More of us are reporting chronic tiredness as the pandemic grinds on – here’s how to get your energy back.
Experts offer the best ways to recharge your body and spirit so you can sparkle once more.
Eat Right: “Diets high in starchy carbohydrates and sugar lead to fluctuating blood sugar levels and subsequently, fluctuating energy levels,” says nutritionist Kim Pearson. “Each meal should include a moderate portion of healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts or seeds and fill at least half of your plate with vegetables or salad.” Fatty foods interfere with sleep so “leave at least three hours between your last meal and bedtime,” she adds. And ditch that nightcap too. For more diet suggestions, see the key nutrients in the Anti-Covid Diet (OGN - 6 December).
Light Fantastic: Dr Neil Stanley, director of sleep science at Sleepstation.org.uk, says that daylight clears melatonin, the tiredness hormone produced when it gets dark. It also has an energising, anti-depressant effect because it triggers production of the brain’s happy chemicals dopamine and serotonin. While all daylight exposure is helpful, morning light appears key to keeping our body clocks on track, so we feel livelier by day and sleep better at night. “Throw open your curtains the minute you wake up,” says Stanley. “And don’t start work without exercising outside first. Turning the lights on inside isn’t enough. Even the gloomiest winter day is many times brighter than artificial lighting”.
Vitality Vitamins: New research from the Health and Food Supplements Information Service has found that most mid-lifers don’t get enough B vitamins in their diet. “B vitamins help reduce tiredness and fatigue, says dietician Dr Carrie Ruxton. “Make sure you’re eating eggs, dairy products, legumes and seeds regularly. A glass of orange juice is also a source of folate - a key B vitamin, which many of us lack. Low levels of iron also affect energy. Shortness of breath can be a sign that your iron is too low. Top up with a supplement and, if you’re concerned, ask your GP for a blood test to check your iron levels. You may need a high dose prescription iron supplement. Pearson adds: “ The government recommends we all take a vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter months."
Find the Joy: A German study found that ‘lack of joy’ was the key element that that linked stress with tiredness. For many of us, our key source of joy comes from being with friends and family. So, pick up the phone or wrap up warm and meet friends outdoors. Clinical psychologist Dr Meg Arroll says: “Do whatever makes you smile, laugh or simply feel good. Don’t worry if this seems trivial; my go-to is silly video clips.”
Exercise: Fitness trainer Tyrone Brennand helps keep celebrities such in shape. He says: “My clients often complain more of tiredness in winter. But they always feel 100 per cent better after a workout.” We all know that exercise is important, so do whatever you can whenever you can. If you're struggling for motivation, take a look at Exercise Motivation Strategies - OGN reviews (2 December) a new study that finds two key factors that increases motivation to exercise.
Breathe: Lockdown anxieties put us in chronic fight-or-flight mode. “This drains our energy” says Arroll. “Deep breathing can halt the stress response. “Start by placing your left hand on your chest and the other on your tummy, with your little finger resting just above your belly button. As you breathe in for a count of three, try to keep your chest still as your belly rises. As you exhale for a count of three, feel your right hand dip down towards your spine while saying the word ‘calm’ in your mind.”