Low energy. Exhaustion. Fatigue. Burnout. There are many ways to describe the lack of energy and vitality that so many of us feel. Feeling tired after a poor night sleep, or a late night out, is one thing. But what about when the tiredness never lets up? When we feel like day after day we are unable to have the energy to really shine?
Fatigue and Medicine
It’s a sad fact, but many people are told by doctors that “it’s normal to be tired”, “we’re all fatigued”, “you’re a parent, of course you’re tired.” Or we’re given suggestions like “get more sleep”, or “manage your stress” with little guidance on what that looks like.
But I believe we deserve better. We deserve more than a glib response to our concerns. We deserve an understanding of the different factors that contribute to fatigue, and guidance in how to overcome them.
Most importantly, we deserve to have support in our striving to have rockstar levels of energy – to have enough energy to be the parents, partners, lovers, and friends that we are destined to be. We deserve to SHINE.
SHINE – The Essential Factors in Energy
I have developed a framework for helping people overcome fatigue and achieve the abundant energy that they need. And I call it SHINE. It stands for the six essential factors in energy production – sleep, hormones, inflammation, nutrition, emotions and exercise. And I’d like to introduce it to you now.
We all know we need a minimum of 7 hours of quality sleep each night to allow for rest and recovery. And for most of us, that means giving ourselves at least 8 hours in bed for sleep opportunity.
Consistently getting less than 7 hours of sleep will slow your reaction time, impact decision making (a 3pm cupcake, sounds great!), decrease learning and memory, and absolutely tank your daytime energy.
Common sense, I know, but many, many people are engaging in self-inflicted sleep deprivation, and their energy is suffering as a consequence.
Many hormones contribute to fatigue, and unsurprisingly, this is what is impacting the energy of many of the people in my practice.
Thyroid hormones are your main energy-boosting hormones and even slight imbalances can cause major fatigue. Other hormones, like cortisol, adrenaline, and DHEA are also part of our energy production cascade. Prolonged stress will also lead to fatigue by impacting your daily cortisol curve, and leave you exhausted during the day and sleepless at night.
In my experience, hormone imbalances are one of the most commonly overlooked causes of fatigue in both women and men. And one of the main reasons many women are dismissed from their medical doctor’s appointment with no real answer or direction on how to overcome fatigue.
When your immune system is working hard, like when it is fighting off a cold or flu, your energy drops because your brain tries to reserve energy for the important work of the immune system. Inflammation causes a similar state. Whether the inflammation is from joint pain, muscle strain, or from gut dysfunction, the result is the same. When you’re dealing with inflammation, you’re more likely to be fatigued.
One of the causes and consequences of low energy, is poor nutrition. Specific nutrients are necessary for energy production, like iron, vitamin B12 and protein, but all of the macro- and micro-nutrients are needed in balance to truly optimize energy. A blood test is useful to identify iron or B12 deficiency, but for the other nutrients a dietary tracking app may be useful in helping to identify possible nutritional holes.
Anxiety and depression may be a symptom of fatigue, and vice versa. Many studies have found that people who report being less satisfied in their life also report higher levels of fatigue. I recommend taking some time to reflect on your current emotional health and consider if your low energy may be an indication of some deeper emotional work to be done.
And finally, exercise. The great catch 22 – you don’t have enough energy to exercise, but if you don’t exercise you don’t feel energized. The struggle is real!!! But for most people, starting with a small commitment to exercise, a 20 minute walk every day, is enough to have a real positive impact on your energy. And from that first small step, you can build up towards a greater goal of more exercise, and limitless energy.
The Help You Need
If you are struggling with low energy, fatigue, or burnout, the help you need is here. I suggest you start by looking at the six essential factors in energy production and see if there is any area you don’t SHINE. Start by taking small steps towards improving that area, and then move onto other areas. If you don’t know where to start, or need more guidance, get in touch and we can work together to give you back your energy and get you to SHINE.
Boekhorst JA, Signh P, Burke R. Work Intensity, emotional exhaustion, and life satisfaction. Pers Review. 2017;46(5):891-907.
Rosenthal TC, Majeroni BA, Pretorius R, Malik K. Fatigue: An Overview. Am Fam Physician. 2008;78(10):1173-1179
Dr. Lisa Watson believes that you don’t have to be perfect to be healthy. Lisa encourages her patients to take a proactive approach to their health – taking meaningful steps towards achieving their goals for balanced and vibrant health. An expert in women’s health and hormones, Lisa is a passionate advocate for women’s health and strives to educate all the women in her practice on how to achieve lifelong abundant health. Dr. Watson practices at the Integrative Health Institute in downtown Toronto and writes regularly about women’s health on her website at www.drlisawatson.com