Dog-tired. Sometimes it feels like the word was coined for us, doesn’t it? Used every other day, every other time of the day, and even on weekends.
Given how demanding of time our lifestyle is, how do we dodge this neoteric epidemic? Is it even possible to feel energetic Alllll. Day. Long.?
Absolutely! But first, let’s clarify what we mean by “energetic.”
Being Energetic Is More Than Being Busy
There’s this misleading conception that being energetic means being able to do more in a day, being busy all day long and not feeling the pinch of it. Getting household chores done, finishing tasks ahead of deadlines, spending quality time with loved ones, and still having the time to keep up a rigorous exercise routine and nurture hobbies. This is the go-getter attitude that we might catch ourselves daydreaming about.
To be honest, that’s not something we’d recommend because sooner than later your body is going to scream “Give me a break!” The stress to meet these mini deadlines in the day, the stress to keep up this hyperactive routine, and the sheer busyness of it all will catch up to you.
Strive to make better use of your time and energy instead of striving to be busier. Yes, increase your energy levels and do a little bit more with your 16 or so hours, but also know when to pull back and conserve your energy instead of wanting to immediately expend it.
Pace yourself and use your energy intentionally and purposefully.
The sense of vitality you will experience when you go at your own pace comes with the promise of better long-term health.
Instead of a Quick Fix, Fix the Habit
Sugar, coffee, caffeinated energy drinks, and nicotine are the go-to pick-me-ups for a lot of us. Don’t be fooled. They give a false energy rush that doesn’t last very long and comes with an even worse crash later.
The better approach is to guess what’s tiring you out the most and simply avoid it or at least minimize it.
For instance, overtime at work can be reduced with better time management, weekday errands can be avoided with better planned weekend errands, the everyday cooking ordeal can be reduced to meal preps, time in traffic can be cut by a different commute time or route. It’s these little changes and foresight that can really make all the difference.
Sometimes your guesses may be right on the money and you will almost immediately feel more alive, but there can be so many factors sucking the life out of you that you can’t always be sure. We’ll give you a better starting point.
Label Your Fatigue
Instead of trying to figure out the cause, introspect the nature of your fatigue. Is it physical, mental, or emotional?
Physical fatigue is when you feel physically incapable of doing a task. Like when at the end of the day you don’t even want to get up and get yourself a glass of water or when you wake up tired and literally have to crawl out of bed. This can happen both when you overexert yourself, when you do less than you’re capable of, and when you do something you naturally don’t have an inclination for like HIIT.
Mental fatigue is when you’ve overused, underused, or misused your brain power. You can fall anywhere between too much brainstorming in a day (overuse) to no intellectual challenge at all (underuse). Misuse would be something like forcing yourself to do accounting when you’re naturally better at creative writing.
Emotional fatigue is when you’re not at peace with how you feel. Like if you’re a naturally calm person, you get extremely upset when others get angry. Or if venting is your emotional release, bottling up your feelings makes you restless.
Once you’ve identified the problem, the solutions are easy.
Pacify the Functional Energy Imbalance
Here’s how you can work your way through the different types of fatigue:
Physical Fatigue: A “Slow and Steady” (Kapha) Imbalance
What you’ll be tempted to do but shouldn’t: Lounge around and procrastinate
What you should do:
- Do some light exercise even though it’ll be the last thing on your mind.
- Treat yourself to some lively, invigorating music and smells (like aromatic oils).
- Use ghee instead of butter in your food.
- Have light fruits like apples, pears, peaches, pomegranates, raisins, and papayas.
- On an empty stomach, practice a few minutes of the quick breathing technique called kapalabhati. Sit with your spine lengthened and your eyes closed. Take quick breaths through your nose, exhaling as if you’re gently blowing out a candle and passively inhaling. Do this for 30 seconds. (Don’t do this if you have a heart or respiratory condition.)
