It’s Tough Being Wonder Woman
Why So Many Of Us Are Suffering From Fatigue And What We Can Do About It
Janice is a fictional creation that I came across recently and I thought I would share her story, as some parts of it might be familiar to you………..
Every morning, Janice rises at 6.00am, not because she wants to or even feels up to it, butbecause there is so much she needs to fit into her day that she cannot afford the luxury of sleeping any longer. She needs to get the washing on the line before the rest of the house wakes. The children’s lunches need to be made, the dog has to be taken for a walk, and her husband’s shirt needs ironing (he’s tried to do it himself once or twice, but can’t seem to make it work!).
All this takes place before 7.00am, the latest possible time the kids can be woken. That task is difficult enough in itself but Janice also has to coax them through breakfast, cajole them into their school clothes and drop them off at the school gates.
By now it’s 8.00am. Janice barely has time to rush home, change clothes, gulp down a mug of coffee and then she’s off to work. Because she has to pick the kids up at school later in the afternoon, she is only working part-time. But her boss keeps giving her work which is more suited to full-time hours. To keep up, Janice takes lunch on the run, and manages to stay focused thanks to another three or four cups of coffee. At 3.10pm, she dashes out the office door, anxious and guilty because she is going to be a few minutes late picking up the kids. Thankfully, they seem happy enough when she finally reaches them, although a little reluctant to discuss the merits of the school day. Child No. 1 says it was ‘good’. Child No. 2 is less forthcoming, but finally concedes after some determined interrogation that it was ‘okay’.
As soon as they get home, Janice fixes the kids a snack and then tries to ready them for sports practice. Unfortunately, they’re not quite as attuned to the urgency of the situation as is Janice and as a result they’re a little late in leaving. Such is her haste, that it’s only when she’s reversed out of the driveway that Janice realises she’s forgotten the dog. She momentarily considers walking it when she gets home, but knows in her heart she won’t have the time. So, she accelerates back up the drive, jumps out of the car, scrambles up the stairs, grabs the dog, and sets off anew.
In the end, the kids make it in good time to their practice, which they seem to enjoy. The dog definitely enjoys its walk.
And then it’s off back home. Janice bundles the kids into the shower, picks up their dirty sports gear, folds their school clothes in readiness for tomorrow, and settles them in front of the television. Then she turns her attention to dinner which, unfortunately, won’t cook itself. She’s promised to cook spaghetti carbonara, which both her husband and her kids love, but when she opens the fridge door, she’s dismayed to discover that not only is there no parmesan cheese, but that sometime in the last 24 hours the kids have managed to inhale 4 litres of milk.
Thankfully, it’s nothing a quick trip to the corner store can’t fix. Janice dashes off, telling the kids not to move. She’s only gone 15 minutes, but when she gets back, Janice finds her husband has returned home from work. He’s opening a bottle of wine so that he can relax with a glass in front of the evening news but very kindly pours Janice one too. She drinks it almost absent-mindedly whilst preparing the spaghetti.
When food is finally served, everyone seems to enjoy it. There’s a slight hitch when Child No. 2 drops the remains of his dinner all over the floor, but Janice quickly cleans it up before settling deep into the couch with another glass of wine. In the kitchen, her husband and Child No. 1 crash about as they come to terms with that complex dance known as ‘doing the dishes’.
Another half hour later and its time for the kids to go to bed. Janice leaves Child No. 1 to her husband, but supervises Child No. 2 as he gets into his pyjamas and brushes his teeth. She then tucks him into his bed and reads his book to him for 15 minutes.
Finally, as Child No. 2 drifts off into the world of slumber, Janice has time for herself. Trouble is, she’s too tired to enjoy it. There’s time for one more glass of wine (just to help her relax) and then she’s off to bed, so inexplicably weary that it hurts even to drag herself up the stairs. As she drifts off to sleep, Janice reflects guiltily that she never made it to the gym, as she’d intended to do. She promises herself that she’ll do better tomorrow. Maybe, if she gets up at 5.30am, rather than 6.00, the day will flow smoother…….
Unfortunately, Janice’s story is one we all know too well. We know it because it reflects elements of our own lives. We’re busy. We’re often overworked. We’re often tired. We act like Wonder Woman. We pretend we’re Wonder Woman. Trouble is, the effect on our bodies isn’t all that wondrous.
So why do we do it? The answer to that question is complex, but it’s got much to with our culture and the fact that people increasingly accept low energy levels as a fact of life. We women, particularly, are victims of this expectation. We too readily accept that exhaustion is a necessary price of ‘getting ahead’ and we are more prone than men to feel guilt when we can’t fit everything in. In order to overcome this guilt, we get up earlier, work harder, and go to bed later.
