This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on July 12th, 2019 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine
Question: I am a “mid-life” mom to three kids. I work outside the home. I have recently experienced a lot of fatigue in the afternoons. I find myself reaching for sweets or caffeine (or both) to give myself a pick-me-up and get through the rest of the day. By the time I get home from work, I am too tired to cook so we often get take out. I’ve talked to my doctor and she did a thyroid test and other bloodwork to make sure I wasn’t having any health issues and those were all fine. She basically said this part of getting older and to increase my exercise and sleep. I have done both but still find myself tired all the time. I’m looking for other ways to boost my energy in the afternoons without looking to food and beverages. Any ideas are greatly appreciated.
Answer: Most of us can relate to your question. Many people, women especially, struggle with this and some accept it when they are told they are “aging”. It sounds like this is not the answer you want to accept. Good for you!
There are a lot of things in life that give us energy. Having balance in our lives is important, and adding in those things that “feed your soul” can really help our energy level. One of my favorite quotes is: “If I had but two loaves of bread to feed me, I would sell one, and buy hyacinths to feed my soul.”– Mohamad
Music, meditation, lunch with a friend, hobbies or creative outlets, spiritual study/activities, books, plays, nature walks and courses are some things that can round out your world. In that same vein, consider if you are bored or may need a challenge in your work. Has your primary relationship become distant or stagnant? Are you experiencing mood problems like depression?
Psychological fatigue can lead to feelings of physical fatigue. I ask to nudge you to look at other possible contributing factors.
On the physical level, sweets and other simple carbohydrates (pasta, potatoes, donuts, candy, etc.) feed fatigue, in a vicious cycle of sorts. The sweets can give a boost of insulin to our system, which makes us more feel more energy. The problem is, it wears off fast and we experience a drop in energy. Add more sweets and caffeine and we are in a crazy, up and down cycle. This can ultimately cause us health problems, weight gain, mood and self-esteem problems. For some, discomfort means more eating of ‘comfort foods’ which are usually simple carbohydrates. What a crazy cycle! Better choices when you are feeling fatigued are foods with protein, good fats (yes, like olives, nuts or avocado), or whole grains (complex carbs). Try one of these snacks before you are overly hungry, and you will make better choices later. It is also highly recommended to drink water frequently throughout the day.
Healthy eating, which is all about choices, is important for life long health for all of us. A vibrant, healthy friend of mine once laughingly said, that “anything handed to you from a window is NOT food”. Here is a link to read more about making good food choices:
Here are some suggestions to take small steps toward better choices which can ultimately help your fatigue. Start by adding a crock pot meal once a week, so it is done and ready to eat when you get home. Once that becomes routine, try to make one meal ahead on the weekend. You will start to feel better about your choices. It is also recommended to talk with a nutritionist or health coach about this. Many health insurances companies will pay for wellness activities, or have a set amount toward the cost. You can find out more from the website of your health insurance.
Lastly, try breaking up your work day, with some standing or a brisk walk around the parking lot to help rejuvenate your energy. Many of us at work send our printing to the printer farthest away just for a chance to get up and walk a bit. If you still struggle with fatigue, keep trying to get to the bottom of it—how you feel is so important. Make it your personal rule to get other opinions, especially when the first answer you got was that you were aging. Counseling, massage, yoga, acupuncture and chiropractic are some alternative treatments that may work for you. Don’t give up!
Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”