Mental Fatigue: A “Light and Quick” (Vata) Imbalance
What you’ll be tempted to do but shouldn’t: Smoke, have caffeine, and/or pop a pill
What you should do:
- Step outside into nature.
- Practice any kind of calming meditation. You may try this: Create a nonsense word, one that has no meaning (like ‘moptra’). Close your eyes and keep repeating the word in your mind. As your mind starts to tire, you’ll find the word shortening and eventually fading away. You’ll finally reach a point of zero thoughts where you experience an incomparable calm.
- Do a self-massage with a warming oil like sesame oil or almond oil.
- Channel your excess vata into creativity with some painting, journaling, photography, or whatever arouses your artistic side.
- Have dense fruits like avocados, bananas, berries, cherries, dates, figs, and mangoes.
- Practice alternate nostril breathing or nadi shodhana. Block your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through your left nostril. Then block your left nostril with your right ring finger, remove your thumb from your right nostril and exhale through your right nostril. For the next cycle, inhale through the right nostril and exhale from the left. Keep switching for 5–10 minutes.
Emotional Fatigue: An “Intense” (Pitta) Imbalance
What you’ll be tempted to do but shouldn’t: Fill up on sugar and coffee and/or skip your meals.
What you should do:
- Practice any kind of calming meditation (you may also try the meditation described above).
- Do a self-massage with a cooling oil like coconut oil or sunflower oil.
- Allow yourself some downtime.
- Have sweet fruits like coconut, watermelon, pineapple, oranges, apricots, and grapes.
- Try the cooling breath technique called sheetali. Sit with your eyes closed and your palms upturned on your lap. Inhale through your mouth with your tongue curled into a circle. If you can’t curl your tongue, clench your teeth and inhale through them. Then close your mouth, touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, and exhale through your nose. Repeat this for 2–3 minutes.
On any given day, you may experience more than one type of fatigue. What then? Pick the one that is most prominent first and then work your way through the others.
Remember These As Well
Here are some guiding principles that will help you no matter what kind of exhaustion you’re facing:
Just because you’re feeling low on energy, doesn’t mean you need more food. Your energy could be affected by so many factors other than hunger, like your mental state, your breathing, your hydration levels, and your physical form.
The smarter way to energize would be to eat warm, freshly prepared food for all your meals, not necessarily more.
Food that is not properly digested can also make you feel tired. As a rule of thumb, avoid eating leftovers, fast foods, foods grown with chemical fertilizers or sprayed with pesticides, and packaged, canned, frozen, or processed foods.
For a quick pick-me-up, have a tall glass of non-chilled water. Dehydration can make you feel tired so make sure you’re well hydrated throughout the day.
Note: By well hydrated, we don’t mean everyone should drink lots and lots of water. How much water you need will be influenced by your predominant functional energy:
- Intense: need the most water
- Light and quick: need moderate amounts of water but also need oils
- Slow and steady: in comparison, need the least amount of water
The seasons and your level of physical activity will also play a role in how much water you should drink.
Stand up and bounce on your heels, take a short walk, swing your arms around or raise them over your head – get up and move.
Nature will always be our solace. We’re way too connected. So when you need an energy boost, head outdoors. Go where there are trees and breeze.
Surround yourself with happy people, people who give off good vibes. Negativity brings you down and you don’t want to be anywhere near it, especially when you’re already feeling low. Happy places count too. Just try and get lots and lots of positive vibes.
6. Wake-Up Time
Wake up before the sun rises. Before you start booing, hear us out. During different times of the day, different functional energies are dominant. Roughly, 6–10 is kapha, 10–2 pitta, 2–6 vata, both in the AM and PM. Because vata is all about movement, the vata time of the day is the best time to wake up, some time before 6 or at least before the sun rises.
This may seem impossible to do given the rigid schedules we’re dealt, even so, give it a shot. Try it for a week and see if it makes a difference to how energetic you feel.
May the life force be with you!