Like many folks in the elctronic age, I find that I'm always on the go, always plugged in, and constantly juggling multiple projects for one or the other of my two jobs. Is it really any wonder that I feel tired all the time? I'm not the only one in this boat, either. It sometimes seems that everyone I know has bags under their eyes and craves sleep the way an addict craves crack. A friend recently asked me what could she do about it, so I decided to find out.
I started by doing what I always do whenever I want to know something: I Googled. If Google offered a degree program from using its service to look stuff up, I'd have two or three PhDs by now, that is how much I depend on Google, but that is a topic for another day. As for today's topic, chronic tiredness and how to beat it, Google came back with 41,100,000 results. I did a quick surf through some of the links and soon discovered that at least 41,999,999 of them had to do with buying a particular matress, energy drink, brand of coffee or even a mysterious anti-tiredness "system" that promises to provide the secret formula for only three installments of $99.99. Since reading up on all those products would have been even more exhausting, which would be counter-productive, I decided this clearly was not a problem that Google was going to help me with.
So, how do busy people like me tackle chronic tiredness? Obviously, the simplest solution is get more sleep and do less stuff. Most of us can't do that, which is why we're so tired in the first place. But there are folks out there who are really busy, who somehow manage to do it all without turning into zombies. I don't mean the Angela Jolies of the world, either. Celebrities don't count, since they have staffs of people who clean their homes, drive their cars, watch their kids and cook their meals. I wouldn't be tired either if I had all that, sheesh! No, I'm talking about those people (we all know at least one) who just seem to be able to manage to do it all without breaking a sweat. What do they have that the rest of us don't?
I'll tell you what they have--BALANCE. Balance and perspective, to be exact. People who are consistent high achievers who seem to thrive on high pressure situations are totally on when they're on, and when they're not on, they're totally off. They switch gears, go into downtime mode, and leave work where it belongs. They keep their eye on the prize, plan ahead and pace themselves. They are big-picture thinkers who maintain a postive outlook and who don't sweat the small stuff. They know how to delegate. They may be highly scheduled, but some of what they schedule is "me" time, and when they schedule it, they stick to it. They eat well, exercise regularly, don't over-do it with the booze or other vices, and they surround themselves with others who are also successful, positive, high achieving people.
I know, when you're working long hours at a J-O-B, doing something that doesn't particularly float your boat where there is no option to not sweat the small stuff, becasue its ALL small stuff, none of which you can delegate, it might be hard to find balance. But hard doesn't mean impossible, and with a little discipline we can all take a page from the high achiever's book and build a little balance in our lives. Here are my top five recommedations for doing exactly that:
1. Find reasons to laugh as often as you can during the work day. You can't feel tired while you're laughing (if you don't beleive me, try it). A little humor will go a long way to help you stay positive and upbeat, which is half the battle against chronic tireness. Cultivating an Attitude-of-Gratitude won't hurt any, either. Looking for reasons to be thankful throughout the day will help keep things in perspective.
2. When you leave work, really LEAVE it. Don't mentally re-hash the problems of the day on the drive home or fret over what's coming tomorrow. Instead, congratulate yourself on a job well done, even if you didn't get to everything you had planned, and resolve to enjoy your downtime, meager as it may be, before you have to climb back in the saddle again.
3. Plan R&R as regligously as you plan meetings and other work tasks. Schedule time to do something fun with people whose company you enjoy at least once a week. Even better, schedule time to not do anything at all. Knowing you have at least a couple hours a week to just veg out will help you pace yourself the rest of the time.
4. Take care of your machinery. The human body is a machine just like any other, it can only take so much abuse before it breaks down. Keep yours going with healthy, highly nutritious foods and regular exercise. Start small if you need to, commit to an apple and a 15 minute power-walk in the afternoons and get used to that before adding something else. After a week add another 15 minute power walk in the morning. Three weeks in remove a carb and add an extra helping of veggies with each meal. Before you know it, you'll be eating better and moving more out of habit. Whatever you do, don't make weight loss another "project" to manage. Make small changes over time that make you feel good and enhance your life, and you'll be more likely to stick with it.
5. Enjoy a cafecito. Never underestimate the value of a judiciously applied cup of high-test coffee (myself, I like espresso with milk). They don't call it the drink of the Gods for nothing, after all. Or drink tea, if that's more your style. Whatever the caffeinated beverage of your choice, just make a point to really savor it, don't chug it down like it's Gatoraide between innings. Make your afternoon coffee break an afternoon "me" break instead.
If you manage to do all of the above, and you're STILL chronically tired and just can't seem to beat it, get some medical attention. Sleep Apnea and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are examples of real medical condidtions that need real medical help to resolve. Depression can also masquerade as fatigue, and requires medical help to alleviate.
In closing, consider this: Chronic fatigue can also be a red-flag that it's time for a major life change. There is nothing quite so exhausting as not being true to yourself. Life is always a compromise, where we try to balance what we want against what we need, and what those dependant on us want and need. Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it, but if life has become all grinning and bearing it, while on the inside you're really ready to scream . . . well, in that case it might be time for some hard choices and major life changes, but in the long run, being true to yourself is usually the best way to eliminate energy drain and get your mojo back for good.
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