Ask the Coaches: Why Am I Always Tired?
I have been struggling with fatigue for what seems like years. Sure, I have my good days, but by and large, my energy levels are lackluster at best. I just turned 73, I sleep well, I eat right, and I’ve been working out. Heck, I’ve been told I look more like I am in my 50s than my 70s. Yet, at times I feel like I’m moving through the day as slow as molasses in January—managing to “get by.”
Why am I always tired? Is there any way to naturally regain some of the energy I have lost?
Eager for energy,
A: Hi Jerry,
Thanks so much for sharing some of your personal concerns with us. For starters, if you’re consistently mistaken for someone 20 years your junior, then you must be doing something right.
All kidding aside, I’m sorry to hear about your issues with fatigue and lack of energy. I am sure it has frustrating for you, especially considering all the steps you’ve taken, and it has obviously negatively influenced your quality of life.
Why Am I Always Tired?
The good news is that there may be some natural energy-boosting solutions to help lift the “fog,” so to speak.
However, because this is a bit of a complex topic that may border on a condition that requires a medical diagnosis—such as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia—I highly recommend that you seek the opinion of a medical professional, who has more tools and may have more potential solutions at his or her disposal. Along those lines, in addition to a standard medical doctor, you might also consider working with a naturopathic doctor, functional medicine doctor, and/or functional diagnostic nutritionist.
With all that being said, there are quite a few lifestyle and environmental factors that can affect energy levels, and here are a few that come to mind:
- Sun exposure
- Where you live
- Heavy metals
- Pesticides, pollution, and toxins
- Tobacco smoke
- And more
Stress and Fatigue
You see, stress (i.e., energy demand) is ubiquitous, our energy capacity is a finite resource. In other words, we only have a limited amount of energy, however, we often have many “buckets” in which we try to invest it.
Along those lines, stress and energy demands come from our environment, relationships, finances, diet, physical activity, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and much more. In this way, stressful thoughts and feelings, incomplete tasks and to-dos, traumatic life experiences, negative relationships, etc., can all result in “energy leaks” that can take quite a toll on us.
So, if you are constantly asking yourself “Why am I always tired?”, take a look at your daily stress levels.
In his book Stress Management Through Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science, Umesh Sharma lists the following categories as potential “energy leaks”:
- Unfinished business, including conflicts with family, friends, co-workers; financial debts; overdue assignments; incomplete projects at home or work; incomplete tasks/to-dos.
- Physical environment, for example, is your home/work environment congruent with your beliefs, intentions, etc.; is there clutter everywhere you look; is your form of transportation clean and in good condition.
- Support systems, such as, do you give and receive energy from your spouse, friends, and family in a healthy way; do you know where to get help and how to ask for it when needed.
- Physical health, that is, do you eat in a way that optimizes your health, fitness, and vitality; do you get routine physical exams; do you exercise regularly; do you get enough sleep; do you rely on caffeine/drugs/chemicals for energy.
- Mental/emotional/spiritual health: do you owe an apology; do you practice mindfulness; do you meditate; do you challenge yourself mentally; are you interested and engaged in your line of work.
By addressing these proactively, we may be able to “plug” some of the common energy drains that may cause us to feel increasingly more fatigued. Conversely, it’s also a good idea to start exploring ways to boost energy—by surrounding ourselves with people and activities we love that bring us great energy.
In addition, there are a couple more strategies that research has shown to be particularly effective.
- Exercise. It may seem a bit counterintuitive because physical activity requires energy to complete; however, exercise is one of the most effective, reliable, tried and true natural solutions to boosting energy levels and improving mood. When fatigue is an issue, it’s important to incorporate “graded exercise,” which simply means gradually increasing physical activity over time. For instance, if you’re not currently exercising, then start with 5 minutes (or even less), increasing the amount of time and/or intensity of exercise as the weeks progress. In your case, you’ve already been exercising, which is great news. So, it may be helpful to have a better idea of what you’re currently doing to provide more accurate recommendations. The take-home point is to progress your physical activity over time, little by little, without overexerting yourself.
- Psychotherapy. Try not to let that term scare you off. I’m simply talking about seeing a therapist or counselor. Hey, we all need someone to talk to. One specific form of therapy, called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), has been shown to have quite a positive impact on energy levels and feelings of fatigue. Actually, studies have shown that Internet-based CBT and group-based CBT are also quite effective for this purpose as well. CBT helps peel back the layers of the fatigue onion by helping folks recognize how fatigue can be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy, affecting feelings, behaviors, and actions.
- Diet. There’s a TON that we could cover here, including what, when, and how much you eat. Having said that, when we’re dealing with nutrition for energy levels, there are a few standout nutrients that are often probable suspects. Even marginal deficiencies in any of the following can leave us feeling fatigued:
- B vitamins
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Essential fatty acids (e.g., omega-3 fats)
Overall, dealing with fatigue and lackluster energy levels can be not only uncomfortable but a sign of a more serious condition, so again, we encourage you to work with the appropriate healthcare professionals. Yet I hope the information I have provided is helpful in answering your question of “why am I always tired?”, Jerry. We look forward to hearing back from you and helping you improve the quality of your life with increased energy levels.