other cases the tiredness may be just one symptom of a more serious condition and it’s important to rule those out before you proceed. If you get the clean bill of health from your doctor then you will need to find other ways to combat your low energy levels however.
Exercise will help to increase your energy levels in both the long and short term. In the short term doing a little exercise helps you greatly by getting the blood pumping around your system and the oxygen flowing. If you are feeling lethargic then chances are that your system is static and you aren’t pumping that blood around. Jump around a bit and you’ll ‘kick start’ your body back into action and start to feel vigorous again. This is the paradox of exercise – often we don’t do our evening workout because we feel too tired and lethargic, but actually if we were just to start a little we might feel energetic enough to carry on. Next time you feel too tired to do something – literally just try jumping up and down and shaking out your hands and feet. Even just stretching might help.
In the long term exercising also improves your energy levels. This is of course because it improves your body’s ability to pump blood around your system and to extract energy from the glucose in it. Your heart rate will improve, your VO2 max, your blood pressure and more – all of which will mean your body gets the energy to the places it’s needed more quickly and easily and you are more energetic more of the time as a result. Building up your muscle meanwhile will help you to increase your strength and your explosive power which will help you to feel more energetic – simply this will make it less work for you to jump out of bed in the morning, or to carry your bag around at work all day.
One way to combat lethargy is to improve your diet, and you’d be surprised at what a difference this can make. First of all try to avoid foods that are slow to digest such as fats and dairy – this causes your digestive system to use up a lot of your available energy thereby leaving you with less for other processes. You should also eat a high fiber diet which will help to unclog your digestive and intestinal tracts and keep your blood pressure low by moving undigested through the system.
Make sure you eat lots of vitamins and minerals, and lots of proteins all of which will help to maintain your body and keep them in good working order. Finally, make sure that you have a steady supply of carbs – after all these are your main source of energy. To get energy from carbs you should eat complex carbs such as pasta and bread (as opposed to cake or sweets which are ‘simple’ carbs). Complex carbs are good for us because they take our body a long time to gradually break down into usable energy. This then means that after eating them we steadily get supplied with energy. This is quite different to what happens when we eat simple carbs like cake which causes an immediate rush of sugar into our blood stream which our system struggles to keep up with. This causes a sudden release of insulin which uses up all of the sugar we just ate as well as any spare sugar in our system and that then causes us to feel a lack of energy. So eat a big complex carbs breakfast and snack on nuts, whole bread and bananas throughout the day.
Improve Your Mood
Our energy levels are greatly connected to our mood, and often if we feel lethargic and tired this is because we are worried about something or upset. Lethargy is in fact a symptom of depression, and the production of stress hormones has a negative impact on many factors. Even Freud noticed this link and incorporated it into some of his slightly more obscure theories – stating that people who struggle to get out of bed in the morning might actually be experiencing an urge to return to the womb to escape the dangers posed by the outside world.
So how do you improve your mood? There are several methods that can help, and in psychology this is called ‘priming’. If you want to engage in some kind of task or activity then it’s worth often putting in a little mental prep work in order to get yourself in the most conducive frame of mind. For instance if you are feeling a lack of energy you might want to put on some music that’s up tempo and this will both cheer you up as well as increase your heart rate. Likewise you can try watching a happy film such as a comedy which can cheer you up, wake you up and put you in the mood for socializing and having fun.
Another thing that can improve your mood is simply to try smiling. If you smile then a function called ‘facial feedback’ kicks in which means basically that our body produces hormones in accordance with our facial expression. It may sound a little good to be true, but if you smile then you feel happy, and if you frown then you feel down.
One of the best ways to wake yourself up is to spend time with other people. Again there’s a contradiction here because when we have no energy that’s often when we don’t want to spend any time with anyone else. However being in the company of others naturally wakes us up, and particularly if they are energetic in which case their positive energy can wear off on us. Do this often enough and in the long term you will generally become more energetic and less lethargic.