Feeling tired and stressed out is an inevitable consequence of a fast-paced, busy life, but it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable one.
Wellness is a choice when dealing with simple fatigue.
While it may take some effort, increased mindfulness and small changes in your habits, it is perfectly possible to increase your energy, mental alertness and sense of emotional well-being without medication.
1. Stay Hydrated
Most Americans are mildly dehydrated. One of the first symptoms of dehydration is fatigue. This is complicated by the fact that dehydration is often mistaken for hunger. So, instead of drinking a tall glass of fresh water, at the first signs of flagging energy most people reach for a sugary snack.
This causes a blood sugar spike followed by an immediate release of insulin to vacuum up the extra sugar in your bloodstream…, which, in turn, causes fatigue and starts the cycle all over again.
The old adage of drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day is a good starting point, but don’t fret if you can’t quite manage the whole 64 ounces every day.
Start by replacing one soft drink or cup of coffee with a full glass of water. Add lemon or lime slices, a sprig of fresh mint or a cinnamon stick to infuse a bit of flavor if plain water is not to your taste. Avoid flavored additives, because many of them contain high levels of sodium and artificial sweeteners, which cause problems all on their own.
Staying hydrated not only helps increase your energy levels and keeps your mind clear, it also contributes to clear skin and eyes and aids your liver, kidneys and lungs in doing their natural work of flushing toxins from your system, ensuring that you look and feel your best.
2. Feed Your Machine
Eating a healthy diet sounds like common sense, but there is so much conflicting information available, it can be hard to figure out exactly what “healthy” means. When in doubt, go back to the basics.
A diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, low-fat dairy and lean protein offers you more bang for your nutritional buck by packing powerful nutrients into fewer calories. This means you can eat a varied and delicious diet without putting on extra pounds.
The key is to be realistic and to make a healthy diet a habit rather than an obligation. If you can’t afford or have no access to organic produce, buy whatever is in season and wash each piece thoroughly. Organic is best, but fresh vegetables and fruit are far better for you than no vegetables or fruit.
Frozen produce is also an excellent choice and can help you avoid wasting food while you change your habits.
3. Unplug, Tune Out, Turn Off
One of the main causes of chronic stress is the constant assault on your senses from television, the Internet and your cell phone. These are all powerful and valuable tools, but like anything else, they can be too much of a good thing.
Turning off all electronics for even one hour before bedtime can help you have a more restful sleep. Reading is an excellent way to decompress after a long day, but if you don’t enjoy novels, leaf through a magazine or recipe book or get out your kids’ crayons and color.
Brains need downtime just as our bodies do to recharge their metaphorical batteries. Don’t be afraid to shut everything down for a little while each evening. The world will still be here in the morning, and you’ll be a little more ready to face it if you’ve had a chance to clear your mind and get a good night’s sleep.
4. Start Small
The main reason that most New Year’s resolutions are forgotten by Valentine’s Day is that people tend toward all-or-nothing solutions. If you love a cheeseburger for lunch, it is not realistic to substitute a green salad. This is one case where half-measures are actually useful.
Go ahead and order your cheeseburger, but cut it in half. Or eat all of it but with a salad instead of French fries. Have sparkling water or iced green tea instead of soda or diet soda. Eat a small salad before dinner, or have fruit for dessert instead of pastries, pie or cake.
The point of living a healthy lifestyle should not be to make you feel deprived or punished. Listen to your body and try to make healthy substitutions when you can.
Take it a step at a time and you may find that as your energy and sense of well-being increases, your cravings for processed and artificial foods will decrease, which is nothing more than the practical definition of balance.