It’s a situation that cannot last. We cannot rely forever on cups of coffee and a continuous rush of the stress hormone cortisol to see us through. Nor can we keep turning to alcohol to help us relax. Inevitably, our bodies must pay a price for what we put them through. We become chronically exhausted and thus vulnerable to a whole host of physical and psychological woes.
The potential list of these woes is depressingly long. Chronic exhaustion makes us more susceptible to colds and other illnesses. It undermines our nervous system. It affects our sex drive and causes us to lose muscle mass. We are more likely to become angry and react emotionally to even minor upsets. We will struggle to finish projects, we will put on weight, and we will have constantly low energy levels.
If any of this sounds like you, then it is almost certainly time to adjust the way you spend your day. You need to find ways to relax. You need to ‘chill’ and be proud of yourself when you do!
Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to overcome exhaustion. I’ve listed some of these below, but before we get into them, it’s important to realise that, in some cases, your exhaustion might be caused by an underlying medical condition. This could include anemia, an underactive thyroid, diabetes, an underlying sleep disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer or heart disease.
But don’t start thinking that you’ve got a medical condition until you’ve tried the strategies below and really given them a chance. For most of us, a lack of energy is a direct consequence of our lifestyle. However, if you still feel exhausted, you’ll need to check with your health care provider to look into it.
So. What can we do? Implement the following and your energy levels should increase exponentially!
Make Sleep Part Of The Program
Studies show that we need between seven and nine hours sleep every night. More importantly, that sleep should be consistent in terms of its timing. If we are constantly varying our bedtime, even by as little as half an hour, our circadian rhythms will get out of sync, leading to that ‘run over by a bus’ feeling that too many of us experience when we get out of bed in the morning.
For a really good night’s sleep, I recommend you try an atomizer spritz, where your favorite essential oil is mixed with pure water and sprayed upon your pillow. The fragrance from the oil will help your mind to settle and generate a deep and peaceful sleep.
Finally, it can also help to cut down on the alcohol and caffeine before going to bed, whilst turning off the television half an hour before retiring will help you to relax and prepare for a restful sleep.
That’s right, breathe! It’s something all of us do, but not many of us do it well. There exist a number of breathing techniques which can be applied in a matter of minutes and which can calm and re-energise us.
These include Sama Vritti or ‘Equal Breathing’, which is especially effective before going to sleep as it is designed to bring balance to your mind and body. To apply it, all you need to do is inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four, all through the nose. Focus on relaxing your mind and spirit as you breathe. You’ll be surprised how quickly your mind quietens and how much better your quality of sleep will be.
Another technique which is easy to apply is the ‘Abdominal Breathing Technique’. Here, you simply place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly before taking deep, even breaths through the nose, making sure that the diaphragm rather than the chest inflates with sufficient air to stretch the lungs. Taking between six to ten breaths per minute, aim to breathe like this for approximately ten minutes. Repeat each day and you should experience a whole host of benefits, including increased energy levels, a reduced heart rate and lower blood pressure.
Somewhere along the line, you may even want to make meditation part of your daily routine. It need not take too much time and can have a quite remarkable impact on your mental and physical well-being. If you’re interested in discovering more about the benefits of meditation, then click here.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but exercise breeds energy. Numerous studies show a direct correlation between working out and increased levels of vitality and mental alertness.
If you’re not already exercising, but want to start, then a good way to begin might be to make an effort to walk regularly – at least four times a week at a reasonable clip, and for half an hour or more. It’s not only good for the body, but also the soul!
Feed you body the right nutrients and it will reward you with significantly increased levels of energy and a greater sense of well-being. Thus, instead of reaching for the caffeine and that bowl of sugary cereal in the morning (which will leave you more fatigued as your blood sugar levels fluctuate wildly) go instead for a balanced, healthy diet replete with fruits, nuts, vegetables, and lean protein.
Breakfast is especially important if you want your metabolism to function optimally. Try to include around 20 grams of protein in your first meal of the day, along with some healthy fat (almonds are especially good in this regard and also make a great snack throughout the day).
Don’t Stress The Small Stuff
Possibly the best stress buster of all is our attitude to life. Our mind is a great deceiver, and it can and will create all manner of things to keep us stressed out. But only if we let it! Here is a list of some my favourite ‘don’t stress the small stuff’ tips.
1. Don’t obsess over things you can’t control, which is actually a lot.
2. Don’t judge what others do or don’t do or indeed what you do or don’t do.
3. Don’t create unnecessary drama in your life; drop the ‘story’.
4. Don’t start the day or move through the day thinking of all the things that have to be done – stay in the moment at hand, the rest will follow without stress.
5. When in doubt, focus on your breath!
In the end, it’s vital that we take care of ourselves. We need not accept fatigue as a constant, ongoing condition of our busy lifestyles. Simply by making a few adjustments, and by giving ourselves a break, we can experience lives that are full of energy, not exhaustion!